It was a disappointing night in Thomond Park.
I think Limerick’s inexperience at this level, compared with Pats anyway, got shown up big time on Saturday. Our backline was caught in possession so many times, our midfield struggled to make an impact, and the forwards were isolated and frustrated. Our gameplan was very obvious for most of the 90: Get the ball down the right, and it didn’t work.
The referee, Buttimer, was an easy figure to get riled up with. Aside from the questionable penalty call, every time a Limerick player had a long ball aimed at him he was getting pulled around. Plenty of hand balls missed. Looked like the Pats keeper handled outside the area. Lack of advantage for Limerick at times. Curran booked when it seemed he’d missed the player he “tackled”. Four times in the second half a Pats player went down “Injured” and ate up time. Enraging to watch (Here’s a thought, apropos of that: if a player goes down “injured” and has to go off the field, how about he has to stay off for a full five minutes, just to get a really thorough check from the physios? We’ll see how many are really hurt then).
Pats passed it a lot better than us, but probably overused the Forrester option down the left, by the second half he wasn’t getting anywhere. They weren’t great in the last third, but far better than us up the other end. Gamble had a very poor 90, lots of errors, very slow looking. He held up the ball the most out of anyone, as we screamed for any bit of urgency from the terraces. I lost count of the number of times Curren received the ball to his chest and then was surrounded and had no one to play it to. Limerick just seemed so, so hesitant to play in any offensive way, constantly waiting, considering, passing it back and back and back.
Poor Galbriath on the left had a miserable night. He had so much space at times but only twice in the second half was an attempt made to “switch” the play to him quickly, and both times the ball was straight to a Pats player. He was threatening when going forward, so we should use that avenue more.
But can’t complain about the ref or how Pats seemed fairly impotent, because we had two sitters in either half. Curran and Bradley, clean through, needing just to sidefoot it home from 8 yards, and they fluffed their lines. Easy, easy chances. Bradley especially just walked it to the keeper. Also, I think we must have been a bit light, because it took ages for changes to be made and they were hardly offensive in nature when they happened. I think we lacked something out there, the kind of thing that Rory Gaffney gave us last year in the First Division. We had a fair few injuries/suspensions I suppose, but we should be able to deal with that kind of thing.
I think this game is a bit of a wake-up call for the team, we’ve been playing well against some of the moderate sides of the division, fought well in Sligo, but we got a lesson tonight from a more confident, experienced outfit. Shams to come on Tuesday, so could well be three defeats in a row. I don’t have any fears of relegation for Limerick, but it is clear that we are nowhere near at the level of the best teams yet.
Elsewhere, Sligo eased to a straightforward victory over a really poor Bohemians side, with only three professionals and playing on a sudden surface. It won’t be a stand-put season for the Dalymount anyway. Shamrock Roves remain unbeaten in five games but with only one win, but I suppose it is testament to their strength – and weakness of Cork City – that they were able to snatch a draw in the end. Cork conceded a late equaliser at Drogheda again today, so they certainly need to try and do a better job in the last part of the game.
Shelbourne look very likely to be in a straight shoot-out with UCD for who goes down automatically. Thrashed 4-0 by a very handy Derry team that look like a very vibrant, confident side, aiming to finally break into the role of genuine title challengers. UCD’s hard fought draw away to Bray is evidence that they have some life in them yet, but they are still a very poor side overall.
Some great football down in the First Division, with what looked like a full program of entertaining fixtures. Waterford falling to another defeat is almost hard to watch after their successes last season, but Wexford will be delighted to finally start getting a bad beginning to the league out of the way. Longford showed off their resilience with a come from behind surprise for Cobh, reminiscent of their 5-4 against Mervue last season. They top the table following a clash of equals between Mervue and Finn Harps, neither of whom could triumph over the other. And even the traditional dross of Athlone and Salthill played out a thrilling 3-3 draw. Stuff worth seeing in the First (if RTE could be bothered).
To the international front then, though what little I will say has been said already by others. Ireland played well from the 20th to the 75th minute, and fell apart for the rest of the game. Despite playing with a more offensive mindset, more pressing, less hoofball, Trapattoni’s Ireland still messed it up when it counted. The way the formation and mentality fell apart in the closing stages was mindboggling, as was some of the substation decision both in terms of timing and the positioning that was changed. Despite good performances from Long, McClean and O’Shea, Austria were well worth their win. Trap is doomed, but it has probably gon4 past the point in this campaign here to sack him would be deemed useful.
Across the pond, the United title drive rolls on. Sunderland are a shocking team, who struggle to put even a few sequences of passes together. A more motivated, driven United side would have mincemeat out of them ,but Ferguson may have had an eye on the Chelsea game today. A solid defensive performance, but they were not really tested to any great amount.
Today, it was a lethargic, downbeat performance. Some players were exhausted from playing a match less than 48 hours earlier, and this affected the efforts of the rest. Chelsea were the same, but Ba took the opportunity when it came, and what a goal it was. The league will have to do for United, and the next step to taking that is next Monday. 1-6 last year, and that has to be addressed.