And so the First Division season comes to a close.
It was a disappointing and frustrating game, though that mattered little in the context of the night itself. Limerick suffered two red cards before the end and neither was undeserved. Purcell and Kelly both jumped into tackles with an abandon you would not expect in a game like this. I’ve seen them given and not given, but they were not good tackles.
Limerick would have walked it with 11, and didn’t look too bad with 10. Again, as has been the case since Gaffney got injured, accuracy and completion was a problem. The home side had a lot of chances all game, and it took yet another penalty to get a score. Limerick can’t always depend on them coming. We have had a serious problem converting chances in the last few weeks, so I think a new forward option is certainly required in the winter. Maybe Mr Furlong would be interested.
Wexford weren’t fantastic, and it says something that they only really became a goal-scoring threat when our main central defender was off the field. Furlong, unmarked for a simple header. Furlong, busting through the centre for a simple finish. Furlong, tapping it in when the last remnants of the defence had given up the ghost.
Upfront, we worked well and caused a lot of problems, especially down the left flank. Coughlan and Judge just tormented the Wexford defence that side, and got off several curling efforts. Felt we should have exploited that avenue more. Youths keeper was equal to them, and I kinda wish they had shot a bit quicker on some occasions rather than keep trying to turn inside.
Behan worked hard all night, been really impressed with him the last while, I just wish he could get a few more shots off during a game. Poor Collins had to make way early again after a red-card, he wasn’t up to much anyway. Coughlan and Judge impressed me most last night, as did O’Leary. Limerick kept up the attack once they found themselves level, and it was certainly a bit of a sucker-punch when Wexford got their second after a period of Blue dominance.
They kept plugging away, but the second red seemed to just kill it really. Eventually the Limerick back four just when walkabout seeking an equalizer, and Wexford’s third was the result. Fine to see such committed attack in a game like this, a “dead rubber”, but hope not to see it repeated when it does matter.
That was just the game though. It was party time afterward. The speeches might have gone on too long, but it was a great moment for the Limerick team and fans, to finally get to celebrate something of such magnitude after 18 long years. Work remains to be done on the Market’s Field, on the team, but the future is bright. A hard slog of a season, but a joyous finish. I’ve been going to Limerick matches since a very young age, and this is a proud moment.
The rest of the First Division went through the motions on Saturday night, Waterford beating Athlone late on, Longford continuing their poor run of form with an away loss to Finn Harps and the two Galway clubs ending another awful season with a share of the spoils. Build-up begins in earnest for the play-off between Longford and Waterford now, with the Blues certainly the favourites given recent form.
Up top, Sligo finally finished it all off at home to St Pats, in an entertaining game that filled out Saturday afternoon nicely. The rather ill-tempered ending to the game did kinda ruin it for me, but I am happy for Sligo. It is nice to see the Bit o’Red win it, only the third club this century from outside of Dublin to win the title.
All that remains to be decided in the Premier Division really is fairly meaningless positioning. Drogheda and St Pats will be going to Europe one way or the other, while Shamrock Rovers wait nervously on the result of the FAI Cup final, with a Saints victory gifting them a spot in the Europa League they hardly deserve on merit. Further down, Dundalk will finish last, and are just waiting to see which First Division runner-up they will have to play in a rather grim fight for survival.
Oh, but then there is the internationals.
It wasn’t great was it? Trapattoni’s remains in the job, probably in the lieu of what the result was rather than the actual scoreline. Few thought Ireland were capable of getting anything off the Germans.
But we would be wise to dismiss the usual comforting excuses. Most of our squad play at the top level, so please don’t bleat “We don’t have the players”. We have the players to not get beaten 6-1 at home. “Germany are a level above us!” We are 3rd seeds, not 6th. We do not get beaten at home 6-1. Germany didn’t do anything fancy the other night, they just moved and passed very well. They have better players, but five goals better?
And we were doing well in the first 20 minutes. We were retaining possession, we were hassling the Germans in their half, we were breaking with speed from our penalty area, keeping it low. We were causing the Germans difficulties.
Then, some kind of switch got moved, and it was back to hoofball, back to stepping off, back to isolated frontmen, back to haplessness at the back. Between around 25 and 70 minutes, Ireland self-destructed in the most damning manner, a team playing without a clue, confidence or with any belief that they could get out of the hole they were digging for themselves.
Remember Greece playing Germany in Euro 2012? There is a team that is similar to ours in terms of world status at the minute, defensive style etc. And they were capable of shipping four goals to Germany yet still making a match of it, still fighting it out.
Ireland didn’t. The players were awful, again, the system didn’t work, again, and those who shelled out extreme prices to fill the Aviva got burned, again. Nothing makes me roll my eyes more today than the pathetic pleading from players and FAI for people to get out and support the team, though I notice the amount of radio ads pumping that message out has decreased noticeably.
Trapattoni, as Ireland manager, is doomed. The result last night is just a continuation of a process that started at Euro 2012. The Faroe Islands match, tomorrow, has become a nervy encounter all of a sudden, another damning indictment of our current status, If we lose, Trapattoni will go – or be pushed.
Anything else, and I suspect the Trapattoni management team will limp on for a time, but the inevitable is the inevitable. When thinking about the cost of letting Trap go, the FAI might consider the empty seats they will now see in the Aviva.
At the end of the day, it seems extremely unlikely that Trapattoni can bring this team to a higher level. His tactics, his player selection and positioning, his poor man-management record…I’ve said it all before. Doomed.