With the way the fixtures were planned out, most Limerick fans were glued to their computers or teletext options Friday night, as Waterford hosted Mervue. A win or a draw for the home side would see the run-in continue, a loss would see the end of it.
Well, losing a man to a red card helped the process along, but Mervue put in yet another strong performance against the Blues to take it 2-1, an injury time goal sealing both that win and the First Division race. With only one game left to play, Waterford trailed Limerick by four points. Game over.
It is a fantastic feeling to finally win promotion from what has been dubbed the “graveyard” of Irish football. A dominating and comprehensive performance overt lacklustre Longford in Flancare on Saturday night completed the weekend, as goals from Tracey and Behan saw us repeat the previous scoreline in that ground, 2-0, and seven points clear with one game left.
It has been a long time coming, and the outpouring of emotion and joy from Limerick old and new, many of them never knowing anything other than First Division football, was something to see across the media-sphere. The team celebrated on the Longford pitch, a hard slog through this season finally ending the way it was tipped to, finally ending the years of wandering. The promised land at last for Limerick.
It might take a while for it to sink in I suppose, I’ll probably have more expansive thoughts later in the week. For now, suffice to say that a great weight has been lifted off the shoulders of the Limerick faithful. Good times ahead. The real party is Saturday night in the final game of the season, as the First Division champions host Wexford.
As it stands, the First Division table is pretty much set, unlikely to change in the final matchday. Limerick are champions, Waterford will have the more preferable away/home schedule for the play-off with Longford, with Wexford, Finn Harps and Athlone lining up in the chasing pack. Down below, Mervue will finish just ahead of SD Galway, a third consecutive wooden spoon for Salthill. With the report on the future of Galway football published last week, I’ll have more thoughts soon.
Up top, Sligo were held in the really big league game of the week, scoreless away to Cork. Tat leaves the league race ticking over, with victory over St Patricks Athletic next Saturday at the Showgrounds needed to secure the title in the shortest possible time. Really hard to see Sligo messing it up now.
The other big games were the FAI Cup semi-finals. While Shels and Derry will go again after a somewhat disappointing 1-1 draw, St Pats proved far too good for lowly Dundalk, 3-0 winners after a dominant showing in Oriel Park. While it has been a long time since the Saints last took the trophy home, and they seem to have a bit of a complex over that fact, I would back them to take the trophy.
Across the pond, United responded to the disappointment of last week with a stunning display if attacking football away to Newcastle, a game I have been dreading after last season ignominious defeat to the Magpies. But the 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield worked superbly, the interchanging of Rooney, RVP and Welbeck upfront tearing open numerous holes in the home defence. Of course, accuracy needs to be worked on, but this could easily have been a total hiding. Newcastle proved completely unable to defend set-plays effectively, with the curving runs of Evans and Evra putting United in the driving seat, with Cleverley’s cross/shot finishing the job. Defence was solid, midfield left their mark. Just improvement all across the board, a continuation of some hard grit that saw the team overcome an early deficit away to Cluj in the CPL midweek.
Of course, all the praise has to be tempered with the knowledge that all the other big players – Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and Man City – won at the weekend, all good, solid victories. Poor Liverpool continue to flounder, lucky to even get a point after a neutered performance at home to Stoke.
Internationals next week. Ireland host Germany, a game that Ireland would have to play out of their skin to just get a scoreless draw in. Even I can’t bring myself to be too critical of the Trapattoni approach, the Germans are simply a qualification machine. The Faeroe Islands in the following game is actually a more intriguing tie in my eyes, especially after the Kazakhstan game.