You wait for one FAI "Independent" disciplinary hearing for ages and then two come along at the same time. A title race may be back on the cards and European group stage football returned. We're getting to the critical stage of the LOI season. Here's what you missed this week and what to look for over the weekend.
LOI Wrap Up Week 31
The Return of The European Groups
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) September 8, 2022
A fourth appearance in group stage football for an Irish club (no pedants, we will not count the inter toto groups from 1995-1997) and it all seemed a bit under the radar. There didn't seem to be as much media coverage as previous entries and, surprisingly, Tallaght wasn't a complete sell out.
The crowds are still above what anyone else could get but it felt like this one was for fans rather than those with a general interest in Irish football. Rovers played well in the game and created several decent chances. Djurgardens finished strongly but didn't really trouble Alan Mannus in goal.
Last night's draw earned Rovers €166,000 - more than they'll earn if they win the league and cup double domestically.
The Return of the Asterisk
It's been a while, but we have an asterisk back in the LOI Premier Division table. Sligo Rovers announced early in the week that they had "allegedly" played a suspended player in their 2-0 win over Dundalk and were appealing the decision. Two days later the league officially awarded the game to Dundalk with a 3-0 score line.
The confusion was caused by the league issuing a list of suspended players to the media that didn't include Adam McDonnell. Rovers' statement after the decision claims he was absent from two lists that the league issued. Clubs are sent weekly lists of every caution they receive with a running tally and the league may have argued this was enough.
While unfortunate for Sligo, it's a real shot in the arm for Dundalk who without this result were looking at one win and one goal from their last 4 league games. They're back into second place in the table.
The (Delayed) Return of the Saints
🤩 𝘾𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙧𝙤𝙡, 𝙋𝙖𝙨𝙨, 𝙈𝙤𝙫𝙚, 𝙎𝙘𝙤𝙧𝙚 @JoeRedmond_4 ➡️ Jamie Lennon ➡️ Serge Atakayi ➡️ @BreslinAnto ➡️ @ChrisForrester1 ⚽️
𝙃𝙤𝙬 𝙜𝙤𝙤𝙙 was our opening goal last night❓#StPatsFC #Saints2022 @kavanaghspubd8 🔴⚪️ pic.twitter.com/oz8PWMdwoh
— St Patrick's Athletic FC (@stpatsfc) September 3, 2022
The second disciplinary committee decision of the week fell in St Pats' favour as their argument that their delayed return from Sofia after their win against CSKA was outside of their control. Shelbourne had asked that the game be awarded to them as Pats had breached the conditions of the participation agreement.
In Pats' original statement on the matter they mentioned having been in constant contact with UEFA and the FAI and they were able to provide documentary evidence that they had indeed been let down by those organizing their chartered flight at a late stage.
One less asterisk for the league to administer and you'd imagine a little bit of spice added to the two remaining LOI games between the teams. Pats beat Harps on Friday and face Drogheda tonight. They've pushed on from their excellent European performances.
The Return of a Title Race?
📹 | GOAL!
Liam Burt gives Bohemians the lead, just minutes after Dylan Watts is sent off for Shamrock Rovers! 🔴⚫️
Great composure from the Scot! 🏴
Watch live | https://t.co/zOGOgOjp1S 📺#LOI | #LOITV pic.twitter.com/gUyUpPtGDn
— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) September 2, 2022
Shamrock Rovers lost 0-1 in Dalymount Park with the managerless Bohemians being full value for the win too. Sean Hoare definitely should have scored but overall Rovers were second best to a very motivated Bohs side.
Liam Burt's goal will be destined for highlight reels for years. It means Rovers have won only one of their last four league games and with eyes on Europe, they've opened the door to a title race. Clearly still favourites, they lead Dundalk by 3 and Derry by 3 (albeit with games in hand).
As mentioned above Dundalk aren't in great form themselves, and Derry have only beaten UCD at home since March but if either of them can catch fire, Rovers are at least in range now.
The Return of the Women's National League
The WNL had a week off with the national team in action. Ireland's wins over Finland and Slovakia definitely caught the public attention and we'll see if that can translate to support for the WNL this week. The biggest game of the weekend sees Shelbourne host Peamount United with the Reds leading Wexford Youths at the top of the table. Wexford host an improving Cork City. The Shels/Peas game is live on TG4 and should be a cracker.
The Return of the Weekend Preview
Yeah, we stretched with that headline but we're committed to the bit so...the RTÉ 2 game of the week is Derry City v Bohemians. We mentioned it earlier but it's wroth repeating. Since the 18th of March, Derry City have played 9 home games and only won 2 of them - both against UCD. They've won more games in Dublin than Derry in that time frame.
Bohs continued their inconsistent year with that great win over Rovers last week and will see this as a chance to play spoiler. Dundalk will hope to get back to winning way with a game away to UCD while Pats travel to Drogheda looking for a fifth consecutive win. Shels hosting Sligo Rovers appears to have little riding on it. Shamrock Rovers are back in LOI action on Sunday with a home game against Finn Harps.
It's potentially a big week in the LOI First Division with leaders Cork City travelling to an in form Waterford side. Challengers Galway United are away to Cobh. Two wins for the two Cork sides would see the gap at the top stretch to 11 points.