First and foremost, I would like to apologise for my lack of activity over the past few months. This due in most part to my Leaving Cert, however, with that out of the way it is time to look back on a disasterous half-season for United.
The question that seems to be prominent in the minds of many United supporters after the events of the last few months is where do we go from here? Admittedly most supporters accepted in pre-season that, with the new philosophy being implented by the club through ‘Project DNA’, the team wasn’t going to transform into a runaway success over night. However, with well over half of the league’s fixtures played, United find themselves cut adrift from the rest of the league. With the side a point of ahead of Athlone in what is essentially a race for eight, what are the club left to aim for the rest of the season? Perhaps more importantly, with the lack of form and direction at present, how will the younger players be able to develop?
One positive for United fans to look to of late has been the form of new arrival Shane Doherty. The lively forward, brought over from the US, has proven a nuisance for opposing defences and shown an admirable determination to the cause. Doherty has formed a productive partnership with strike-partner Vinny Faherty, and has found his shooting boots as well.
Promising Young Players
In spite of very poor form, several young players have shown their potential in difficult circumstances. Colin Kelly and Donal Higgins, in particular, have had this potential recognised through their several call-ups to the Irish Schoolboy teams. As well as this, while the senior team has struggled, United’s underage set up has shown promise of further quality coming up through the ranks.
Certain Encouraging Performances
As tough as it may be for a supporter to appreciate in the midst of season like this, the team has shown positive moments for the future. The 2-1 victory over Longford springs to mind, but it has mainly been in flashes during matches. There has also been several very promising first half performances, however these have far too often been followed by second half collapses. There is also slight solace to be taken from the close nature of United’s losses, most defeats being by the smallest margin.
Where Has It Gone Wrong?
United’s attempts to build up any sort of momentum have been continually hampered by a lengthly injury list. A culmination of injuries, leaving cert commitments, and a suspension meant that United travelled to St. Colman’s Park to face Cobh Ramblers with ten players absent. This has made it difficult for a consistent starting XI to develop, as it seems that whenever one player returns two more are absent.
Both on the field and on the sideline, inexperience has been exposed at a number of crucial moments. A number of young players have understandably struggled physically somewhat against stronger opposition. However, the side’s inexperience has been most evident through several second half collapses. There have been several games where United have been exposed in the second half, after taking the lead into half-time. I also believe that the development of younger players in particular would be benefitted by a more consistent system of football being developed.
What Has To Be Improved?
A More Settled Starting XI
United’s season has undoubtedly been hampered by injuries, however, I believe that as players continue to return to fitness more consistency needs to be brought to the starting line-out. Furthermore, without being too critical of the manager who has a very difficult job, there seems to be certain players being played out of position and it just isn’t working. Along with this there may be one or two players frustrated at the inconsistency of their playing time.
Increased Support On The Sideline
As mentioned previously, the inexperience on the field also extends to the sideline. Going forward, to improve results and create a better enviroment for the development of younger players, the coaching set-up needs to be bolstered with added experience. This isn’t a criticism of the existing coaching staff either, however, it is clear that additional help is needed.
Assessing Pre-Season Predictions
The first thing that is painfully obvious from my predictions is that I had overestimated United’s fortunes for this season. Outside of that in the first division, I underestimated the potential of Cabinteely and Limerick quite a bit, while perhaps giving Athlone and Wexford too much credit. After a questionable start, Shels seem to be coming good on my prediction. Meanwhile in the premier division, Saint Pat’s aren’t quite living up to my pre-season expectations, while Shamrock Rovers are doing as well as I predicted. Check out my full list of predictions through the link above and judge for yourself!
- Shamrock Rovers
- Derry City
- Cork City
- Saint Patrick’s Athletic
- Sligo Rovers
- Finn Harps
- Drogheda United
- Longford Town
- Bray Wanderers
- Cobh Ramblers
- Galway United
- Athlone Town