Friday night’s action saw lots of goals, pitch inspection drama, a Dublin Derby, a floodlight failure (again!) and plenty of controversy.
It all started with pitch inspections all over the country in the afternoon, as Mother Nature just wouldn’t play ball! Two games were under severe threat, in Turners Cross and in the big one at Tallaght Stadium.
News came through from Cork that they’d passed theirs, but an hour after the initial inspection in Tallaght, it transpired that another inspection would be required at 5.30, making supporters very nervous. However, after some excellent work by the groundsmen the referee agreed to go ahead, with just 90 minutes to spare.
The game itself, for the most part was disappointing, which was understandable considering the conditions. It took Rovers until almost the hour mark to finally get in front, when Brandon Miele dispatched a fine left-footed effort passed Shane Supple after good work from former Galway United captain Ryan Connolly and Simon Connolly down the right.
They extended that lead fifteen minutes later when on-loan striker Michael O’Connor, only seconds after coming on, blasted home Connolly’s cut-back.
Bohemians did manage a consolation goal in added time, when another Dundalk loanee Georgie Poynton scored from the penalty spot, after Dan Devine was penalised for fouling Stephen Best.
It was an important win for new Rovers boss Stephen Bradley in front of a huge crowd of over 5,000 people, who said afterwards that he thought they deserved the win, “We created lots of chances. We could have been 3 or 4 up before they scored. Overall, considering the state of the pitch, we’re very pleased.”
Rovers have another home game next Friday when Derry City are the visitors.
Down at the Carlisle Grounds goals were flying in allsides, as Bray followed up their win over Pats with a 5-3 win over Finn Harps.
The game wasn’t without controversy though, as referee Anthony Buttiner made what some would say as ‘generous’ decisions in favour of the home side.
Anto Flood set the ball rolling when he pounced on an error from Harps keeper Ciaran Gallagher to score. A dubious penalty decision led to Gary McCabe making it 2-0, before on-loan Dundalk striker Ciaran O’Connor slotted home from a free-kick. Just on half-time and Aaron Greene made it 3-1 with a solid header from captain Conor Kenna’s cross.
An own-goal from Bray keeper Peter Cherrie, who pushed a Ciaran O’Connor effort in the net, had the game on a knife-edge.
However more controversy ensued, as Harps keeper Gallagher was injured in the build-up, and out of the game, as McCabe scored his second into an empty net.
Speedy winger Dylan Connolly made it 5-2 on 68 minutes, before an Ethan Boyle header made it interesting with 15 minutes to go. But that was to be the end of the scoring as Bray move to the summit of the table.
Harps boss Ollie Horgan made no excuses after the game saying, “Bray were the better team”.
Bray boss Harry Kenny said, “It was a much more open game than anybody would have expected. It was disappointing to concede three goals from a management point of view, especially from set pieces. Considering the soft pitch, the conditions, the wind, to score five goals was brilliant. You’d have to be happy with that.”
It’s a brilliant start to the league for Bray, as the club go in search of a European spot. Next up for Bray is a trip to Dalymount to face Bohemians, while Finn Harps host Galway United.
Cork City, many people’s fancy for the title this season made light work of Galway United in Turners Cross. It took just fifteen minutes for the ‘Seani’s on fire’ chants to be sung on the terraces, when he raced in and dispossessed Galway keeper Ciaran Nugent to tap home.
New signing Ryan Delaney doubled their tally just after the break when he powered home from a corner.
Not long after and Maguire had to come off due to a niggling hamstring, which could become a worry for City boss John Caulfield.
City never let up though, as Stephen Dooley made it 3-0 when he lobbed Nugent after been put through by Jimmy Keohane. Youngster Conor Ellis, on as a late sub for Gearoid Morrissey, wrapped up the scoring in added time with a nice neat finish.
After the game John Caulfield was full of praise for the club’s groundstaff, as he said the pitch wasn’t playable in the morning but the staff had worked extremely hard to make it playable. He mentioned that no game had been called off in nearly eight years, which is a huge credit to the club.
For Shane Keegan and Galway United, it’s a trip to Ballybofey next afriday night to take on Finn Harps. With both clubs having two defeats, a result is badly needed.
Drogheda United have surprised many observers with their start to the season. An away win in Galway was followed up with a superb 2-0 victory over a struggling St Patrick’s Athletic at United Park.
Second-half goals from talented midfielder Jake Hyland, and an injury time strike from defender Colm Deasy sealed back-to-back victories for Pete Mahon’s charges.
Pats had a few chances in the first half to get themselves in front, the best of those falling to Sam Verdon but his shot was blocked.
Early in the second half it looked like Pats were going to take the lead. Playing some nice football, chances fell to both Billy Dennehy and Rory Feely but they were squandered.
Hyland, having a fine game, then put the Drogs in front, when he got on the end of Gavin Brennan’s pass to score passed Barry Murphy in the Pats goal.
Liam Buckley’s men did try to respond late on, but were sucker-punched at the death when Deady scored with the help of a deflection off Pat Cregg.
All in all a great start for Drogheda, but for Pats it’s an away trip to fellow strugglers Sligo Rovers next. Anything other than a result in that game and Liam Buckley will be a dead man walking!
The other game on Friday night saw the full-house signs go up at Maginn Park in Buncrana for the eagerly awaited clash between table-toppers Derry City and Limerick FC.
The game started brightly enough, with Nathan Boyle going close early on. Limerick then took the lead on six minutes through Dean Clarke. Ronan Curtis has the hosts level from a free-kick ten minutes later, only for the floodlights to go out shortly after. The game was eventually abandoned, and has been re-fixed for Tuesday March 21st in Maginn Park at 7.45.
It was a very disappointing night, on such a big occasion, for both sets of supporters.
The final game of the weekend took place on Saturday night at the Showgrounds in Sligo, as the champions Dundalk came to town.
Sligo were looking to bounce back from an opening night humiliation in Limerick.
Unfortunately for the fans, what they got was more of the same.
Dundalk made two changes from their opener against Shamrock Rovers, with Conor Clifford and Niklas Vemmelund replacing Dane Massey and Stephen O’Donnell.
It took only twelve minutes for Dundalk to take control of the game, as Patrick McEleney scored a wonderful free-kick, into the right-hand corner of keeper Shaun Payton’s net.
McEleney was pulling the strings all night for the champions in the middle of the park.
Their second goal came when Paddy Barrett played a long ball out of defence to winger Michael Duffy, who went in to score his debut goal for the club.
McEleney went close again after the break, before young Sligo striker Jonah Ayunga was red-carded for a foul on Barrett. Shortly after that a Sean Gannon Cross was powerfully headed in by Ciaran Kilduff for his second goal of the season. It was all way too easy for Dundalk.
Kilduff was replaced by Thomas Stewart with just over then minutes left, and it didn’t take him long to get in on the act, as he scored with a header from a Patton rebound to seal a comfortable 4-0 win.
Next up for Stephen Kenny’s men is a home game against Limerick FC next Friday night.