It was a long trip to Donegal, but Limerick again outperformed their opponents and could celebrate on the six hour drive home, having bounced back convincingly from the Longford disaster.
The pitch and the officiating were questionable to the extreme (internet discussion from both clubs indicate extreme dissatisfaction with Darren Coombes and his team), but Limerick dominated and could have won by a higher margin with a slightly more accurate display of shooting. Attacking from the off, Limerick were up within a matter of minutes through a Coughlan goal, but then conceded in a haphazard fashion just a few minutes later, as Adam Clarke got Finn Harps level after benefitting from a lucky deflection. Limerick may need to look at their defending style in the moments following a goal, as they conceded in similar circumstances against Longford.
The rest of the game was Limerick’s and they pushed ahead through strikes from Shane Guthrie and Denis Behan, finally off the mark this season. The game was a fractious affair, and most witnesses claim that McBride’s red card was more than deserved. Such an incident has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many when it comes to visits to Ballybofey, not only because Barry Ryan was also dismissed from the sidelines over an argument with McBride, but because the tackle was reminiscent of the leg breaker the previous season that left Garry Sheahan out of the team until just a few weeks ago.
Much plaudits must be given to Scully and this Limerick team for the improvement they have shown since the Longford defeat. More ground football, the 4-4-2, more assertion from the midfield and a greater attacking threat. Limerick’s re-vitalisation can take one more big step next week as they face off against one of the two teams that have beaten them this season, Waterford, back in Jackman Park. Waterford are improving too, and will be hopeful of getting a result. Limerick may attract another decent crowd to their home stadium. This is nominally one of the bigger games in the First Division (based on previous seasons) and will go far to showing how far Limerick’s improvements have actually gone.
Up at the top of the League of Ireland, Shamrock Rovers slipped again, narrowly avoiding defeat away to Bray, snatching a draw with a second half comeback having been two goals down at the break. Sligo took full advantage, eventually, with a 1-0 away win to Cork City. You can’t imagine that a squad with that talent of Shamrock Rovers will slip up much during this campaign, so Sligo will have to be quick to pounce on any advantage offered. It’s only a few weeks before those two teams face each other. Before then, they both have tricky enough ties, the champions hosting Derry, the league leaders hosting St Pats.
For Bray, it’s a precious, unexpected point in a relegation race that is developing on the bottom. Yet another loss for the Leesiders, unable to make good on the trouncing they gave Monaghan last week. Even worse, Monaghan stunned Bohemians to grab a 2-1 win on Friday night, their first win of the campaign, leaving the bottom three sides all precariously level on five points each. Cork are better placed to get themselves out of the rut really, but keep coming up short in the big games. Monaghan and Bray face each other next week, while Cork travel to Dublin to play Shels.
Shelbourne are looking to bounce back after falling away to the big surprise package of the season, Drogheda, three goals to one. Drogheda’s impressive start to the season leaves them just behind Shamrock Rovers on goal difference, but it remains to be seen if they have the legs to keep this challenge to the top up. They travel to UCD next week.
The students fell to St Pats at the weekend, the Saints looking to maintain their position in the leading pack following some stumbles. St Pats have a large collection of draws to their name which is dragging them down and the away game at Sligo next week is a big test for them, the only two teams unbeaten so far this season. For UCD, things are going better than usual, but they are not so far from the bottom three as they would like.
Derry are the team that are disappointing, falling out of contention at the top following a 2-1 loss at home to Dundalk. The result see’s the northerners slip to sixth place, nine points off the pace at this early stage, while victories Dundalk are just behind them by a scant two points.
Down below in the First Division, Waterford got some much wanted revenge for their opening day disaster at Wexford, beating the Youths at home 4-0. They remain in sixth place 9out of eight), but things are tight enough that they could go third with the right results. For Wexford, two losses in a row, the tables are turning a little though they remain in third place. Waterford travel to Limerick next week, while the Slaneysliders should get back on track at home to SD Galway.
Longford looked like they were cruising when they were 4-0 up on Mervue, but suffered a minor scare when the Tribesmen clawed two goals back in the second half. Still, it was not a terribly hard game for the table toppers, who travel to close rivals Athlone next week while Mervue visit Finn Harps.
Athlone scored early and held on to beat SD Galway 1-0 at Terryland, in front of a paltry 181 supporters. Both Galway sides are rooted to the bottom of the League of Ireland, without a win to their name.