A hard fought three points from struggling SD Galway keeps Limerick’s promotion ambitions on track.
Seeing Guthrie sent off after just half an hour of play was always going to produce a nervy hour of football, regardless of the quality of the opposition. It is never easy playing with ten men, but Limerick kept their cool and maintained what control that they could, getting the only goal of the game from Joe Gamble just as the first half came to an end.
From there, it was a simple matter of weathering the Galway storm. The loss of Rory Gaffney due to a foot injury is telling for Limerick, though Cian Collins didn’t get much time to impress due to the tactical changes following the sending off. Salthill are desperately poor, which helped, and Limerick can consider themselves lucky that they were able to walk out of Terryland with anything.
But they did, and travelled home with the news that Longford are, for all intents and purposes, out of the title race, falling to now second placed Waterford on Friday. Two sending’s off for the visitors meant that they could not, no matter how hard they tried, keep up with Waterford and their star man Sean Maguire, whose hat-trick in the 4-2 win was just another example of the sterling work he has been doing down south for most of the season.
Limerick lead the division by four points from Waterford, we are two ahead of Longford. Three games left. Limerick will win the First Division if they get five points from those remaining nine, and that’s only if Waterford win all of their games. Waterford face the daunting task of a trip up north to play in-form Finn Harps next Friday, while Limerick face the easier task of hosting Athlone. Longford look to maintain the pressure on both when they entertain SD Galway, but will now struggle to get back into contention before time runs out.
Technically speaking, Limerick are already on match point, and will claim the league on Friday if they win, Waterford lose and Longford drop points. That’s an unlikely scenario but it is all in Limerick’s hands now.
Up top, Sligo were held away to Bray, meaning that the Premier Division race is still ticking over, though it remains hard to see anyone catching them. The next few days will be critical in determining whether the two chasers can actually maintain any pressure, as St Pats host Shamrock Rovers tomorrow before travelling to Drogheda on Friday, before Sligo host Derry on Saturday. If the Saints can get two wins in those games, they would only be three points behind Sligo, which would surely cause some nerves to break out at the Showgrounds.
As for the other football, UCD won again and Dundalk lost again, further cementing the Students rise from potential danger and Dundalk position at the foot of the table. Does more than just elimination from the top tier await Dundalk? We’ll see.
Elsewhere, Shamrock Rovers’ last hopes for silverware in this awful seasons slipped through their grasp as Drogheda deservedly took away the League Cup trophy from Tallaght, a 3-1 win the just reward for a hard working performance. Drogs have been immense this season, a real revelation following their 11th place position last year, and while the League Cup is not the biggest prize, it still goes to worthy victors. The possibility of European football next season is within touching distance as well.
As for Rovers, well, a win against St Pats tomorrow is required if they are to achieve the last thing left to them at this point. European football is not something Shams fans probably thought they would have to “settle” for competing at the start of the season, but this is where they are. A defeat, and they won’t get even that.
Across the pond, the big game was Liverpool/Manchester United of course, but I didn’t watch it. I woke up yesterday morning, and was fully convinced that the afternoon game would be a bitter, scrappy, bad-tempered affair, with controversial incidents aplenty, all thanks to parts of the support of both teams that are crude and vicious in their chantings and managers who like to stoke up those flames when it suits them. Last seasons nonsense between the two clubs greatly annoyed me, which led me to spend m afternoon doing different things. I said last week that getting behind your team is important, but this fixture simply exhibits too many negative traits from both of those at Anfield to be palatable.
On the basis of highlights, United were very, very lucky. The defence is struggling, though it was kept together by Ferdinand this time out. The midfield was noticeably ineffective, especially at mere ball retention, which left the forward line isolated and useless. These are all common problems in the games this season.
The red card was merited, though serious consideration leaves me to think that Evans was lucky not to get one too. Even with a disadvantage in numbers Liverpool were dominant, but remain over-reliant on Gerrard to make up for the shortcomings in the attack and other midfield areas. United lucked out with Rafael’s classy finish and with RVP’s penalty (and it was a penalty. A push in the back is a push in the back). Liverpool are off to a supremely awful start in this seasons league. They have Everton away in four games time. Interesting to see where they will be at that point.
Elsewhere, the hangover continues for Manchester City, who couldn’t put Arsenal away at home thanks to some sloppy defending. Sloppy defending all round actually, as it happened. The backline of the blue half of Manchester is seriously underperforming right now, they were awful mid week in the Champions League too. Not that Madrid’s was much better. Wins for Chelsea, Newcastle and Spurs leave the rest of the upper section of the EPL ticking over. League Cup time.