JOIN US AS we look at the biggest talking points from last weekend’s Airtricity League action.
If you’re stuck for something to say when chatting about domestic football , here’s a cut out and keep list of semi-intelligent points.
Did Chris Turner deserve to see red?
Shamrock Rovers can have few excuses following their pitiful 3-0 defeat away to title rivals Sligo on Saturday afternoon, a result which saw the Hoops slip eight points behind at the top of the table.
Trailing 2-0 at the break, an already difficult task was made immeasurably harder early in the second half when Chris Turner was sent off for pushing Alan Keane as the two went nose-to-nose to discuss a late challenge.
In his defence, Turner will argue that Keane pushed him first and then conned the referee into producing the red card when he collapsed holding his face as if he had been skewered in the eye with a hot poker. But players invite trouble when they raise their hands, however minimal the contact is, and Turner will know that he should have been more restrained.
A tale of two Rovers
That flare-up aside, Saturday’s entertaining affair at the Showgrounds was the perfect illustration of the sides’ current form and the contrasting fortunes of their managers.
Ian Baraclough will be pleased by Sligo’s disciplined display. After taking 15 minutes or so to settle, the hosts adapted to pick through the gaps presented by the Rovers defence, creating two half-chances which Danny North latched onto without a second’s hesitation. North now has 11 in 11 since his move from St Pat’s and is already looking like the signing of the season.
All is not right with the champions though and Stephen Kenny is already beginning to feel the backlash from a minority of Rovers’ boo-boys. On the evidence of the last few weeks, there is plenty to work on. Only four teams in the Premier Division have conceded more goals than the Hoops, so sorting out the team’s current goalkeeping crisis would be a good place to start.
Will Pat’s draw themselves out of contention?
At the end of the first round of fixtures, only two teams remain unbeaten: table-toppers Sligo and St Patrick’s Athletic, who find themselves six points adrift after dropping another two points with a 0-0 draw at home to Cork.
Saints boss Liam Buckley said afterwards that a draw was a fair result, although Pat’s could have come away with less had Tadhg Purcell converted from the spot with 11 minutes to play. In isolation it was not a bad result for Pat’s, but their inability to kill teams off and take the three points is in danger of becoming endemic.
The problem is not at the back where they’ve only conceded four goals — less than any other team in the league — but there is room for improvement up front. Take their five-goal blitz against Shamrock Rovers out of the equation and they’ve only scored 10 goals in 10 games. If they are to genuinely challenge for the title, that will have to improve.
The early press catches the goal
After back-to-back defeats against Drogheda and Cork, Shelbourne made it two wins on the trot with a 2-0 win away to UCD despite being down to 10 men for 77 minutes.
Shels’ willingness to take the game to the Students was evident as they pressed from the first whistle. Within 12 seconds, it yielded the game’s opening goal. Hugh Douglas’s attempted clearance wasn’t his finest hour but it’s rare to see a winger press as high up the pitch as Paddy Kavanagh did in the opening seconds.
Once Kavanagh had nicked the ball away, it was clear that he wasn’t hunting alone. He wasted no time in picking his cross, and Philly Gorman thundered into the box to fire home.
Did Crusaders save the Setanta Sports Cup?
Saturday’s Setanta Sports Cup final, won by Crusaders on penalties after a 2-2 draw against Derry, was an excellent advertisement for the All-Ireland competition and may breathe new life into a worryingly fragile set-up.
It was the first victory for an IFA Premiership team since Linfield won the inaugural tournament back in 2005, but few will deny Crues their win after a frantic climax to normal time and a tense additional 30 minutes.
In each of the past five seasons, only one Irish League team has made it through to the semi-finals, hinting at a comparative weakness. If nothing else, Crusaders’ win should prove that the northern teams are good enough to compete and to win, which may just reassure sponsors and participants that the tournament has a worthwhile future.