While the national side were off doing us proud in Nicosia, domestic action continued back at home where there were more highs and lows than a game of Play Your Cards Right with Bruce Forsyth.
First off is that high of Ireland gaining the revenge they were looking for over against Cyprus. The pain and despair caused by that crushing 5-2 defeat in Nicosia three years ago and the memories surrounding it will linger no more in the minds of the Irish team as they beat Cyprus 2-1 this weekend, thus, lining up a mouth watering and crucial showdown with the Italians next month.
It was mission accomplished from Giovanni Trapattoni and his Green Army, with goals from Kevin Doyle and Robbie Keane securing a vital 3 points away from home. And ensuring that Ireland remain in second place in Group 8 on 16 points, one behind Italy, who have a game in hand.
With two games remaining, Trapattoni’s side remain unbeaten in qualifying and look to be well in contention of qualifying for a first World Cup Finals since 2002. Those two fixtures left to come are both home ties against Italy and Montenegro in October at Croke Park, and are ultimately the ones that will decide our World Cup fate.
Ireland under Trapattoni are capable of great things, and thoroughly deserves a place on the plane to South Africa next year. For now, Ireland can start planning for a play-off, and maybe more, but that more, however, will be dependent on the result of next month’s clash with the Azzurri.
I tell a lie, domestically it wasn’t a low for all clubs, but it was if you are a Bohemians fan. If you’re a Shamrock Rovers fan, you’re on a high along with Cork City, Bray Wanderers and Derry City fans, who all secured victories on Friday night.
As it stands the gap at the top of the League of Ireland Premier Division has gone from seven points to one point in the space of a week. A bad week got worse for Bohemians who had already slipped up to a 1-0 defeat to Sligo Rovers on Tuesday night. They fell once again, this time to another relegation threatened side, Bray Wanderers, who beat them 2-1 at Dalymount Park. Back-to-back defeats have ended the Gypsies nine games unbeaten run, and have given Shamrock Rovers a route back into the title race.
Second placed Rovers are now just one point off the pace after they secured a 1-0 win over rivals St. Patrick’s Athletic in front of a crowd of 5,000 people at the Tallaght Stadium. Scottish hotshot Gary Twigg’s 19th goal of the season was all they needed to secure victory. That should now set up a tantalising last league meeting of the season against Bohs, when the two sides meet on October 2.
Cork City and Derry City put their problems off the field to one side to gain vital victories in the face of adversity, in the race for third place and that all important European spot for next season. Derry who hammered Dundalk 3-0 currently occupy third place on 47 points, while Cork who beat Galway United 4-2 are in fourth position also on 47 points, but they have a crucial game in hand.
Away from the action on the field both clubs have been suffering financial trouble and the prize of European football next term would cure those difficulties. Cork City has this week come to an agreement with their players to end the unrest over wage disputes, and now look to march on and qualify for Europe having all but ruled themselves out of the title race.
Derry however, has not been as fortunate, and has yet to come to an agreement with players over their wages. The Candystripes players were left stunned last month when they received their monthly pay cheque only to be paid 25 per cent of what they were due for the month of August.
The final game of Friday night’s clashes was a relegation six pointer between Drogheda and Sligo Rovers. What better way to end a relegation battle than in a draw, as Sligo looked to build on their 1-0 win over Bohemians last Tuesday, and managed to come from behind to lead this game 2-1 until a late Drogheda strike secured a point for both sides. That now leaves the bottom four sides separated by six points and with nine games remaining in the season we could be a for a great battle at both ends of the table.
Who says Irish football isn’t exciting?!