We're over last week's League of Ireland existential crises, yes - multiple crises, but that doesn't mean we have any further clarification on what teams are good and what teams are bad. Well in the Men's Premier Division, it feels like teams are still finding their level. In the First we're starting to see a bit of separation. The women's division's split was pretty much known in pre-season. We're also about to find out if results have any impact on the crowds for some clubs. Let's get you up to speed.
League of Ireland recap: Week Four
The Big Talking Point: Clancy on the brink
We raised an eyebrow last week, but it has to be the main story this week. St Pats suffered their third successive defeat at home to Bohemians on Friday night. When the end of last year is taken into account, it's five defeats and only two wins (both against Shelbourne in Inchicore) from the last eight league games. Before this run, Pats had won seven of nine to finish the season quite well and qualify for Europe in fourth place. For Pats, Europe is seen as the minimum, so he can rightfully argue he delivered last year.
It wasn't always straightforward in 2022 though. Some terrific European performances were countered by a meek exit in the FAI Cup against Waterford and conceding 4 three times in the league. They've already conceded five in a game this year. Clancy talked last year of not having enough time to get a squad together but he can't say that this year. He's been backed by the club with high profile signings in each window so far. Recruitment from abroad has been mixed. His falling out with club legend Ian Bermingham and several academy graduates had some Saints fans against him early on.
Clancy's job with Drogheda was universally praised but the expectations at Pats are higher than survival. Chairman Garret Kelleher has shown he isn't quick to sack a manager over his long tenure in charge of the club and Clancy may be given time to turn things around. His next game is a tough one against Shamrock Rovers this Friday. Pats will be underdogs so it may unfair to suggest a defeat could signal the end for Clancy, but how long with Kelleher endure the losses? Of course, if Pats do get the surprise win, then Clancy has some breathing room and the focus shifts to winless Rovers. That's right the Champions are winless after 5 games and that's not the biggest story of the week.
The Moment Of The Week
Ireland's under 17s qualified for the Euro finals this week. They scored 8 goals in their three games against Italy, Ukraine and Cyprus. Apart from an own goal, each of the goals was scored by players attached to League of Ireland clubs; Romeo Akachukwu (Waterford), Mason Melia (St Pats), Luke Kehir (St Pats), Naj Razi (Shamrock Rovers) and this cracker from Nickson Okosun (Bohs).
SCENES! The Ireland U17s have just qualified for the Euros thanks to this incredible last minute winner from Bohemians player Nickson Okosun, giving them a 3-2 win over Cyprus ☘️pic.twitter.com/9Sp8XchSkY
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) March 13, 2023
Of course, most of these are only with LOI clubs as players can no longer move to the UK at 16 and their schoolboy clubs such as St Kevins with Okosun can take most of the credit but it's a still a very positive note for the league. Young Irish talents are proving they can flourish in the academy teams of LOI clubs and fans here are rightly proud of seeing their young stars heading off to represent the country. Next week the under 19s, which include several regular LOI starters, try to match the under 17s.
The Happiness Index
Oh man. It might be easier to make an unhapppiness index, but here's the five happiest fan bases across the leagues this week.
- Bohemians – Top of the league after an away derby win over St Pats and they even get to celebrate their off-field improvements too.
- Galway United – They'll stay in the top five as long as they have a 100%. Obviously. The womens team have started well too.
- Cobh Ramblers – Shane Keegan can't have asked for a much better start than ten points from the opening four games.
- Dundalk – A point in Derry continues their recent upswing.
- Peamount United – None of the clubs with teams in the Men's and Women's Premier Division both won last weekend so Peamount continue to sneak in with two wins from two for them so far. Unfortunately, without the spillover from the men's teams' supporters (and facilities to be fair), they continue to struggle to get people to watch them. Just over 100 at their game last week compared to 800 in Tallaght to watch the re-born Shamrock Rovers.
Media Spotlight of the Week: Big week for TV coverage
The St Patrick's weekend sees the second RTE game of the year with Derry City hosting Sligo Rovers in a tie that looks a lot better now than when it was announced. On Saturday TG4 kick off their coverage of the Women's Premier Division with Shelbourne hosting Shamrock Rovers in the first big game of the season.
Great to have @SportTG4 covering the 2023 #LOIW season 📺 pic.twitter.com/kUDOWQpG4c
— LOI Women (@LoiWomen) March 14, 2023
It's a big week for LOI TV too. With Drogheda United v Dundalk on Thursday evening and kick off times staggered somewhat on Friday, there's an opportunity for subscribers to watch more games than usual. It has been rumoured that the league and TV companies have talked about a Thursday night showcase game so reaction to Drogs v Dundalk will be interesting to watch.
Kenny Cunningham’s Eyebrow Raise of the Week
UCD started the season with a 1-1 draw away to Dundalk. Since then they've lost all four games and haven't scored in three. Their combined attendance at the three home games so far is 1,560. The bottom 3 individual attendances in rest of the division are 1,544, 2,182 and 2,751. Next up for UCD is table-toppers Bohs, who aren't even selling tickets for an away end. This isn't a dunk on UCD. The eyebrow raising is how they manage to (a) survive, and (b) outperform so called "bigger" clubs every single year.
Predicting the Game of the Week
Huge week for the league; a Louth derby on Thursday, the top two - Cobh Ramblers v Galway United - meet in the First Division, that huge televised Shelbourne v Shamrock Rovers game in the women's league, Derry v Sligo Rovers on RTE on Friday but the game in Tallaght has to be the choice this week. We've talked about Tim Clancy's position but what happens if Shamrock Rovers can't beat St Pats? No wins in six for the champions seems unfathomable. It's still very early in the season but some games are already crucial.