A bit of a slip for Limerick on Saturday night, as Finn Harps battled for a draw in Balleybofey.
Waterford’s unexpected fall to Wexford Youths on Friday provided further impetus for Limerick, but it is Longford who are the big winners of the weekend, beating Mervue 2-0 and closing the gap at the top to just four points with six games remaining.
Limerick started sluggishly and improved as they went on, something that has become a standard pattern over the last month or so. It was Finn Harps, now seven games unbeaten, who got most of the early chances and played better, perhaps provoked by the memory of that last 3-0 loss in Jackman Park when McHugh received his marching orders in so spectacular a fashion. Limerick, with as strong a team as they’ve had in the past while, recovered and survived the early onslaught, and were rewarded with a Tracey free kick that went into the net off a wild deflection just before half time.
But Finn Harps were not to be undone so easily, and it was from one of their counter-attacking moves that the equaliser came, McVeigh finishing coolly from an Doherty’s cross. Limerick remained on top in terms of possession but failed to really make the chance that they needed. The forward line of Foley, Gaffney and Behan has been off form to an extent recently and couldn’t fashion the opportunity they needed. Many Limerick fans have pointed to the sight of Corie Tracey, a centre back playing on the right wing position, as utterly bizarre considering what was apparently available on the bench
So, a draw it is. Limerick have a badly needed week off with the FAI Cup third round on this coming week, before welcoming Waterford for the last time this season. This is the big game for Limerick now, having fallen to Waterford three times already this year. Waterford, lagging seven points from the top, certainly need a win to get their campaign back into gear before it’s too late. No stroll to the line for Limerick.
Before I move on, on the good form of Finn Harps, I find the celebrating from their fans a little perplexing. It does no good for Finn Harps after a season of mediocrity, to have a decent run at the end of it. Fourth, and 15 points from third, Finn Harps have yet another season in the wilderness to contemplate with 18 points still to play for. Celebrating such a position represents a failure to promote significant achievement. Put the champagne on ice lads and start thinking about next year.
Further up, Sligo and Shams played out an entertaining enough 1-1 draw in Tallaght, followed up later in the week by a Sligo mauling of Shelbourne and a Shams win over Drogheda, whose title dreams are slipping now. Another team slipping is St Pats, whose loss to Bray in a bad tempered affair leaves them in a precarious position, falling out of the hunt behind the two Rovers.
At this point I actually can’t see beyond Sligo, who could have won away to Shams with just a bit more poise and then proceeded to outperform Shelbourne – who have had a very disappointing season really. Sligo don’t actually have much farther to go and look like a squad more than capable of maintaining the form necessary.
Across the pond then, as the English Premier League commenced in earnest. United don’t play until tonight, a tough away trip in prospect at Goodison Park. Four of United’s main central defenders – O’Shea, Ferdinand, Evans and Smalling – are out with Vidic having not played a competitive game in nine months. Carrick will likely take up a role opposite the Serbian as a stopgap while Ferguson relies on his firepower upfront – with the expected debut of Robin Van Persie – to make up the difference. I’m very unsure about RVP as a United player, but we’ll see. He may work well in a role behind the likes of Rooney and Hernandez, but he seems to me to be the kind of player who thrives best as the sole focus of attacking options. That isn’t going to happen at Manchester United.
What about the games that actually took place? City showed off their champions status with an eerily familiar comeback victory against new boys Southampton but do look just a little rusty. Wouldn’t rule out an initial trophy hangover, but they’re too strong for such a blip to occur for long. The loss of Aguero is a blow, but only in the context of the next few fixtures. City could buy anybody they wanted to replace him within a week if they so wished.
What an awful start for Liverpool, totally undone by West Brom. Suarez looked like an absentee upfront, missing a score of great chances, while the Merseyside defence had a horror show. West Brom didn’t even play that well really, but they were easily a cut above Rodgers charges. The jokes will come thick and fast at his Liverpool regime, but its early day yet.
Oh and Arsenal. For all of theirs fan bleating about RVP’s “betrayal” (Sol Campbell anyone? Didn’t seem so principled about football “loyalty” then) and crowing about the attacking options they’ve brought in over the summer – Podolski, Giroud, Cazorla – what was on show on Saturday was something distinctly impotent. I suppose as long as Arsenal fans keep claiming “This is our year” others will keep claiming “This is Wenger’s last year”. We’ll probably still be saying it a year from now.
As for everyone else, Chelsea were comfortable against a very poor side while Fulham and Swansea exploded out the gate. I predict good things for Swansea this season, they have a really solid set up over there this year. And Newcastle laid down a marker by besting Spurs, and I firmly believe that Pardew’s men will overtake the east London club this year. Tottenham are in a poor state at the moment, and would do well settle the Modric question before too long.
It’s up to Ferguson and his team to make the opening impression that is required tonight. With the absolutely brutal schedule that we have coming up (Liverpool, Arsenal, Newcastle, Chelsea, Spurs, four Champions League group games and at least one League Cup game, all in six weeks. Oh and an International) we need to be fast off the blocks.