Week 5 was about confirming what we thought about certain things. There were some quality games and with better broadcasting we could have had a super Friday feel to it. We didn't though, and no one was surprised. Here's some things that stood out though.
The top 4 is firming up
🎥 | GOAL!
Where there's a Will there's a way!
Will Fitzgerald heads @sligorovers into a 1-0 lead over @ShamrockRovers in Tallaght 🥅
Watch live | https://t.co/P0HrGZuuAl 📺#LOI | #LOITV pic.twitter.com/s2PA5PKc46
— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) March 18, 2022
We talked last week about a title race bubbling up and the top 4 played each other on Friday. Derry City went top with Will Patching’s injury time winner over St Pats. Pats played well in stages but a strong finish from Derry just about earned them the 3 points. Comparisons will be made to Shamrock Rovers and their spate of late winners in 2021 as this is Derry’s second injury time winner against the top 4 already. Sligo Rovers also remain undefeated against the top 4 (while Shamrock Rovers earned their first point against a top 4 side…) and they’ve played Derry, Pats and the other Rovers all away (Derry’s games have all been at home). That suggests Sligo should be happiest of the four but most reports from Tallaght on Friday suggest their 2 goal lead was slightly fortuitous and that Shamrock Rovers were the better team. We have to wait until the 15th April for any of these four to meet when Shamrock Rovers host St Pats. The table may look completely different by then, with Pats looking the most vulnerable despite winning more games than both Rovers so far.
A big weekend for the bottom three
🎥 | GOAL!@FinnHarpsFC are looking good for their first win of the season after Conor Tourish doubles their lead over Shels ⚽️
You don't miss those!
Watch live | https://t.co/OSHYzBcRwy 📺#LOI | #LOITV pic.twitter.com/jDdFpyNhOa
— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) March 18, 2022
UCD kicked the weekend off with a fine performance against Bohs in Belfield. They’ve lost every away game but drawing all 3 of their home games must give them encouragement. They’d have taken a point before the game of course, but they were disappointed not to claim the win they felt their performance deserved. That disappointment increased later in the evening with results elsewhere. In the live TV game, Drogheda United beat local rivals Dundalk in Head in the Game Park. They’re now only 2 points behind Stephen O’Donnell’s side. Finn Harps thrashed Damien Duff’s Shelbourne in Tolka Park. The last two sides that Harps have beaten by 3 or more have been relegated (Longford last year and UCD in 2019). Shels have yet to score from open play at home this year and there can be no doubt they’re in a relegation fight now.
Things aren’t looking great for Bohemians
Using results and stats that straddle two seasons can never be too definitive in Ireland such is the turnover of players and staff at most clubs. However, Bohs have now only won 4 of their last 18 league games. In those 18, they’ve only had one clean sheet. They’ve won only 2 of their last 14 away games in the league with their last away clean sheet coming last May against the historically poor Longford. To counter that, they had a terrific European campaign and were within inches of winning the FAI Cup during that timeframe too. 2 of the 4 league wins were against Rovers and Pats, so maybe we’re back to the early Keith Long days of Bohs being able to lift themselves for big games without being able to maintain form for a full season? They’ve had one top 4 finish in seasons that have lasted 30+ games under Long who is contracted until the end of 2024. Bohs next three games are against Derry (h), Sligo (a) and Drogheda (a). Will pressure grow if they don’t get at least 6 points from those games? You can click into the replies of their full time tweet from Friday to get a flavour of how the internet fans feel.
— Bohemian Football Club (@bfcdublin) March 18, 2022
Sligo Rovers Women get their first win
— Women's National League (@LoiWomen) March 19, 2022
Most clubs who have joined the Women’s National League have struggled in their first season. Sligo Rovers had lost their opening two games before winning 2-1 away to Cork City this weekend. They had over 900 people at their home opener and face a Bohemians side looking for their first win this weekend. With no games on the men’s side, it’ll be interesting to see what crowd turns up in the Showgrounds. The 3 main title challengers all retained their 100% records. Peamount United have the most difficult game of the 3 next weekend as they play DLR Waves away.
The surge in crowds brings its own issues
We haven’t touched on it yet in these weekly round ups but most weeks this year have had some sort of crowd issues. They’ve varied in seriousness from overcrowding in some seating/standing areas to much worse. Clubs have been fined for the use of pyro by their fans and the league has issued all clubs with a directive to refrain from using pictures of flares etc in their match promotions and on social media. Clubs are in a tough position as they don’t want to amplify any small issues with so many ready to pounce on any opportunity to put the clubs down. See how some in the media talked of “riots” at the 2022 cup final for a single incident well away from the ground for reference. Clubs can’t bury their heads in the sand either though. Drogheda United and Dundalk were the latest to issue statements this weekend. It might take all clubs working together on this to ensure it’s stamped out quickly while it’s still a minor issue.
Poor scenes at the end pic.twitter.com/SKMLc2ef1X
— James Rogers (@jamesrogersie) March 18, 2022
The fixtures compiler doesn’t put enough thought in
We know the future is hard to predict at any level of football and it’s near impossible in the First Division but most of us thought the promotion battle would be between Cork City, Galway United and Waterford. With no Premier games next weekend, why wouldn’t the league schedule these teams to play marquee games with more of the spotlight available to them? Cork and Galway picked up wins again last weekend and all 3 clubs are in action on Friday with Galway’s trip to Longford the most likely to see points dropped.
There’s no games in the Premier Division next week because, for the first time ever, we’re on an international break. More on that here during the week.