This week on Pundit Arena Stephen Walsh will be starting a weekly column on the four main bits of news that have surfaced from the weekend’s League of Ireland Premier Division. Topics discussed this week include “European distractions”, “Relegation dogfight”, “Free scoring candystripes” and lastly the “Title fight”.
Competing in Europe gives a lot of positivity to the league with good results such as last week’s clean sweep of victories. These results saw the League of Ireland move up from 43rd to the 41st best European league. Any more good results this week will have a very positive effect on football in general in this country.
However St. Pat’s and Sligo Rovers showed how Europe can be a very obvious distraction to clubs when judging by their results on the weekend. Sligo Rovers lost to a Samir Belhout goal in Belfield while St. Pat’s lost room in their quest to retain the league title by drawing with Bohemians. This result probably wouldn’t have happened earlier in the season with a European tie on the horizon.
Many would have said Athlone were guaranteed for the drop at the end of April with eight straight defeats but since Keith Long has took the reins at Lissywollen things are looking a lot better for the Midlanders. They have have started to gather up points and secured a 3-0 win last Friday against Limerick.
The other teams involved in the dogfight – UCD and Bray Wanderers had two very contrasting weekends. UCD had a massive win over Sligo Rovers to ease their worries, while Bray had a Sunday to forget losing 5-0 to a Derry City side who just cannot stop scoring of late. This will be discussed later in the column.
It was a very positive weekend for two of the main title challengers, while we saw another two challengers endure a poor one. It was a weekend to remember for Cork City who went top of the league for two days after a 1-0 victory away in Drogheda last Friday night due to a late Gary Buckley goal.
However, the lead was short term as Dundalk didn’t allow their European games to be a distraction and defeated Shamrock Rovers 1-0 thanks to a Pat Hoban goal.
The two teams who had a poor weekend by title challenging standards are Shamrock Rovers, who were mentioned above and St. Pat’s that let themselves be distracted by their upcoming European game in Poland by drawing 1-1 with a Bohemians side who are yet to win at home this season.
Derry City have had a week to remember owing to their progress in Europe, beating Aberystwyth Town 9-0 on aggregate. This was a record victory for an Irish side in Europe. Rory Patterson claimed a hat trick in European competition, the first for any player from this league.
They continued on this form by defeating Bray Wanderers 5-0 yesterday and if they maintain this form then it wouldn’t be surprising to see them climbing up the league table in the coming weeks.
Stephen Walsh, Pundit Arena.