Limerick bounced back to get something at home to Sligo, while providing a massive boost to St Pats’ charge to the top.
It was a changed side that came to face the champions at Thomond to the one that so unconvincingly failed to see off UCD. A much greater showing of discipline was very much in effect, not just in terms of bookings, but in formation. The defence had its best game in ages, limiting the Sligo attack, especially Elding, to largely distant efforts, with Ryan acting as an effective last line of defence when called upon. Sligo did manage to create some decent chances, but they were few and far between.
Limerick dominated in the midfield area. The 4-2-3-1 that Taylor seems to favour is good at stifling the creativity of the other sides, and the revolving nature of the second line, with O’Leary usually taking the top point, helps with passing and movement. The single striker meant that Limerick were, naturally, not inclined to go forward too much , and often crosses and lofted balls were sent in to no one in particular, especially in the last 20 minutes or so. Axel was a lonely figure, as was Gaffney later on.
With Sligo’s star names largely out of commission and Limerick not pressing to the extent that maybe they could have, it was a fairly pedestrian encounter. Limerick can be rightfully delighted with the point, no mean feat considering their injuries, recent form and Sligo’s position in the table.
For Sligo, its all manner of concerning. Results tonight, when they play Dundalk and the Saints face UCD, could put them back on top, but I doubt it. Sligo’s slightly iffy form of late, not withstanding that fine win against Derry, has been noticeable and slipping from top spot is just the end result.
For St Pats, a stroll in Dalymount was what got them to the peak. Bohs amateur status will rarely look more apparent than this, hit for two goals in a matter of minutes in the middle of the first half and never looking likely to get back into the game. Fagan, Forrester, Brennan and Byrne are all in top form for Pats and they were way too god for Bohs, whose last few results have seen them tumble down the table, though that has as much to do with UCD’s sudden resurgence and Bray’s slight recovery. St Pats are a very good team, and have only improved during the second round of fixtures. New favourites? Perhaps.
Derry are starting to become a team that only gets interested in the last few minutes of games. A fairly dour game sprang to life in the final few minutes at the Brandywell, and a badly beset Cork team must have hoped fervently that Horgan’s goal seven minutes from time might have kickstarted their flagging campaign. Not to be. Patterson is just such a great late-game poacher, and Derry were able to get a point from the whole affair. Some small encouraging signs for Cork, but neither team will be really satisfied with where this result leaves them. Derry have slipped up a few times in the last month, and that will see them finish out the table in an all too familiar position if it keeps up. Cork, well, they aren’t that far away from the bottom vortex.
Jason Byrne, after failing to score for so long, exploded back onto the goal scoring charts, and with some style too. His hat-trick against Drogs brought Bray a second win a row that would have been almost unthinkable a short time ago. Obviously two red cards for the visitors helped things along, but we should take nothing away from the seaside club, who have leaped out o the relegation spots finally.
They’ll be gutted at the continuing good form of the Students, a very impressive away win to Dundalk moving them up the table as far as 9th. Oriel Park is a tough enough ground to get anything from, not least when going behind so early. But as they did against Limerick, UCD rallied and a McMillain inspired performance saw them streak ahead. You’d wonder about the sustainability of this recent drive from UCD – They are, as ever, unable to really get very far up the table – but the points being racked up now could prove very important by the end of the season.
That leaves only Shams and Shelbourne to talk about. The new managerial set-up with Shelbourne has only just been put in place, and change comes slowly, but the magnitude of the task is all too clear. Shelbourne pressed Rovers at times, but the gulf was clear. Finn’s lone strike saw the three points go for the home side, and Shelbourne lacked the calm and the resolve to get anything out of the game.
Down below then, where Longford made a definitive statement on their aspirations, beating early high-flyers Mervue away. They had to do so with ten men and from a goal behind, and there may well have been an element of good fortune in the final score, but Longford won’t care. A seven point gap, nearly at the half-way point, is the kind of lead many teams would kill for. I’ve long expected the steam to run out of the Mervue train, and we may be seeing that now, as the highly erratic Wexford have overtaken them, following a fine away win at Finn Harps. Athlone are also neck and neck with Mervue, only two points behind the others, in the race for those play-off spots. Waterford win at Athlone keep them in the hunt also. Salthill and Cobh have rapidly fallen away, but the First Division has maintained its competitiveness. If Waterford could get a decent run going, or if Wexford could find even a modicum or consistency, it could yet be a multi-team race to the finish, unlike the snorefest of a conclusion that marked the end of last season in the second tier.