Week 16 is in the books and it's an important week for fans of Premier Division clubs as the last of the scheduled double-header weekends is out of the way.
Louth clubs won the weekend with both Dundalk and Drogheda United coming through it with six points including the biggest shock of the season so far (according to bookmakers odds).
More about them later but here's what you need to know about this week in the SSE Airtricity Leagues.
Derry City's slide continues
Beautiful close-control & finish 🤌
Seamus Keogh 🙌 @sligorovers | #LOI pic.twitter.com/gvShIoYMJX
— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) May 24, 2022
We wrote last week that the praise Derry got for giving Shamrock Rovers a tough game may have been a bit over blown and this weekend has backed that up.
Everyone knows cherry-picked stats don't tell the full story, but there's a lot of alarming stats for Derry: three defeats in a row, no wins in five, two wins in nine, one home win in two months. Whereas Derry were celebrated for scoring late winners early in the season, they conceded the winner in each of the last three games in the last 15 minutes.
They're now only a point ahead of their conquerors on Friday, Dundalk, who have a game in hand. Derry's next five games are against the bottom five sides so they may get back on track quickly but title winning credentials are hanging on by a thread.
Dundalk are coming...
You won’t see a better assist this season.
Absolute magic from @KWard102. pic.twitter.com/Kc4X4gvaT3
— Gavin McLaughlin (@gav_mclaughlin) May 24, 2022
Since losing to Shamrock Rovers in mid-April, Dundalk have won five of their six games with their only blip throwing away a two-goal lead away to UCD when Andy Boyle was sent off.
They came into the weekend without an away win and left with wins away to Derry City and Finn Harps. They've lost fewer games than every other team including the two above them.
Tried and tested league winners Robbie Benson, Pat Hoban and Daniel Kelly have been the star performers during the recent run of good form. If Dundalk can keep Benson, Hoban and Andy Boyle fit and healthy for the season, they may end up being Rovers' closest challengers.
LOI management isn't long term
𝙃𝙄𝙂𝙃𝙇𝙄𝙂𝙃𝙏𝙎: 𝙏𝙪𝙣𝙙𝙚 𝙏𝙧𝙚𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝘼𝙨 𝙎𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙨 𝘽𝙚𝙖𝙩 𝘽𝙤𝙝𝙨@Owolabi9_T was the star of the show as we beat @bfcdublin 3-0 at Richmond Park last night!
Enjoy the LOITV highlights folks & Tunde's three belters!#StPatsFC #Saints2022 pic.twitter.com/NsOnqVrsqD
— St Patrick's Athletic FC (@stpatsfc) May 24, 2022
After defeat to Bohemians on Friday night, Sligo Rovers mutually consented Liam Buckley. As ever pundits and opposition fans questioned the decision, but there weren't too many dissenting voices among the people who watch Rovers most closely - their fans.
St Pats' defeat to Damian Duff's Shelbourne on Friday night prompted some Pats fans to call for Tim Clancy's head after less than half a season. A big win for Pats over Bohemians on Monday quietened those calls and instead ramped up the pressure on Keith Long.
Last season they finished a disappointing fifth but European and FAI Cup runs kept everyone on side. They're currently in seventh with only five wins this year and a goal difference of zero. Bohs should win their next two, against Drogheda and Harps, but if they don't the calls for Long to go might reach fever pitch.
Shelbourne vault up the table
🎥 | GOAL!
10 seconds! 🤯🤯🤯
Jack Moylan doubles @shelsfc lead straight from kick-off in the second half!
How many fans were still having their half-time cuppa?! 😅☕️
Watch live | https://t.co/lSK2sPiVaW 📺#LOI | #LOITV pic.twitter.com/SBT7BCw2y1
— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) May 23, 2022
A couple of weeks ago they were in danger of being dragged into a relegation fight but first Joey O'Brien's Shelbourne, and then Damien Duff's Shelbourne, have won four successive premier division games for the first time since 2006 (thanks to RedStats1895 for that one) and are now looking towards the European places.
The win over Pats on Friday night delighted their fans and there's no doubt they were deserving winners. It would have been useless to win that and lose to UCD but Duff showed he wasn't holding them back by returning to the bench for an easy 2-0 win. Both men's and women's teams have won every game since Dublin City Council announced they were in negotiations to sell Tolka Park to Shelbourne.
Drogheda United steady the ship in spectacular style
🎥 | GOAL!
Ryan Brennan has given @DroghedaUnited the lead against @ShamrockRovers 😲
Just under 10 minutes to half time ⌛️
Watch live | https://t.co/pc3XNGGCuQ 📺 pic.twitter.com/DImiZot2cy
— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) May 23, 2022
Can you steady something spectacularly? We think you can in this league as Drogheda went into Friday's game with Finn Harps on the back of four successive defeats.
With Harps leading with only 20 minutes to go and Drogs down to 10 men, the Head in the Game Park faithful were bound to have been worried. Kevin Doherty's charges equalised on 70 minutes and scored twice in injury time to get a hugely important three points.
They followed that up by stunning the league leading Shamrock Rovers on Monday. The best weekend Drogs fans will have had in years leaves them nine points ahead of Harps, and the same number behind Pats in fourth.
As you were in the Women's National League
GOAL ⚽️ | Wexford Youths 3-3 Peamount United
Aine O’Gorman’s top corner strike has us level for a third time!
What an incredible game here at Ferrycarrig Park! 🤩
💻 Watch live on https://t.co/YoFjlEmfYf#WNL | #LOITV pic.twitter.com/M09HBy0vVh
— Women's National League (@LoiWomen) May 21, 2022
That's not the first time we've used that headline this season but there were three big favourites going into the weekend and all three won: Shels over DLR Waves, Athlone over Treaty and Sligo Rovers over Cork City.
That Sligo were favourites in their opening season is noteworthy but more for the regression of Cork than their own successes. Galway and Bohs drew 1-1 while we had a game of the year contender as Wexford Youths and Peamount traded blows in a 3-3 draw. Shels already have a 7 point gap over the chasing pack after 11 games.
A change at the top in the First
Conor Davis with the equaliser on Friday as Wexford picked up an impressive point #LOI | @WexfordFC pic.twitter.com/3ayU9gMv3K
— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) May 22, 2022
Galway United went top after their 3-0 win against Athlone coincided with Cork City dropping points at home to Wexford with a 1-1 draw. While Wexford are certainly improving under Ian Ryan, City were still disappointed with the result.
What it has done though, is set up a blockbuster tie in Galway this Friday between the top two. United won the opening tie between the sides in Cork and go into this game on the back of seven straight wins (winning the last four by a combined 13-0).
City themselves had won 6 in a row before the Wexford game and have scored two more than Galway so far. There isn't too much doubt the automatic promotion spot is between these sides so this game is vital.
And now we're on to the liars
The big news of the LOI week was, of course, the announcement by An Garda Síochána that they had arrested 10 men as part of a "match fixing" investigation.
None of the 10, including two current players, have been named publicly. We do know however that the investigation centres around Limerick and the 2019 season. The 2019 season was pretty tumultuous for Limerick with players threatening to strike over unpaid wages before an examiner was appointed to the club in September.
In its submission to the High Court, Limerick referenced match fixing allegations and rumours on social media were rife. The club didn't receive a licence to compete in 2020 (and have since been replaced by the unconnected Treaty United in the league).
The context here isn't provided to excuse what any players may or may not have done, anyone found guilty of corruption should have the book thrown at them, but rather to illustrate how appealing it can be for players on the lowest rung of professional football here if they're offered "easy" money to mistime a tackle or allow someone run free.
Two years ago, a former Athlone Town goalkeeper was cleared of match-fixing when his team argued that he wasn't corrupt, he just wasn't very good. We will see if any players are formally charged in the Limerick case and what their defence will be.