WHAT A DIFFERENCE a week makes.
The early rounds of any new season are very much like a game of the old Saturday evening TV classic Blockbusters; a slow reveal, gradually giving us the bits and pieces that we need to put together the full picture.
Admittedly when it comes to football, it’s generally better to keep quiet rather than blurting out wild guesses based on the latest tidbit of information, but for a lot of Airtricity League fans, the last seven days will have helped them to fully understand their side’s prospects for the coming months.
Take Bohs for example. Before their win against Cork a fortnight ago, they hadn’t scored in five league games and were quickly becoming the punchline to every joke.
Not even Aaron Callaghan would deny that his team started the season slowly but their goal drought made matters look a lot more severe than they actually were. Bohs never set the world alight but at times they played nice football and looked like a team who understood their strengths and how to play to them. Karl Moore, Adam Martin and Keith Ward all look to be genuine assets, something that’s scarce enough in Phibsboro at present.
The win against Cork was great but they needed to follow it up with three more points away to UCD last week to build momentum. They did just that with brilliant goals from Ward and Dinny Corcoran and now in eighth place, their season isn’t looking quite so grim anymore. A win against Roddy Collins’s Monaghan United in Dalymount tonight is a must if they are serious about making something out of their season.
It has been a transformative few days for Cork as well. With two points from their opening six games, it was clearly taking City longer than they’d expected to readjust to life in top flight. Graham Cummins’s absence was felt all the more acutely given their lack of goals and there were genuine concerns that the early-season blip might actually be the first indicator of much bigger problems.
One way to solve all that is to go out and win 6-0, which Cork promptly did against Monaghan last Friday. Some of their goals were the products of a generous slice of luck but the performance will go a long way towards easing concerns and building confidence ahead of the visit of league leaders Sligo Rovers to Turner’s Cross tonight.
The same can be said for Derry City. An unlucky run of injuries combined with a bedding-in period for new boss Declan Devine meant that they never recaptured last season’s high-flying form in their first few games, but last week’s 1-1 draw away to Sligo has given them a lot of heart as they showed by following it up with a 3-0 win away to Shamrock Rovers in the first leg of the Setanta Sports Cup semi-final.
Dundalk are the visitors to the Brandywell tonight, looking to bounce back from a 6-0 drubbing of their own in Tallaght. Derry’s home form has been good and they desperately need a win to keep them within touching distance of the top.
The lessons of the last seven days haven’t been welcome for all, though. If Shamrock Rovers fans were thrilled with the manner in which the side bounced back from humiliation against Pat’s to stuff Dundalk, they will have been equally puzzled by Monday’s display against Derry in a tournament they would’ve dearly liked to retain.
The extenuating circumstances of that game, in which South African goalkeeper Reyaad Pieterse was controversially sent off in the 13th minute of his home debut, mean that it’s not quite time to start sounding alarm bells in Tallaght. But if Rovers believed that the Pat’s defeat was a blip, atoned for against Dundalk, Monday night might just have made them think again.
Airtricity League fixtures (kick-off Friday, 7.45pm unless stated)
- Bohemian FC v Monaghan United
- Bray Wanderers v Shamrock Rovers
- Cork City v Sligo Rovers
- Drogheda United v Shelbourne
- Derry City v Dundalk
- St Patrick’s Athletic v UCD
- Waterford United v Wexford Youths
- SD Galway v Athlone Town
- Longford Town v Mervue United (Sat, 7.30pm)
- Finn Harps v Limerick (Sat, 7.45pm)