The introductory phase of the League of Ireland season is now in the rearview mirror. Each Premier Division team has now played each other once and there is no respite with a double header over Easter weekend opening the second series of games.
After a quarter of the 36-game campaign, the protagonists behaved as follows.
1st place: Derry City 23 points (7 wins, 2 draws, 0 losses)
Is this the start of an ongoing Candystripes title challenge? The number of late goals is a very encouraging sign for Ruaidhrí Higgins’ side, who scored in added time against Shamrock Rovers, St Patrick’s Athletic and Bohemians to record decisive victories. What’s even more impressive about her start is that it was achieved without Michael Duffy, arguably the choice of her winter signings. Matty Smith also hardly played. Duffy won’t be back until summer and he could find himself in an exciting situation.
2nd: Shamrock Rovers 17 points (5 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses)
At this point last year, the Rovers were the team that scored all the late goals. They made it against Shels at Tolka Park last week and that could prove important as they chase a six-point deficit. It’s been a mixed bag of quality in 45-60 minute spells so far, but ended up having little to show due to defensive errors. Public shows of discontent from Graham Burke and Danny Mandroiu have highlighted the challenge Stephen Bradley faces in keeping a talented side happy
3rd: St. Patrick’s Athletic 14 points (4 wins, 2 draws, 3 losses)
Tim Clancy’s charges wobbled after an impressive opening win at Tolka, but they’ve steadily got the show back on the road. Eoin Doyle would expect to score more than two goals in the next few games and midfield injuries have tested the Saints. All in all, they’ll feel they should have more points on the board – and their squad could use more work over the summer.
4. Sligo Rovers 13 points (3 wins, 4 draws, 2 losses)
The season was a microcosm of last season with a flying start followed by a draining loss of momentum. Aidan Keena proved to be one of the winter’s winners, with the Mullingar man – returning home from Scotland – on form until an injury halted the momentum. The bad condition of The Showgrounds pitch doesn’t help.
5. Dundalk 12 points (2 wins, 6 draws, 1 loss)
Stephen O’Donnell’s charges took points from every team above them but suffered their only defeat at Drogheda. They look like a work in progress and will pick up a lot of points at home, but they aren’t the fastest defensively – and have a harder time finding the right balance between offense and defense on their travels. However, the good outweighs the bad.
6. Bohemia 11 points (2 wins, 5 draws, 1 loss)
Gypsies fans have focused on the statistic that their side would be top of the league if all games were over after 60 minutes. In other words, they struggled to spot promising positions. There were concerns at the start of the season about losing key figures in the dressing room – and that observation was justified. They still pose a strong attacking threat, but the backbone of the team is shaky.
7. Shelbourne 9 points (2 wins, 3 draws, 4 losses)
Damien Duff’s side are undefeated so far but only picked up one point out of a possible 15 at Tolka Park. After being slightly taken apart in their first day loss, they have improved in terms of organization. However, they have struggled when expected to take the attack initiative. Injury to key creative player Jack Moylan didn’t help. However, they responded well to the home loss to Finn Harps.
8. Drogheda United 9 points (W2 D3 L4)
Kevin Doherty faced a rebuilding job following the departure of Clancy and a number of leading players, and the Boynesiders have improved from a shaky start. They have experience in key departments, although the loss of Darragh Markey has weakened their attacking options. Derby joy over Dundalk was hard earned.
9th: Finn Harps 6 points (1 win, 3 draws, 5 losses)
Harps avoided the relegation battle last year by assembling a strong roster, but bigger fish came to lure away key elements of the team. Ollie Horgan had to shop in the basement both at home and abroad to find a replacement. The concern would be that they are still waiting for a first win at Finn Park. The Ballybofey form is an asset they can generally count on
10th: UCD 4 points (0 wins, 4 draws, 5 losses)
It’s always been a struggle for Andy Myler’s team and it’s hard to judge their position positively. With key players expected to leave in the summer, they really need to start racking up points while they have some. Colm Whelan found his shooting boots in Sligo last week and that could be the catalyst for a turnaround.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/league-of-ireland/league-of-ireland-recap-late-goals-with-stars-to-return-gives-derry-a-jump-start-on-the-chasing-pack-41555509.html League of Ireland review: Late goals with Stars on return give Derry a go-ahead for the chasing group