No one is crisis mode yet, but the first "we could be in trouble lads" shouts have emerged from a few (packed) stands and terraces. While Bohemians emerge as champions-elect, Shamrock Rovers fans worry about FAI conspiracies. We thought week one in the men's leagues was ripe for overreactions, it turned out week two kicked off some of the madder stuff. Here's what you need to know.
LOI recap: Week Two
The Big Talking Point: take over(s)
After we raised an eyebrow last week LOI circles went into overdrive with chatter from Dundalk, Shelbourne and Drogheda all involved with Hull City and others. Pats told Hull they'd no interest while Declan Devine suggested Bohs will never "sell their soul. "
An interview with Hull City manager Liam Rosenior lit the torch paper 0n Thursday and, understandably so, Dundalk fans did not appreciate his input. Dundalk came out with an official statement on Friday claiming, once again, that while they're not for sale, they are open to "investment". Early this week, the deal was "not going forward at this point".
Dundalk chairman Sean O'Connor says a potential deal with Hull is off.
“We’re at a point now where we’re not going to progress with them at this point. We both kind of decided to put things on ice and we’re not going to be going forward at this point.” https://t.co/fsXwLtak6V
— James Rogers (@jamesrogersie) February 28, 2023
On Friday evening the Hull City folk were in Inchicore as guests of Shelbourne. It was reported that St Pats had rebuffed their advances while Drogheda United insiders listed them as one of the groups they talked to as part of their "investment" drive. Shelbourne haven't officially commented on it. It was only a year ago they announced they had secured "significant new investment", but a deal with the owners of Southampton had fallen through since.
We use "investment" on purpose here. There's no return on "investment" in football, certainly not financially.
The Moment Of The Week
The inaugural President's Cup for women took place in Athlone on Saturday with the home side overcoming double winners Shelbourne after a penalty shoot out. 19 year old keeper Ciara Glackin came off the bench with Athlone 2 down, keeping a clean sheet until full time and saving the last two penalties to be the hero on the day.
The hosts have done it!@AthloneTownAFC win the inaugural President’s Cup final after overcoming @shelsfc on penalties (2-2 at FT)⚽️
Here’s the moment that decided it ⚽️ 👇#loiw @LoiWomen pic.twitter.com/7dWPF4yjqa
— Alanna Cunnane (@acunnane10) February 25, 2023
It's a first trophy for Athlone Town's women side. Their men's side has started the season spectacularly well but the women got well over twice their crowd for Saturday's season opener. The club have submitted plans to develop the stadium and specify it is for the expanded women's set up.
The Happiness Index
No change at number one but all new entrants in the rest of the top five as we rank overall fans' happiness.
- Bohemians – Top of the league. Biggest crowd in over a decade. The true Bohemian has begun to anticipate their next fall, but for now, they're still happy.
- Athlone Town – The smallest fan base in the league can't remember a start like this. Women's team winning the President's Cup, Men's team top of the table after two wins. What could go wrong?*
- St Patrick's Athletic – Anytime you can steal a win in a derby game, you're going to have happy fans. It doesn't matter if Pats played poorly for large stretches of the game against Shels.
- Cobh Ramblers – 1,350 turned up to St Colman's Park to see the Rams get their second win of the season. Huge.
- Bray Wanderers – Bray were a basket case last year but new manager Ian Ryan has them back in the promotion picture. They also have a PA system that picks up *everything*.
— Owen Ellis (@Owene2220) February 25, 2023
Media Spotlight of the Week: Gremlins
The gremlins of LOI TV returned with viewers, including paying customers, missing large parts of the Derry City v Cork City game on Friday night, including the opening goal. The highlights were delayed while the League sourced a "reverse angle". It's a fine goal and thankfully wasn't lost completely but it's not a good look when coverage of such a big game just stops.
Kenny Cunningham’s Eyebrow Raise of the Week
*What could go wrong with Athlone? Well, they've been down this road before...
This week, 2 games into the season, Athlone Town announced a "major partnership" with US-based Valeo FC. Valeo aren't your typical football club. They advertise themselves as preparing US soccer players for a career in the game. They have training facilities in the Boston area and also in Portugal. Their website heralds the players they've helped move to US college teams.
The star man for Athlone Town so far this year is Frantz Pierrot, a Haitian born striker who moved around the US college scene before being drafted by the MLS club Houston Dynamo in December. Rather than sign with them, he's in the LOI First Division with Athlone Town. He was one of five players to start for Athlone last weekend to come from the US college scene. None of the players have professional experience.
On the bench was 20 year old American Matthew Leal. The Leal family were heavily involved in the Irish Sea/Dublin County group that sought admission to the LOI last year talking about creating opportunities for footballers from across the globe.
It's the second time in recent history that Athlone's men's team has been taken over by foreign groups. This could be different. It could be nothing but good for a club that's been in the doldrums for a while now. It's absolutely worth raising an eyebrow to though.
Predicting the Game of the Week
Busy weekend across the leagues is on the cards. We have the first Monday fixtures for the Premier League with the Women's League kicking off too.
It might be all eyes on Shamrock Rovers on their debut there and it's the same for the Men on Friday night. The champions have started with two away draws and host Derry City in a clash of the two teams most people believe will fight for the title. It's a first game for the champions in Tallaght Stadium this year and while the new stand isn't ready yet, we should have a new high attendance at it.
Derry City have had injury issues already and look to be without Duffy, McJannett and O'Reilly but it's Rovers who have the biggest struggle. They will be without three centre halves through suspension with Grace, Lopes and Cleary all out. Sean Hoare might return but he won't be fit and Rovers will have to scrabble a defence together. It should be a fascinating game on LOI TV.
Have you heard the UCD commentary that went viral last weekend? It's worth a watch.