It occurs to me that my consistent recounting of League of Ireland scores might not actually be that interesting, so in future I’m going to limit these posts to more analysis and interpretation of specific events rather than just a listing of results. If you preferred the other way, let me know.
Anyway, Limerick overcame a spirited first half resistance from SD Galway to run out 5-2 winners in Terryland last Friday. 2-2 at halftime, one would be forgiven for thinking that another Shannonsider disaster, akin to the dropped points against the same opposition last season, was about to take place. But Salthill remain poor in most respects and did not have the legs to trouble Limerick much in the second half, the game becoming more and more of a canter for the away side towards the end.
Some serious question marks about the defence have popped up though, leaving McConnell too much room for SD’s first goal and allowing Curran a free header for the second. Some top notch strikes from Bradley, McGann, Behan and Purcell rescued the situation, and it is good to see Behan scoring, but it cannot dismiss the uncomfortable sensation that Limerick are simply not playing to their full potential.
The Super Blues face Athlone in Jackman Park next Friday, opposition they should be easily capable of getting three points from, but this is Limerick: after so many poor performances and losses, nothing is set in stone. With league leaders Longford likely to get a win against SD Galway the same night, keeping pace is all the more important. Following that, Limerick have two huge away games: travelling to League of Ireland champions Shamrock Rovers in the FAI Cup, before taking the trip to Flancare Park to face Longford for the second time this season, to try and get the expected course of the year going again.
Limerick can cause a shock in Tallaght – Rovers are in terrible form at the moment after all and may be fixated firmly on rescuing their league campaign– and can win in Longford, but it will require far more then they have given so far this season.
I also watched the Rovers/Rovers game at the weekend, and was struck by how good Sligo looked compared to the champions. The Bit o’Red have a truly awesome counter-attacking mindset, able to move the ball with ease from one end of the pitch to another, and never looked in serious trouble. Danny North took both his goals well, the last especially, though it should be noted that he received some assistance from the Hoops keeper Reyaad Pieterse, in his league debut, Tiabi-esque. Sligo, with a bit more of a killer instinct, could easily have replicated the drubbing St Pats already handed out to Shamrock Rovers earlier this season.
The other big talking point was the indiscipline shown by “Shams”, two red cards and a score of yellows. They were, pardon the pun, an utter shambles with that aspect of their play, lunging in recklessly, dissenting constantly, with elements of their away support throwing things at Sligo players. To be blunt, they lost the plot. Having taken just six points from the last 18, Shamrock Rovers are in crisis, and will struggle to get back into the title race, being now eight points adrift from the top.
I also caught the Setanta Cup Final, another bad-tempered affair marked by poor challenges, diving and some ineffective officiating. The IFA club bundled over the Derry keeper for their first, and could easily have had more men sent down the tunnel. Crusaders should have put the game away well before full time, and Derry can count themselves lucky that they even got to penalties. They aren’t that good this season, Derry, and were clinging on by their fingertips in this game, ineffective for most of normal time, lucky to get back into it in extra time.
I think it is actually a good thing, for the future of this tournament, that an IFA team won it, Crusaders being the first team from the northern league since Linfield in the inaugural edition, back in 2005, to lift the trophy. The Setanta Cup is a decent idea, but has certainly suffered from the domination of FAI affiliated teams. I would also be of the opinion that 12 teams is a bit too much, since it simply introduced clubs of lesser calibre that should not be there. Stick with league champions, runners up, and cup winners in the future for an eight team competition, and get rid of some of the chaff.
Meanwhile Monaghan, still bottom of the league and playing Derry in a critical game tomorrow night, have started appealing for funds from fans due to their, apparently, dire financial position. No shirt sponsor, plus poor results, plus bad attendance equals a club that looks like it may be flirting with catastrophe. The memory of Galway United is very near.