The World Cup took a day off on Friday much to the disappointment of fans but the Airtricity Premier Division stepped in to pick up the slack, returning after a two-week break.
Leaders Dundalk came within seconds of suffering their first defeat in eight games but a 95th minute equaliser from Richie Towell saved a point for the Lilywhites at the Brandywell.
Derry produced one of their best performances of the season to lead through goals from Barry McNamee and Michael Duffy. Kurtis Byrne had given the visitors the lead but McNamee responded just before the break. However, a red card for Cliff Byrne with 20 minutes gave Dundalk the opportunity to bounce back and they took it.
Stephen Kenny’s side are eight unbeaten in the league but their lead has been cut to just a single point. They now face a Europa League double header with Jeunesse d’Esch from Luxembourg before returning to league action with a trip to Shamrock Rovers.
Derry will be disappointed to let the lead slip so late but they’ve taken points from another difficult fixture before they too begin their European campaign. The Candystripes play Welsh side Aberystwyth Town either side of a trip to Athlone.
Cork City picked up where they left off before the break with a comfortable 3-0 win over Limerick at Turner’s Cross. Mark O’Sullivan scored twice to make it four in three games for the former MSL striker. Young midfielder Gary Buckley grabbed the other while there was a debut for new signing Josh O’Shea. That was a seventh straight win in all competitions for John Caulfield’s side and they sit a point behind Dundalk with a game in hand and no European distractions. City are title contenders.
Limerick will look to return to winning ways at home to Bohs next week especially after losing to the same opposition in the cup earlier this month.
St. Pats extended their winning run at Richmond Park to seven with a 3-2 victory over Bray. Chris Forrester opened the scoring before Christy Fagan and former Pats midfielder Jake Kelly exchanged braces. The champions are just four points behind the leaders but their defence continue to leak goals a habit that could cost them in the end. They face away Dublin derby’s against Rovers and Bohs in the next fortnight before their Champions League tie with Legia Warsaw.
Alan Matthews will be encouraged by Bray’s performance and the goals but they have gone six without a win, a run that has dragged them back down the table. Captain Danny O’Connor was forced to retire during the week and they will want to give the fans something to cheer at home to struggling Drogheda next week.
The Louth club’s desperate form continued on Friday as two clubs with new managers faced off. Sligo came away with a 2-1 win thanks to first half goals from Danny North and Kieran Djilali to give John Coleman a promising start to his reign. Gavin Brennan’s penalty offered hope for the hosts but Paul Andrews’ sending off on the stroke of half time for hitting North after being booked for a tackle on the striker. Darius Kierans and Neale Fenn, in temporary charge of the Drogs, are charged with the difficult task of arresting a slide that has seen them lose 11 of the last 12 league games. Perhaps the trip the Carlisle Grounds next week could be the turning point for the relegation strugglers.
One side who looked certain to go down, Athlone Town, have the other sides looking over their shoulders following a recent resurgence from the midlands club. Their form continued with a blistering start at Dalymount Park as two goals from James O’Brien gave them a commanding lead over Bohs. The hosts responded though as Kevin Devaney scored within minutes of coming on and Dinny Corcoran equalised with 15 minutes to go. Corcoran had a great chance to seal the comeback with an 87th minute penalty following Neil Harney handball and subsequent sending off. However, the striker’s effort was saved and Bohs are remarkably still searching for their first home league win of the season. Should Bohs impressive away form falter in the coming weeks against Limerick and Sligo the Dubliners their troubles at Dalymount will be critical.
On the other hand Athlone manager Keith Long will be delighted with their improvement and upcoming home matches with Derry and Limerick will hold little fear for them.
Friday’s final game saw Shamrock Rovers pick up a much needed win at city rivals UCD. Goals from Ronan Finn and Dean Kelly gave the visitors a comfortable win as UCD failed to provide much resistance. The Students are now seven without a win and just six points clear of Athlone. The win sees Rovers stay in touch with the top three ahead of mouthwatering clashes with St Pats and Dundalk at Tolka Park.
Airtricity Premier Division results June 27th:
Bohemians 2-2 Athlone Town
Cork City 3-0 Limerick
Derry City 2-2 Dundalk
Drogheda United 1-2 Sligo Rovers
St. Patrick’s Athletic 3-2 Bray Wanderers
UCD 0-2 Shamrock Rovers.
Simon Bracken, Pundit Arena.