The League of Ireland is back in business, so I will have a bit more to talk about on a week to week basis.
Some good games to start off the season with, none more than Limerick FC’s debut in Thomond Park. While the organisation outside the ground was sloppy (missed the first five minutes of the game due to lax stewarding), it was better stuff on the inside.
The team needs time and a few more games to click, but when they do I think they’ll be a real handful for anyone in the top tier. There were a lot of good moments yesterday where they strung together some decent passing and made some good opportunities. Generally looked strong when challenging for the ball, passed it well in the first two thirds of the field. If they could get a bit better at attacking crosses they’ll have no problems, since that’s where nearly all their good chances came from today. They just couldn’t direct the ball on target.
Ryan had little to do but claimed balls well from corners. His big moment was a close range save from Horgan, which was excellent, spared the back lines blushes after they lost the ball in the danger area. Defence had some bad moments, were caught passing it around in their final third a bit too much which almost cost Limerick big time, but improved a lot in the second. Very impressed with Stephen Folan especially and I think it’ll be a solid backline when Purcell returns. Midfield, O’Leary and Gamble had a good time of it, Tracy could have done with more supply. Forwards had little supply for a lot of the game too, but Bossekota made some great runs on occasion after moving more forward in the second half, really caused some problems. Needs to work on the long shots though. Limerick worked it from the flanks to the centre well enough, but floundered inside the area. Lot of times a player should have just pulled the trigger but tried to pass it off instead.
Limerick were a bit off. Too many times they found space down the wings only for the player in possession to have to hold it up or pass back due to lack of options. They was a certain hesitancy in pushing forward, even when gaps were there to be found. Corner delivery was poor. Galbraith didn’t have a great game for all of the possession he had, lot of miscontrol and bad decisions (like facing the Cork keeper outside his area in the first half). He needed to take on defenders more because he made a great chance for Curren when he burst to the byline and crossed, but more often than not he slowed up attacks and just passed backwards. He was trying fancy moves and flicks too when it wasn’t really required.
Cork should have done a lot better, had the better chances in the first half, but when the second came they looked totally impotent upfront. Whenever they moved to a 4-4-2 they were easily contained. Hope Dennis Behan was ok, he took a nasty blow to the head that was bleeding, not nice to see.
Overall, a good start for Limerick, I think they’ve improved since the end of last season and this team is capable of better things. Just need a bit of fine tuning, a few of the regulars to come back, and we’ll be laughing.
Elsewhere in the top tier, Dundalk held Shams, proving that Rovers will not have a cakewalk to the title like so many think they will. Sligo got a decent result out in Derry, and those two games should serve as a reminder that things have not inevitably switched at the top of the League of Ireland. Bohemians made hard work out of what should have been an easy win over the Students, being a man up for most of the game, and I wouldn’t have much fear of them going forward. Shelbourne are exhibiting a serious discipline problem, picking up (counting pre-season) their third red card in a few months and a score of yellows while losing away to Bray. St Pats played through a mire to beat Drogs, which is good news for their fans, since one of the big problems with the Saints last year was their inability to grab wins when draws were possible.
Down in the First, Finn Harps grabbed a late draw against Waterford, and I’d stick with my prediction that the Balleybofey men will be the team to watch for promotion this season. Athlone and Mervue played out a dour draw, not much to say there. Longford thrashed an especially weal Salthill team, no surprises there. It’s Cobh who are the big talking point in the lower tier, thrashing Wexford in an eerie reverse of the opening day last season (where Wexford thrashed Waterford). Wexford have lost some key men and Cobh were clearly fired up on their return to the big time. I would still say that the amateur set-up in Cobh will struggle as the season goes on, but they are off to the best possible start.
Across the channel, well I missed the United game for obvious reason, so I can’t comment too much, apart from to say that an added game to the schedule, and a very difficult game at that, is not what the doctor ordered. United couldn’t kill it off, a shame, and face a tough trip to Stamford Bridge with the reward of a tough game against Man City if they pull it off. Sometimes, with the league race far from over, you despair of the FA Cup.
Speaking of the league, I think it is fair to now say that Liverpool are “fixed” following such a poor first half of the season. They out in a hard-working performance to grab the win against high-flying Spurs, and while Champions League level placing might be above Liverpool, they could still grab fifth. It was down south in the table that the real news was though, with Newcastle, Villa and QPR all winning to turn that relegation battle into an even tighter contest. That QPR could survive now is not out of the question, which would be unprecedented for a team that was bottom at Christmas. Reading and Wigan should be worried now, while the Magpies might finally have done enough to propel themselves out of the trouble in the last little while.