NO PRIZES FOR guessing what the major talking point was among League of Ireland fans this weekend as Shamrock Rovers’ shambolic capitulation against Bohemians dominated the agenda. The champions have been well below average for most of this season and have now suffered heavy defeats on the road to three of their main rivals — 5-1 against St Pat’s, 3-0 away to Sligo and Friday’s 4-0 battering in Dalymount.
Their woeful defending aside, it’s the gutless nature of the defeat that has Hoops fans most concerned and contributed to the chorus calling for Stephen Kenny’s head already. With Sligo and Pat’s pulling clear at the top of the table and a Champions League qualifier against FK Ekranas on the horizon, many see sense in cutting their losses now rather than in a month’s time when it may be too late on both fronts.
The rumour mill was in overdrive on Sunday night but Kenny is still calling the shots in Tallaght for now. Last night’s Leinster Senior Cup win won’t do much to ease the pressure and a defeat in Sunday’s derby against Pat’s might signal the end of a very brief era.
… and brilliant Bohs
For Bohs fans, the only downside to Friday night’s party was that their best performance in eons has been overshadowed by Rovers’ worst. The hosts always looked the hungrier of the two sides, and Keith Ward was particularly impressive in leading the midfield cavalry charge which forced mistakes time and again.
You have to go back more than half-a-century to find the last time Bohs beat Rovers by four goals and it may be the same length of time again before they are served up easier chances by an opponent. But for a team which has at time struggled in front of goal, the manner in which they took their chances was particularly impressive.
They’ve come out on the other side of a tough trio of games — Sligo, Pat’s, Rovers — with a creditable four points and things are looking up around Phibsboro.
Insult to injuries
Shamrock Rovers weren’t the only side to melt down on Friday night. At home in the Brandywell, Derry lost 3-0 to a Drogheda United side intent on proving that their high-flying form before the mid-season break was no fluke.
To describe the Candystripes’ current personnel situation as an “injury crisis” is a bit like saying that the weather in Ireland “hasn’t been great” this summer. Mark Farren and Brian McGroary are both still struggling, Kevin Deery and Barry Molloy won’t be back in action for a few weeks at best and Stewart Greacen — who has only just recovered from knee surgery — now looks set to spend another month on the sideline.
It was refreshing to read manager Declan Devine’s post-match comments in the Derry Journal today where he refused to hide behind the injuries and instead blamed defensive lapses for Friday’s defeat. But Derry have only won twice in the league since 23 March and if there is one thing that has been a relative constant in that period, it’s the length of the queue for the physio’s table.
Luck out for Shels
At some stage, Shelbourne are going to have to get a break. Twice in the space of eight days, Alan Mathews’ men have been on the end of unfortunate reversals in the Dublin derbies: first, with 10 men at home to Shamrock Rovers in a game they deserved to draw or possibly even win; then, on Friday night, when St Pat’s Greg Bolger scored the only goal of the game with a speculative effort that caught Dean Delany in no-man’s land.
The occasional bad break aside, Shelbourne have been one of the more consistent sides in the top flight of late, exhibiting the characteristic organisation and hard-work that is now expected of Mathews’ teams. Glenn Cronin’s role in bossing the midfield is central to that and when he recovers from a knee injury, it won’t be at all surprising to see Shels’ luck turn.
Thriller night in Fahy’s Field
We’re often guilty of neglecting our First Division friends but how could we fail to notice last weekend’s nine-goal thriller between Longford and Mervue in Fahy’s Field?
Longford trailed 3-0 at the break and, despite their best efforts at a comeback, were still 4-3 down against Mervue’s nine men as the clock ticked to 90. Late, late goals from Gary Shaw and Mark Salmon eventually gave Longford the three points they needed to keep second-place Limerick at arm’s distance but what drama.
The First Division may be criticised for lacking in quality but there was no shortage of entertainment on Friday night. A pity that only 201 spectators were there to witness it.