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5 Things We Learned From Week 9 Of The Airtricity League

John Dodge
By John Dodge
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The first series ended, the second series began.  Here's the take-aways from a very busy weekend of Airtricity League action.

1) Sligo Rovers are still the team to beat

Thanks to a draw in Tallaght on Friday night, Sligo Rovers ended the first series of games behind Derry City on goal difference.  That draw marked the first time under Ian Baraclough that Sligo had gone 3 games without a win.  It wasn't to be extended to 4 as Sligo smashed Derry City 3-0 in the Showgrounds yesterday to re-establish their 3 point lead at the top of the table.  The 2nd series of games sees Sligo play at home six times including the likes of Pats, Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers.  If they win their home games they'll be able to put a big gap between them and the chasing pack.

2) We have a three way title race

While clearly Sligo are the team to beat, they lead Derry and St Pats by 3 points.  In what looked a tricky weekend for Pats they won away to Cork City and Drogheda United on Friday/Monday and brought themselves closer to the leaders.  Pats next three games are all Dublin derbies v Rovers, Bohs & Shels. Liam Buckley will be hoping for 3 wins to keep the pressure on.  Derry play the bottom 3 in their next five games so should keep pace too.  Dundalk, in 4th place, are now 5 points behind this trio and travel to Sligo in 2 weeks looking for a win to bring themselves back into it


3) Signs of life in Shamrock Rovers

Big weekend for Shamrock Rovers. Following back-to-back defeats (including the shocking loss in UCD), they needed to show show signs of some improvement for their fans.  A late equaliser at home to Champions, and rivals for the rights to be called "SRFC" and "Rovers", was quickly followed by a win over Dundalk.  They've moved into the top half of the table but remain 13 points behind the leaders.  A more realistic aim might be for top three where one of Pats or Derry are more likely to drop points.


4) The Relegation Battle is well underway

Despite Cork City's wretched form (1 point from 5) and Bohs young side's teething problems, it seems like it'll be a 3 way fight to avoid relegation. A weekend of mixed emotion for Shelbourne fans saw them grab their first win of the season against UCD on Friday, only to lose to Bray on Monday.  Bray have only won 7 points so far this season, and 6 have come against Shels.  If UCD beat Bohs tonight in the remaining game form the series, then Shels will be back bottom.  There's a month until the next game between the strugglers so any point earned in the meantime is a bonus.

5) Refereeing decisions and discipline play their part too


On Friday night in the clash of the Rovers, top scorer Anthony Elding was sent off for an off the ball clash with Stephen Rice.  While MNS pictures weren't conclusive, the reaction of Shamrock Rovers players spoke of their view. Saturday's newspapers broadly spoke about a lengthy ban for Elding.  Will this have an effect on them?  It didn't yesterday against Derry but Elding was 3rd Sligo player sent off in 4 games.  Meanwhile in Drogheda, referee Tomas Connolly was the centre of attention.  Having awarded Drogheda a harsh penalty for handball against Killian Brennan, he awarded Pats their own little gift as you can see in the video above. Seconds after Drogheda equalised, up stepped Brennan to steal all 3 points for Pats. They'll be hoping those 2 points count at the end of the season.


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