The Return of League of IrelandPosted: March 14, 2011
The Airtricity League 2011 has begun much to the delight of all fans up and down the country. As those who attend games regularly, the 4 month period without a live football match to go to can
The most relieved fans to see the start of this campaign will be Bohs fans, who went a long time unsure about the mere existence of their club for some time amid deep financial woe. Drogheda United will have the second most relieved fans there are as they begin this season in the same division in which they were relegated from a few months ago after finishing bottom. The demise of Sporting Fingal saw Drogheda re-appointed their Premier Division status.
The most aggrieved fans in the land probably is the Monaghan faithful, after seeing their side agonizingly close to promotion in the final minutes against Bray, and then again after being promoted for a matter of five days when Galway were originally only awarded an A League license. Despite this, however, Mons will still be one of the most optimistic on the isle after former league and cup double winner Roddy Collins has taken up his post as their first team coach. The exposure and experience he has brought with him has brought an uplift in the spirits of the Monaghan fans. Shels will also be expecting plenty this season, with the good squad they have now they’ll certainly believe that they’ll be able to get promoted at last back to where they feel they belong.
And lastly it is Sligo Rovers who will also be up there amongst the most optimistic set of fans for the 2011 season. They’ve got so much to look forward to, and so much potentially awaiting them. Not only do they play the best football in the league and put in great, entertaining performances nearly every week, but this is the season that they’ll attempt to really fight for the championship. They finished 4 points off the top last year and should improve again on their tally with the new acquisitions and another years experience behind them, not to mention the cup double in their coup last year.
So what have we learned from the first two game weeks of the season? As well as seeing the first round of the Setanta Cup pass us by.
Shamrock Rovers have begun strongly. They say start as you mean to go on, and the current holders of the league championship are obviously intent on winning it again after years in the darkness. In previous seasons they have started somewhat slower than this, but with wins over Dundalk and Sligo already they’ve already laid down a marker for other sides to equal and better should they want to trouble them for the league.
However Sligo are also notorious slow-starters but if they manage to sort themselves out this year they’ll give themselves a huge upper hand in the title race come the end of the season. A home loss to Shams is only proof that their curse strikes again, however I have no doubt that sooner rather than later they’ll pick up their form and begin to dominate teams all over the park once more and quickly climb the table.
The first two league games have also shown us that cash-strapped Bohemians have a decent team. Top of the league, by merit of alphabetical order, Bohs have also won their first two games. However the teams that they’ve beaten already are expected to both finish in the bottom two this year, so next weeks fixture away to Dundalk will provide a lot more insight as to where they’re at. Nonetheless, you can only beat what’s infront of you, and Bohs managed to do that in some style as well, with great goals from Killian Brennan and Anto Flood already. Excellent performances against Drogheda and Bray suggest that The Gypsies have more in them than to be relegated this year.
St. Patrick’s Athletic have also been tipped as dark horses for the league by some. 2-0 up in Inchicore against a defeated looking Bray side well into the second half, and Bray end up winning 3-2 after changing formation to the much more daring (but productive, apparently) 4-2-4. The Saints managed to start last season impeccably and stayed at the top of the table, or thereabouts, for a good three quarters of the season before simply running out of steam. This home loss could show us a few things. Perhaps there isn’t as much heart there in the team from last season? Perhaps thoughts of them having some sort of chance of winning the league should be aborted. We’ll only get the answer in the coming weeks, in the reaction that Pat’s can offer us to this surprise defeat.
Full League of Ireland results:
Bray 1-3 Bohemians, Derry 0-1 Sligo, Drogheda 0-1 UCD, Galway 0-3 St Pat’s, Shamrock Rovers 3-1 Dundalk
Bohemians 1-0 Drogheda, Dundalk 3-2 Galway, St Pat’s 2-3 Bray, Sligo 0-1 Shamrock Rovers, UCD 0-2 Derry