1. Dundalk have developed a handy knack for hammering their title rivals
It’s almost certain Stephen Kenny’s reign at Dundalk has not had a better week than the one that just passed. They managed ten goals at home without reply, including a 7-0 obliteration of their local rivals Drogheda last Tuesday. While that result will be remembered within the county for years to come, it was the 3-0 hammering of Sligo which may prove the more important result come the end of the season as they pushed the gap between themselves and the resurgent Bit O’ Red out to eleven points. Even Ian Baraclough admitted in the aftermath that the margin actually flattered Rovers and it may have been far worse but for Gary Rogers.
One always wonders with Dundalk whether Oriel Park’s awful artificial surface actually hinders their expansive style of play but they’ve shown with the recent home thumpings that this is not the case. As well as denting Sligo’s challenge on Friday they also comprehensively beat Cork City 4-0 and the performance of the season so far is still their 4-1 drubbing of St.Pats in their own back yard in April. Their goal difference unsurprisingly towers over the rest at +23 and if they can continue to deal with the other pace setters with such ease they would have to drop a lot of points against the lesser lights for the league to remain as tight as it is at the moment. Another win will be expected on Friday as they travel to Bohs: the Gypsies are absolutely atrocious at home.
2. St.Pats struggle against packed defenses
The Inchicore outfit’s shock defeat at Thomond Park in Gameweek 14 meant that Pats have now dropped five points in two games versus Limerick this season. With all due respect to the Shannonsiders that is anything but title form. Teams trying to stop the Saints and their flowing attacks will always attempt to camp men behind the ball. If Pats score early enough this is usually not a problem as it forces the opposition out of their shell but if the game progresses the champions are always liable to concede a sucker punch themselves which has now happened on two occasions against Limerick.
They missed a hatful of chances the week before and dropped two more points at UCD which further compounded their slip up in Limerick. They are still one of if not the best side to watch in the division but lesser teams will always come out to frustrate them rather than take them on as to do so would be footballing suicide. Limerick seem to have found the blueprint and it will be intriguing to see if other teams can learn from them and take more points from the champions.
3. There’s life in Athlone yet
So finally, after thirteen games, thirty goals conceded and only one point on the board, Athlone finally secured their first win of the season after a 2-0 success against UCD. They rode their luck against the Students particularly in the first half but they will mention the many hard luck stories they had over the first thirteen winless matches which more than make up for that. The question now arises as to whether this can spur them on to an unlikely run to safety. The gap between themselves and UCD and Bohemians is nine points but in a league as competitive as the Premier Division that can be pegged back if Athlone were to go on a good run of form. Perhaps it’s simply delaying the inevitable but Keith Long will be delighted that his squad have now given themselves a chance of having something to play for.
One more thing…
While Keith Fahey and Stephen McPhail’s return to the league has gathered huge attention, Colin Healy reminded many of us on Friday that there are three former Irish international midfielders plying their trade in the Premier Division. An all round performance saw Healy force an own goal off Stephen McGuinness and he also converted a late spot kick for Cork to ensure another win for City. Healy must have had a wry smile that his man of the match performance came in front of Roy Keane, who he almost replaced in Ireland’s World Cup squad twelve years ago this month.
Congratulations to Douglas Hall in Cork who celebrated a historic Munster Senior Cup victory on Monday at Turners Cross. The Munster Senior League side, who had already disposed of Cork City in the semi-final, beat Limerick 2-1 to bring the Munster Senior Cup back to Grange. Congratulations to David Moore and his side on a fantastic achievement.
Conor Hayes, League of Ireland.