In the aftermath of the national team’s potentially devastating loss to Sweden, Dundalk crept closer to St Pat’s at the top of the league, Giovanni Trapattoni called the integrity of the league into question and Sligo kept their title defence alive.
Have you caught your breath yet?
Undoubtedly, it’s been a busy few days of action in Irish football. So, now it’s time to take a look at a number of the big talking points from the league.
Dundalk inch closer to the summit
Louth may well be known as ‘The Wee County’, but whenever Dundalk and Drogheda face off against each other, there’s rarely anything minimalist about the occasion, as testified to by the large attendance at Oriel Park.
In an entertaining, albeit scrappy affair on Saturday, the home side came out on top against their local rivals on a final score-line of 1-0. In truth, there wasn’t much to separate the sides for much of the 90 minutes as neither one appeared capable of landing a knockout punch.
Eventually, Stephen O’ Donnell snatched a late, opportunistic goal to fire his side into the lead and within touching distance of league leaders.
Now, with other results starting to go their way, the expectation and pressure is sure to be mounting for Dundalk, and it’s going to be intriguing to see how they cope with it all. But, whatever the eventual outcome, it’s been an extraordinary turn-around season for them, particularly considering that they finished 11th last season, above only the unfortunate Monaghan.
With just six matches left for Stephen Kenny’s charges to play, there is still plenty of time for everything to change. But with a crunch match against St Pat’s on Friday still to come, one gets the feeling that it could prove pivotal when the season comes to a close.
Is this the year they finally re-live their past successes?
St Pat’s falter against Limerick
As it stands, St Pat’s are in the driving seat. And although their level of control is only slight, it is still something that they have to bargain with, and that could ultimately prove the difference.
Of course, they won’t have been happy to slip up against Limerick at the weekend with Daryl Kavanagh, Christy Fagan and Jason Byrne all failing to put the ball in the back of the net when gifted the opportunities, and even though it wasn’t a major upset, the result did serve to pose a few questions of the Dublin side.
More precisely, it raised questions of their composure.
Since the turn of the millennium the Saints haven’t won a league title, and although they’ve flirted with success on a few occasions, this year they are truly in control of their own destiny. It will all depend now on how the Pats’ players react to being in such close proximity to having their name in the League of Ireland history books as champions once again.
Interestingly, at the beginning of April, Dundalk overcame St. Pat’s away from home on a score-line of 2-1. And with a repeat of the same fixture on the horizon, it’s the little things like that that can either haunt you or fuel you to victory.
It remains to be seen which it will be this time around. In short, the pressure is on.
Sligo still in title race
In truth, Sligo’s incredible eight match win streak towards the beginning of the season must seem like a lifetime ago right now.
Despite winning relatively convincingly against Bohemians on a score-line of 2-0 at the weekend, the Westerners are sure to be quite disappointed at some past performances which could yet prove vital in hindsight.
Granted, the Bit O’ Red are still very much in contention to retain the crown they fought so skilfully and so determinedly to win last season, however their fate is not exactly in their own hands at the moment. More than likely, Ian Baraclough’s side are sure to be hoping that other results go their way over the course of the next few weeks.
Arguably, the Connacht side have the easier run-in of the three title contenders with UCD, Shelbourne and Cork City to come in the next three matches. And if Baraclough’s men are to have any real chance of holding on to the league trophy, they’ll have to gain maximum points there and hope that the top two teams play out a draw later this week.
Hold tight Sligo fans, it looks like you’re in for a bumpy ride.