SSE Airtricity League Round Up: The beginning of the end as league enters last third

As the Premier Division enters its last round of fixtures it is clear that the relegation battle will be the main focus given that Cork City have all but wrapped up the league title given that they are 15 points clear of nearest challengers Dundalk with two games in hand. The most interesting battle left as regards the top half is that of who will finish third with Shamrock Rovers currently in that position one point clear of Derry City. They had a big win over the weekend as well as they beat Dundalk 1-0 in Oriel Park thanks to a first half goal from Gary Shaw. Derry were also 1-0 winners as goal from Barry McNamee gave them a 1-0 win away against Bohemian FC. However, it is the race to avoid the drop that provided the big talking points from the weekend.

Galway United’s upturn in form continued as they beat fellow strugglers Drogheda United 4-1. Gavan Holohan notched a hat-trick with Lee Grace getting the other goal. Former Irish international Stephen Elliot scored for Drogheda. Speaking of former Irish internationals Sean Thornton who was such a key player in midfield for Drogheda announced his retirement during the week. His experience will be badly missed and adds to the rumours that all is not well behind the scenes in United Park.

St. Patrick’s Athletic came from a goal down to beat Bray Wanderers 3-1 in Richmond Park as they like Galway are hitting form at the right time. Gary McCabe had given the seasiders the lead with a peach of a free kick but goals from Conan Byrne, Christy Fagan and then Josh O’Hanlon gave Liam Buckley’s side the win. After releasing contrasting statements last week it was a relatively quiet one for Bray this week except that the club chairman Denis O’Connor resigned and their manager Harry Kenny said he expected significant developments this week.

Sligo Rovers lost ground on the sides around them as they drew 0-0 with Limerick in the Market’s Field. Limerick are only six points clear of the bottom three so it looks like their aspirations will have changed from trying to qualify for Europe to ensuring that they stay in the top flight. Rovers had a goal disallowed and a man sent off late on as Raffaele Cretaro saw red for a challenge on Chiedozie Ogebene. They play Dundalk next.

There was a huge game in the First Division as first took on second with leaders Waterford hosting Cobh Ramblers. Waterford won 4-0 and now have opened up a nine point lead. Only one side gets promoted this season and it hard now to look past the men from the South-East. UCD have moved into second thanks to their 4-0 win against Athlone Town. There were no statements from anyone about Athlone this week but their FAI hearing is looming. Cabinteely beat Shelbourne 1-0 and Longford Town won 2-1 away against Wexford FC.