Finn Harps flying high – LOI Lowdown

The second week of the League of Ireland didn’t disappoint with Finn Harps and Longford Town once again causing upsets in the the top division. Meanwhile the First Division kicked off with plenty of goals to talk about not to mention Ireland’s newest club making its league debut.

Let’s begin though with the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.

Dundalk 1-2 Finn Harps 

Finn Harps made it two wins from two at the start of the season with a shock win over Dundalk at Oriel Park.

The Donegal side hadn’t beaten the Lilywhites in any competition since a 2-0 win in a play-off in November 2007 and you had to go back to May 2006 for their last win at the Louth venue. However, they ended that hoodoo in some style thanks to Adam Foley’s double.

Foley was his side’s hero on the opening weekend with the winner against Bohemians at Finn Park. That goal came from a mistake by the visitors and it was a similar story for his opener this week as Dundalk’s new Albanian keeper Alessio Abibi was caught in possession, allowing him to charge down the clearance to give his side a 42nd minute lead.

Patrick Hoban did head Dundalk level three minutes after the restart but Foley restored the visitors’ lead when he raced clear to slot a superb second past Abibi just after the hour mark.

The result is fantastic for Ollie Horgan’s side while it piles added pressure on a Dundalk team who were already in the spotlight before a ball was kicked over their management setup with Shane Keegan given the title of team manager and Filippo Giovagnoli being demoted to coach.

The Lilywhites are traditional slow starters but a single point from two outings to date is their worst return in 10 seasons and adds to the pressure as they prepare to face reigning league champions Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght next Friday.

Waterford FC 1-2 Sligo Rovers

Romeo Parkes and Jordan Gibson smashed home two wonder-goals as Sligo Rovers came from behind to beat Waterford at the RSC.

Cian Kavanagh had nodded Waterford into an early lead when he turned home a Jamie Mascoll corner with six minutes gone.

But a powerful volley from Parkes had Rovers level before the break, while man of the match Gibson continued his impressive start to life at the Showgrounds with a spectacular winner on early in the second period.

Johnny Kenny registered an effort for Rovers in the opening moments, but the tie’s opener was to arrive at the opposite end on six minutes.

Kavanagh made the most of questionable marking in the Sligo box as he powered Mascoll’s corner past Ed McGinty with an authoritative header.

Sligo roared their way back into the game with a wonderful equaliser from Parkes.

The Jamaican meeting Gibson’s cross with a well timed full volley which soared past a stunned Brian Murphy in the Blues nets for Parkes’ second goal in as many games.

Liam Buckley’s men finished last season with one of the poorer away records. They did their chances of coming away from the south east with something at least, when Gibson struck for the lead eight minutes into the second half.

The ex-Rangers youth cutting inside with a well crafted step-over before placing the ball into Murphy’s top corner from the angle.

St. Patrick’s Athletic 2-1 Drogheda United

A last-minute winner from substitute Billy King saw St Patrick’s Athletic edge out Drogheda United and move joint-second in the Premier Division table.

Stephen O’Donnell’s side built on a positive display in the opening-day draw at champions Shamrock Rovers and the Saints just about deserved the three points for a dominant second-half performance.

Still, it appeared to be history repeated for the Athletic, who had let a second-half lead slip in Tallaght and looked to have done so again when Dinny Corcoran notched against the run of play.

Rónán Coughlan’s first goal in red and white just before the hour looked to have Pats coasting but a mistake from Vitezslav Jaros handed Drogheda a route back into the game.

The opening goal arrived at the end of a sustained period of Pats pressure, though Drogheda complained that the game wasn’t stopped as ex-Saint Darragh Markey was injured.

Pats played the whistle, however, and got their reward when McClelland whipped in an inviting low cross and Coughlan beat Dane Massey to stab home from close range.

Drogheda boss Tim Clancy introduced former Saint Dinny Corcoran for the final quarter and the prolific striker got off the mark for the season within two minutes of his introduction.

On-loan Liverpool goalkeeper Jaros dropped what looked a routine save from Mark Doyle and Corcoran’s fox-in-the-box instincts ensured he was alert to slide home the loose ball.

The concession seemed to shake the home side, who had been well on top until then, and they took time to work their way back into the game.

And they got their reward as the clock ticked towards 90, the two substitutes linking up as Darragh Burns picked out King at the back post to volley home a winner.

Bohemian FC 2-2 Longford Town 

Bohemians blew a two-goal lead as plucky Longford Town secured a remarkable draw on a chilly afternoon in the capital.

Goals from Georgie Kelly and Ross Tierney, both man-of-the-match contenders, looked to have helped the Gypsies to their first three points of the season, only for a brilliantly opportunistic Conor Davis brace to put Longford on four points and leave shocked Bohs to wonder what had happened.

After the loss to Finn Harps, this was a dire result for Bohs, with Kelly’s performance perhaps the most satisfying aspect for boss Keith Long, who will reflect on some very poor defending in the second half.

The first quarter was almost entirely devoid of notable action, until a lovely Kelly goal on 20 minutes. Tierney, one of several bright prospects for the Gypsies, drove the ball into the box from under the Jodi Stand and Kelly turned before striking into the corner from around 12 yards – his first goal in the league for Bohs after a disappointing spell at St Patrick’s in 2020.

The game seemed over as a contest on 26 minutes, the pivotal Tierney blasting into the corner of the net, Steacy left with no chance, as the gulf in class became ever more obvious.

Town’s bench made more noise than had been heard all day when they got one back with 15 minutes left, substitute Conor Davis superbly slotting into the corner of Talbot’s net. Suddenly the promoted side believed.

Incredibly, Longford were level four minutes from time. A sublime Callum Warfield cross allowed Davis to sneak in at the far post to achieve what seemed an entirely improbable equaliser.

Remarkably, the visitors seemed more likely than the hosts to fashion a winner that never came. This is shaping into an intriguing season.

This weekend’s fixtures:

Friday April 2nd 

  • Longford Town v Sligo Rovers
  • Shamrock Rovers v Dundalk

Saturday April 3rd

  • Drogheda United v Finn Harps
  • Derry City v Waterford FC
  • Bohemian FC v St. Patrick’s Athletic

League table:

First Division

Cork City 2-1 Cobh Ramblers

Cork City made a perfect start to life in the SSE Airitricity League First Division as they defeated local rivals Cobh Ramblers at Turner’s Cross on Friday night.

Goals from Cian Coleman and Cian Bargary, either side of a Ramblers equaliser from Ciaran Griffin on his debut, was enough to earn Colin Healy’s side the three points from a highly entertaining Cork derby.

This was the first league meeting between these two Cork clubs since 2008 and both sides started with intent.

The visitors were the first to go close inside the opening minute but Griffin could only blast his shot straight at veteran goalkeeper Mark McNulty from a good position on the edge of the penalty area.

The Rams’ best attempts at breaking the deadlock came from distance as Darren Murphy tried his luck from long range after half an hour but McNulty was able to parry before gathering the ball at the second attempt.

That save proved to be crucial as City edged in front moments later with a set-piece move straight from the training ground, albeit there was some good fortune involved as well.

Dylan McGlade’s short corner picked out the run of Bargary and after his scuffed shot rolled perfectly into the path of the on-running Coleman, the centre-back calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net in front of an empty Shed End.

Stuart Ashton’s men would snatch an equaliser in the 66th minute as debutant Griffin latched onto Conor Drinan’s knock-on before drilling the ball under the legs of the retreating City number one.

The scores would be level for only 10 minutes though as City regained the lead thanks to Bargary, who fired home from close range following good work down the left by McGlade.

Cobh continued to battle and they were desperately unlucky not to make it 2-2 shortly after falling behind but Conor Drinan’s deflected strike hit the underside of the bar, bounced on the line before being scrambled to safety.

Galway United 0-0 Shelbourne FC 

A cold and wet Eamonn Deacy Park hosted one of the biggest fixtures of the weekend on Friday night as Shelbourne travelled west to face Galway United.

There were no goals to speak of, unfortunately, as the sides played out a 0-0 draw to start their campaigns with the major talking point being the sending off of Glen McAuley before the half-time break.

Shelbourne had the opening chance of the game when JJ Lunney had the ball played to his feet inside the box in the 2nd minute. The midfielder couldn’t find his composure and somehow blasted the ball over the crossbar.

At the other end of the field, Ruairí Keating showed some quick thinking with a deft through ball into the path of Padraic Cunningham.

The striker took the ball on and towards the endline before chancing a close range effort on goal that Brendan Clarke managed to deflect behind the goal.

A major incident occurred just before half time when McAuley received a straight red for a two-footed challenge on Maurice Nugent.

The challenge brought the game to a standstill as both teams squared up to one another in the centre of the pitch.

Referee Eoghan O’Shea managed to get the game back under control with just McAuley being dismissed and doling out bookings to Stephen Walsh and Maxim Kouogun.

United were on top for most of the second half but the home side couldn’t find the quality needed to break down a very organised Shelbourne side.

UCD 2-2 Athlone Town

Athlone debutant Adam Wixted made it a night to remember for himself and his teammates with an injury time equaliser away to UCD.

Athlone were trailing heading into the final few seconds of the game before Wixted struck at the death.

UCD took the lead through the impressive Mark Dignam before Stephen Meaney levelled just before the break.

The Students then weathered a storm from the visitors to retake the lead in the 74th minute but it was not enough as Athlone grabbed a deserved draw at the death.

The Students handed starts to new arrivals Sam Todd and Sean Brennan, while fellow new arrival – from Athlone – Adam Lennon was left on the bench.

Athlone on the other hand – who made 17 signings during the off-season – gave competitive debuts to Kurtis Byrne, Jamie Hollywood and Michael Schlingermann.

And it was Adrian Carberry’s new-look side that started the game as the better side, and they ought to have taken the lead after less than 40 seconds of the game played.

Former St Patrick’s Athletic winger James Doona was found free on the left flank, before finding Stephen Meaney who was denied not once, but twice by Lorcan Healy in the UCD goal.

However, for all their dominance, Athlone fell behind in the 22nd minute of the game thanks to a Mark Dignam opener.

Dignam latched onto a goalmouth scramble – after Liam Kerrigan saw his shot crash off the bar – to give the Students a somewhat fortuitous lead.

Healy’s luck in the UCD goal ran out in the 39th minute as Stephen Meaney levelled for the visitors with a glancing header.

The former Drogheda full-back got on the end of Aidan Friel’s cross and made no mistake to give Athlone a deserved equaliser.

Athlone’s wastefulness in front of goal was then punished in the 74th minute as UCD sub Dara Keane slotted home.

Keane was found by a through ball from Dignam – and he made no mistake in scoring for the Students.

Despite their general good play, Athlone were unable to muster up anything of real note in their search for an equaliser, up until the last few moments of the game.

The Blue and Black of the Midlands saw Wixted latch onto a long hopeful ball, where he would then find the back of the net from a tight angle.

Wexford Youths 1-2 Cabinteely 

Pre-match talk of Dean Casey flying in preseason proved to be no exaggeration as Casey’s left foot guided Cabinteely to a 2-1 victory away to Wexford.

Keith Dalton and Casey took turns peppering the Wexford box from left and right respectively as Cabo looked a constant threat.

This threat came good after eight minutes as Casey’s in swinging corner found Kevin Knight’s head at the back post with Knight’s downward header reaching the back of the net over the head of the Wexford defender standing at the post.

Wexford responded well after the shaky start and had a few minutes very much in the ascendency resulting in multiple corners as Cabinteely players threw themselves in front of successive shots leaving debutant keeper Adam Hayden with little to do.

Cabinteely started the second half in a similar vain to the first with corners coming thick and fast after the restart.

Defenders again proved threatening as Andy O’Brien, filling the tall man number five role vacated by Conor Keeley, could only find the post with his header.

Cabo again struck the goalframe on 50 minutes, only this time Dean Casey’s thunderous 30-yard free kick came off the inside of the post and made its way into the back of the net.

The two-goal cushion was short lived as set pieces again showed their importance in this division with Wexford captain Luke Turner getting his head on the second ball from a corner near the hour mark to set up a cagey last half hour.

Wexford created chances but failed to truly test Hayden as Cabinteely held out for a deserved but nervy 2-1 victory.

Bray Wanderers 0-0 Treaty United

Newly formed Treaty United picked up a point at Bray Wanderers in their first ever League of Ireland game on Sunday afternoon.

In February, Treaty received a licence to compete in a 10-team First Division, with Shamrock Rovers II – who played in the division last season following the withdrawal of Limerick FC – dropping out.

The men, managed by former Limerick boss Tommy Barrett, got up and running and came away with a spirited draw despite playing the last 25 minutes with 10 men.

In blustery conditions there were few decent chances. Richie O’Farrell drew an excellent save from Treaty stopper Tadhg Ryan early on but it was a scrappy, tight opening half.

In the 65th minute Sean McSweeney got his marching orders after picking up a second yellow card and though the Seagulls huffed and puffed in search of the breakthrough, it never really looked like it was going to come.

All in all Treaty’s resolute defending saw them earn a deserved point that will give them a base to build from in their debut season.

This weekend’s fixtures:

Friday April 2nd 

  • Cabinteely v Cork City
  • Treaty United v Wexford Youths
  • Athlone Town v Galway United
  • Shelbourne FC V Bray Wanderers

Saturday April 3rd

  • Cobh Ramblers v UCD

League table:

 

That’s all the latest news from the League of Ireland, plenty of talking points from the opening rounds in the Premier Division with some of the big teams on the back foot. Meanwhile it looks like there could be a very competitive season ahead in the First Division only time will tell who will be in the shakeup for the promotion places. Be sure to check back next week for the latest round of results.

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