A roller coaster of week, not helped by the fact that Limerick FC haven’t played at all, facing Drogheda at home tomorrow night before travelling to UCD on Friday.
For the rest of the Premier Division, a bit of a random weekend. Shamrock Rovers just plain slaughtered Drogheda it has to be said, bringing further into question the viability of the Setanta Cup long term. With clubs north of the border performing to a winning level only infrequently and results of a six goal difference being found, you begin to wonder. I like the concept of the Setanta Cup certainly, but it seems like much effort is being wasted on a tournament that nobody especially cares about anymore, and can be seen mostly as a distraction to more serious business. The extra gates are to be welcomed of course and maybe they do make a difference.
UCD are on a bit of a roll. Victory at home to Bohs was followed up by a far more impressive game away to Derry. A back and forth contest that had swung the home sides way by the last ten minutes, the sending off of McCaffrey simply seemed to destroy Derry’s cohesion. Even with ten men, to concede three goals in the final few minutes is remarkable, especially given the position that Derry find themselves in. Refereeing decisions are to be questioned off course, but you can’t take much away from the Students, whose recent run of form had added a new dimension to the relegation fight. It really won’t take much more from them to avoid the bottom two. For Derry, after such a spectacular failure at home, their ability to bounce back and recover will now be tested fairly severely when they travel to Drogheda. Three defeats on the trot is not something that can be allowed.
Sligo failed to take advantage of course. You would have expected them, with Elding back, to have hit the struggling seaside club for several goals, but none arrived. Something’s going a bit pear shaped with Rovers certainly. That great performance last weekend aside, some of their star names seem to be struggling over the last month or so, and the gap at the top isn’t really that big. Players like Elding and Cretaro may be carrying knocks, and Danny North’s return from injury will help matters, so I imagine the ship will be righted at some point. Sligo are lucky enough that it was Bray, who have become the most important team in the league in a rapid amount of time, that they were facing. I suppose the point, against the league leaders, is valuable, but Bray still haven’t breached double figures.
Dundalk piled on the misery for bottom club Shels, who once again failed to finish a game with 11 players in the pitch. I pretty much consider Shelbourne, a club in dire need of mass squad reorganisation and an immediate installation of some discipline to be going down this year. They simply don’t appear to have it in them to compete.
One club riding, another falling between Bohs and Cork. The Leesiders’ come from behind win was badly needed to shore up support for the management team at Turner’s Cross, and was further evidence of the inefficiencies of the Gypsies outfit, who have given up a really concerning amount of points at home this year. Bohs are slipping down into that dangerous area just above the vortex while Cork are now more firmly secured in mid-table. I doubt either of these teams are still going to be in major trouble at any point in the season, but neither is going to be reaching much higher either.
Across the water then. Alex Ferguson is retiring, news that is pretty much a thunderbolt to the United support. I have little I can say that would be much different to the cavalcade of praise that has engulfed the footballing media over the past week. I wish him well and thank for him for a few decades of footballing memories. I hope that many will heed some of his final words at Old Trafford, and support David Moyes through thick and thin. I’ll probably have some more thoughts to offer on Moyes once the season is over for good.
On their actual game this weekend, there isn’t much to be said about what was a glorified friendly. Swansea stopped having anything to play for weeks ago, but I can still appreciate their style of play and the strikers instincts of Michu. Poor Phil Jones had a bit of a hard time dealing with him, but Swansea had plenty of holes in their defence that could be exploited, and in truth were fortunate enough not to concede a boatload. In the end, it was a low-intensity game, with the red shirts’ minds more on the medals than the match.
That Champions League race is going right down to the wire. While Everton might have the capability of grabbing something away to Chelsea on the last day, I would actually expect all three of that chasing pack to win their remaining games. That would leave Chelsea and Arsenal in the CPL spots by a handful of points. Spurs’ inability to grab the three points at Chelsea and some nervy finishes as of late seem to have cost them.
An Arsenal win midweek will end the relegation contest, sending Wigan down and making most of the final day a total dead rubber event. But I suppose it is possible that Martinez’ men, survival experts and on a high after their weekend exploits, could get at least a point to keep things interesting at both ends of the table. I can certainly see Wigan beating Villa on the last day after all, but a serious challenge to the survival prospects of other clubs would only result if they had grabbed a win against Arsenal.
I think it is all a bit beyond Wigan, which will come as a huge relief to Newcastle and Sunderland, who have each tempted fate way too much in the last few weeks. That Wigan could have put up such a brave and effective performance in the FA Cup final against City, securing European football next season, and still face the heartbreaking prospect of demotion, must be hard to take, but that’s football.