League Of Ireland Round-Up, Week 19

A scary moment for the Super Blues as lowly SD Galway came within 12 minutes of repeating their crucial away draw of last season, that seriously derailed the promotion push of 2011.

I suppose it might be taken as a mark of improvement that Limerick were, in similar circumstances to that dire result last year, able to push on and get the result, but only just, the Dominic Foley header all that separated them from a repeated disaster. Wholesale changes had been made to the team line-up and formation by Scully, all too aware of the fixture pile-up that will hit the team in a few weeks I suppose. However, the changes to positioning, with Gamble playing in the centre of defence, McGrath switching wings and the new Slovakian signing Robert Klucier playing on his wrong side were probably more crucial in determining why Limerick played in such a lacklustre manner against a side they have previously beaten 3-0 and 5-2 this season. The absence of Gaffney, and the pace/creativity that he brings, was very noticeable.

A win is a win, but such performances against such opposition continue to grow the seeds of doubt over whether Limerick have the capability of being competitive in the league above this one should they see the task of getting promoted through. After Athlone away next Friday Limerick face into what could yet be a top of the table clash against out of form Longford, before facing Manchester City in a high profile friendly, before facing Shamrock Rovers away in a League Cup semi-final, all three of those games coming within a four day period. Squad rotation and the use of U-19s will be crucial to maintaining fitness and a competitive edge, though I suspect that Limerick’s League Cup commitments may be the ones to be given tertiary importance.

The big First Division game of the week saw Waterford stretch their winning streak to six games away to Longford, solidifying Limerick’s three point lead at the top of the table, basically four with our far superior GD. Longford are looking more and more like a half-season team, that is struggling to rectify a slump that may soon see them slip behind Waterford. There wasn’t really one result or another that was more preferable to Limerick, as all this means is that the real form team of the division is just four points behind (and has beaten us three times this season already, with one more game to play).

The Premier Division grinds along nicely, with the three of the top four teams that were in action over the weekend drawing 1-1, with Drogheda the odd one out, the big winners of the week away to Shelbourne, which see’s them solidify their second place position just four points behind league leaders Sligo, who played out a great tie at home to Cork, 2-2, while the Saints were lucky enough to grab a point away to the Students. Shamrock Rovers league season, after another draw, this time to Bray, is looking more like a run for European places this year, with Kenny clinging on to his position by virtue of Champions League commitments, commitments that could end all too soon.

Sligo travel to Inchicore next week in a huge game. A win will see them continue their push for a long awaited title, a loss will kickstart a St Pats challenge that has been lagging recently, and a draw will probably be to the immense delight of Drogheda, who have the comparatively easy task of a home tie against UCD. This time next week I could easily be discussing the reality of a league table with only one point between Sligo and Drogheda. Who could have predicted that would happen at the start of the season, and with only 13 games to play? And in that scenario, it is none other than Sligo/Drogheda that tops the bill of games to be played on the August bank holiday weekend. Exciting times ahead.

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