Unfortunately, I was not able to attend Limerick’s last two games, the latest of which ended just a short while ago, so my opinions are limited. Against Derry, it was always going to be a tough task, and by all accounts Limerick played well for the first half of the game. But they were progressively beaten back in the second, but perhaps could still have avoided the ignominy of losing their lead and going behind in just a few minutes. Half of all the goals Limerick have conceded (up to the Derry game) have come in the last 20 minutes, a concerning state of affairs that points to a lack of concentration as games finish.
Still, losing away to the team that have become the league leaders is hardly the most shocking thing to happen, and Limerick have come good today, though it took a bit of a battle in order to do it. Cork have been playing some terrible football as of late, and while they appear to have raised their game for the visit of Limerick, it wasn’t enough. Poor discipline, an inability to defend well from set-pieces and some ineffective offence late on let Limerick, with David O’Leary in flying form, grab the win that keeps Limerick lodged just inside the top half of the table while the Leesiders slide back the other way. If Behan performs better and Morrissey gets more game time Cork will probably drag their way back into a more stable position, but there won’t be any quests for European places this year.
Sligo and Derry faced off for the second time this year today, with Sligo coming good in a fashion that is eerily reminiscent of their 3-0 thumping of Shams last year. Sligo were well into blip territory, so really did need a comprehensive win, which they failed to achieve against Shamrock Rovers on Fraiday. In fact, Shams should really have won that game, but it is a sign of their own ineptitude this season that they did not. Elding, who only a few weeks ago seemed incapable of doing any wrong, has fallen short over the past while, but perhaps his red card in Tallaght might be the wake-up call that he needs. A win against Derry, who proved their worth in that comeback against Limerick, is a great result, but leaves things far from clear-cut at the top.
That’s largely due to St Pats, who have been playing some wonderful football at times and have two more wins to add to their tally since I last wrote on the LOI. A really poor Cork team was vanquished with some ease last Friday in Turner’s Cross before the Saints got involved in a three goal scramble in the dying minutes against Drogs today.
Wins are wins when it comes to the table though. With Sligo possible breaking their poor run of form and Derry showcasing a few vulnerabilities at times against Limerick, the Inchicore lads look well-placed to become the primary challengers to Sligo as we continue. Drogheda have disappointed after their high-flying days of last season, letting slip as awful amount of points already this year, no more so than when they twice let a lead slip at home to Bohs. That 2-2 result is a good microchasm for both clubs: Drogheda frequently seem to mess things up at the crucial moment this year, while Bohs, playing catch up the whole time, are just starting to get back into a bit of decent form. With luck, they should win at UCD tomorrow and further cement their status of safety in mid-table.
The bottom of the table clash brought Shelbourne their first win, finally, but it’s really hard to judge their future prospects based on that result. The Students, while capable of the odd shock, are still among the poorest sides in the top tier, maybe the poorest now. Neither side looks capable of gaining many more wins their season, and you wonder how important the last game between the two clubs will be.
Bray still can’t get a result, falling at home to Dundalk, falling further into the survival dog-fight. I begin to wonder just what is up with Jason Byrne as of late, the Bray hero usually being a bit more successful with his efforts than he has been over the last month or so. That lack of forward kick is seriously hampering Bray. Dundalk continue to banish the memories of last season, anD are enjoying a fruitful relationship with Stephen Kenny. Their brand of football isn’t especially pretty, but they are a hard graft team, and that’s what has them as high as they are.
Down below, the pendulum swing of the First Division really is leaving things amazingly tight. As it stands, Longford’s late, late equaliser against Waterford leaves them sitting pretty with a six point gap, though from what I’ve been reading they haven’t exactly been playing the kind of quality football that would explain such a lead. Everyone behind them lacks any kind of consistent record, which has left six clubs all within reachable distance of each other in that race for promotion and play-off place. Everyone, bar Salthill, are still in that mixer, and it really does have the potential to be absolutely fascinating heading into the latter half of the season. Athlone’s 4-0 thrashing of Wexford put them right back into the hunt, with more crazy swings in form from the Youths, while Mervue couldn’t get three points off the poorer side of Galway. All that was left was or Cobh and Finn Harps to fail to take advantage, and the FD remains delicately poised.
Across the water then. United look like they don’t especially care anymore (why would they?) as they fell at home to Chelsea, their third home defeat of the league season. The win leaves Chelsea not far from securing third, if they could get a similar result against Spurs this week, the big game as far as the CPL chase goes. Arsenal and Spurs have both maintained their positions, so a lot really does come down to that Wednesday night clash in Stamford Bridge. Spurs needed some late Gareth Bale magic to get the win against Southampton while Arsenal just couldn’t get the breathing room to make things comfortable against relegated QPR after Walcott’s early strike. You’d have to favour Chelsea to grab third at this point, with the last place being a toss-up.
Down below, unexpected wins for both Villa and Wigan leave the relegation battle in a state of flux, with Norwich, the Magpies and the Black Cats getting sucked back into proceedings and Villa just a step away from securing top tier football next season. Not what I was expecting. None of those team have especially easy run-ins, so things could easily be all to play for by the time the last games of the season begin.