Introducing Killian Maher-Dunne, a sports writer and Shamrock Rovers fan, who will be contributing a weekly recap of the Premier Division, as well as a monthly feature article.
The League of Ireland kicked off this weekend on Friday, 15th of February, and did not fail surprise anyone. The season had been eagerly awaited by all, from the mights of Dundalk under new management in Vinny Perth, to the newly promoted teams of Finn Harps and UCD. Every team looked strong and this showed on the first weekend with massive games across the league including a potential top of the table clash between Cork City vs St. Pats, and a huge fixture between two sides from last year’s top four in Waterford vs Shamrock Rovers. Five games were played in total on Friday and every game produced a goal, amounting to Ten goals scored.
Bohemian FC vs Finn Harps – 1-0
Dalymount Park welcomed newly promoted side Finn Harps of Donegal in a game which saw the Gypsie’s pull off a relatively easy 1-0 victory over Ollie Horgan’s side. The first chance of the game came through Bohemians lone striker Dinny Corcoran, however the club’s top scorer last year was unable to capitalise on a rather intuitive cross into the box by Darragh Leahy. Despite Bohemians domination of possession Finn Harps were next to test their luck as a former Sligo Rovers duo linked up with Raffaele Cretaro slipping through a delightful pass to McAleer whose shot just went the wrong side of the goalpost. Bohs’ made their possession count however in the 41′ minute of play as Luke Wade-Slater played in Dinny Corcoran, who made no mistake and calmly placed the ball in the back of the net. Dominance from the North Dublin side did not stop there and they were unlucky not to find themselves 2-0 up as Keith Wards excellent piece of play was matched by a superb save by the Harps’ net minder, Peter Burke. Ollie Horgan’s men have a lot to reconsider heading into their next game against league champions Dundalk, as lack of composure in front of goal and a desire to win seemed a real issue for the Donegal side, despite a tremendous turn out by the Harps fans who had to travel quite some distance for the game. Keith Long on the other hand said in his pre match interview that he was pleased with his team’s performance as he said “There is a little bit of an expectancy on us to win, particularly with Finn Harps coming up”. Bohs handled the pressure well and it will be interesting to see how they come up in their next game against the newly promoted Dublin side, UCD.
MOTM: Keith Ward.
Derry City vs UCD – 3-0
Life for Derry fans wasn’t easy towards the end of last season under former manager Kenny Shields, however with the sacking of the out of favour boss, a new one must rise up and all hail Declan Devine! UCD came into this game as the new comers of the league having only lost 4 games last year. UCD were crowned champions last year with relative ease and decided not to make any notable deals in the transfer window. The Brandywell burst into life 21 minutes in when the Candy Stripes opened the scoring with a superb goal from David Parkhouse. The goal came from a Barry McNamee shot that deflected of a defender up in the air which fell to Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe who, with an excellent piece of skill passed the ball to the overlapping Ciaron Harkin, who then squared the ball across goal for Parkhouse to open the scoring from close range. Derry brought this 1-0 lead into Half-Time without much action. That all changed in the second half as Devine seemed to have riled his players up, and from the off they look dangerous. UCD managed to keep the Derry side out up until the 58′ minute when UCD defender Joshua Collins turned the ball into his own net after Eoghan Stokes attempted an outrageous chip. His shot looped over the UCD keepers head and was headed for goal only for Collins to try swipe the ball away in an attempt to save his goalkeepers error. Derry were on fine form and they looked unstoppable, another goal was certain for the Candy Stripes and surely it came 13 minutes after the second, the man of the moment Eoghan Stokes popped up to get himself his debut goal when again, Collins sliced a clearance into the path of Harkin who got his second assist of the night as he passed it through to stokes who made no mistake. It was an excellent night for the Derry lads and one the young UCD team will want to forget. Derry face a tough challenge next as they travel to Tallaght Stadium to face Shamrock Rovers, a team they failed to beat in all four meetings last season, but the Northern lads have got to be confident going into this game top of the league! Collie O’Neill will be hoping for a much better return from his players as they welcome Bohs in a game that promises an interesting tale, this will be the first of many Dublin based encounters and both sides will be well riled up for the occasion.
MOTM- Eoghan Stokes.
FC Dundalk (C) vs Sligo Rovers – 1-1
Oriel Park saw an interesting battle unfold, in which both teams under new management. Sligo welcomed their new boss Liam Buckley as Dundalk unveiled Vinny Perth’s new position at the club after losing the mastermind Stephen Kenny. Nobody saw this result coming as Sligo shocked the league holding out the Lilywhites to a draw on their own turf. The game did not start off as expected, Sligo’s 19-year-old goalkeeper Ed McGinty was at the centre of the action on six minutes as he took out Robbie Benson in the box, the midfielder was forced off on a stretcher with an ankle injury. After a five-minute delay Patrick Hoban stepped up but McGinty got down to his right to save and hold the penalty. Things weren’t looking great for Sligo, as you would expect playing against last seasons double-winners. The Lilywhites substitute Sean Murray who came on for the injured Benson, should have scored after Massey delivered a perfectly executed cross to him but he failed to hit the target. Dundalk were then made to pay 2 minutes before the halftime whistle when completely against the run of play Sligo’s Jack Keaney scored from a 30-yard free-kick which can only be described as the goal of the week. The shot rifled into the bottom corner beyond the reach of Gary Rogers. The bit O’ Red found themselves one-nil up against the leagues favourites going into half time. Dundalk would surely not go down without a fight and 4 minutes into the second half Substitute Sean Murray made up for his earlier miss as he excellently put away a shot from the edge of the box courtesy of a Hoban assist. Dundalk tried their hardest to take the lead but Liam Buckley’s team done ever so well at shutting down shop with an excellent performance from the young Ed McGinty who looks a very promising star. Perth will be bitterly disappointed with the result but he will hope to restore his teams’ confidence when they travel to Finn park. Buckley on the other hand will gain a lot of respect from the fans and players, and a lot of trust will be placed upon him to secure their place in this league. They face the veteran boss’ former side, St Pats, next Friday where they will hope to cause another upset.
MOTM- Ed McGinty.
St Patrick’s Athletic vs Cork City – 1-0
Richmond Park welcomed the most eagerly anticipated fixture of the opening weekend. This fixture seen Republic of Ireland boss, Mick McCarthy, attend and it proved a shocker. Before the game questions were posed of Cork, were they going to be the same side after losing big players such as Sadlier and Beattie? Will they have the determination to bounce back? And, if anything the off-season answered all these questions as Cork went out and strengthened their side with signings such as Liam Nash. On paper, Cork had the best transfer window only behind, of course, St Pats. The Inchicore based side made sure to bolster their side for new boss Harry Kenny with signings suck as Mikey Drennan, Brandon Miele and the return of the infamous hero Chris Forrester. This game was a big one, a potential top of the table clash, however, it was still tipped in the Rebel Army’s favour, but, that isn’t how it turned out. To start off the game it was the visitors who had the better chances with Conor McCarthy and Dan Casey going close with headers inside 10 minutes, and Brendan Clarke then pulled off an outrageous save to deny Garry Buckley from close range. Cork were dangerous in attack and locked to poise a threat every time they got close to the box. A stunning performance from midfield duo Rhys McCabe and Conor Clifford ensured that Pats’ remained the most dominant team possession wise. The games outlook changed, however, when Sean McLoughlin sent the impressive Conor Clifford crashing down in the box resulting in a penalty kick for the Inchicore side. Debutant Mikey Drennan made no mistake in finishing the resulting spot kick and sent Pats’ 1-0 up after 30′ minutes. Ex-UCD man O’Connor was the Rebels best asset as they pushed for an equaliser. Things did not turn out well for Cork as they returned home with a defeat on the opening day. Pats’ still however, have more to offer as Chris Forrester didn’t look match fit and it begs the question, how good can Pats be? Kenny takes his side to The Showgrounds next Friday where they will meet former boss Liam Buckley, Kenny will surely ask for more of the same. Cork, however, welcome Waterford next Friday and will hope for more urgency in the side. Fans will also be wondering if new signing Nash will make his first start for the club? Caulfield will surely ask a lot of his team before another top of the table clash in Turners Cross.
MOTM- Conor Clifford.
Waterford FC vs Shamrock Rovers – 1-2
Last years Fourth place side welcomed last years Third place side to the RSC as Waterford took on Shamrock Rovers. Rovers came into this game favourites to win, as new signings Aaron McEneff and Jack Byrne made their first starts for the Tallaght side. Despite the atmosphere from the home fans it was in fact Bradley’s side who took control of the game from the opening whistle, as Dylan Watts forced an amazing save from Matthew Connor in the Waterford goal. The Blues’ netminder was kept busy throughout the night as he tipped away a Sean Kavanagh free kick and excellently saved a Ronan Finn effort. However the first goal of the night was scored by the home side when Kevin Lynch’s gorgeously arching free kick beat the outstretched Alan Mannus to the bottom right corner. Unlike previous seasons, Rovers attitude towards the game did not change and chances continued to flow, most memorably when Dan Carr’s effort was blocked on the line by Waterford’s goalscorer, Lynch. The home side went in to the second half one up but they knew the job was not done. Rovers came out in the second half ready to go and they reaped the rewards when Dann Carr excellently controlled the ball with a great piece of skill, and squared it to the striker Aaron Greene who was not going to miss from that distance. The home side however could have grabbed the winner when Akinade superbly timed an acrobatic strike however Manus got down well to parry it away. Just as the game looked to be over Rovers’ right back Ethan Boyle struck a shot towards goal that deflected off Rovers’ new Austrian Striker Orhan Vojic and went in. Rovers had won the game in the 93rd minute courtesy of Vojic. Amazing scenes on the first game of the season. Rovers welcome first placed Derry to Tallaght on Friday night and I’m sure Rovers boss, Stephen Bradley, will want a more convincing win next time. Manwhile the Blues head down to Turners Cross for what looks set to be an amazing game.
The first week of the season did not disappoint, we’ve seen upsets, thrashings and last-minute winners. This league is only getting better and better, a huge bit has to be said about the attendance of all games, every game had over 3,000 fans in support, and no game failed to entertain. What more could you want? This is the League of Ireland.