The League of Ireland Lowdown – Opening Week

The ‘Greatest League in the World’ returned this past weekend as the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division got underway. It is no exaggeration to say our national leagues are often neglected by media coverage and Marking The Spot wants to help change that.

So in the hopes of helping others to gain an interest in domestic soccer Marking The Spot is delighted to launch a new weekly post that will bring you all the results and the major news from the Premier and First Division.

Shamrock Rovers 1-1 St. Patrick’s Athletic

The Premier Division kicked off on Friday night as defending champions Shamrock Rovers welcomed St. Patrick’s Athletic to Tallaght Stadium. The opening game of the season was a cagey affair and looked likely to end in a 0-0 draw, however it game to life in the dying minutes.

Visiting skipper Robbie Benson put Saints in front on 87 minutes when his cross was deflected to the net off Roberto Lopes. Substitute Aaron Greene salvaged a point for the champions two minutes later when powering a superb header to the net, finally beating St Pat’s impressive teenage goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros.

Though not the winning start they would have craved, Rovers, invincible in winning the title last year, thus extend their unbeaten league run to 23 games stretching back to September 2019.

St Pat’s manager Stephen O’Donnell also maintains his impressive record against the Hoops, having not lost to them in four games – all draws – since taking charge at Richmond Park.

Drogheda United 1-0 Waterford FC

Drogheda United began life back in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division with a 1-0 win on Friday evening, courtesy of a last minute own goal which denied Kevin Sheedy a point on his debut as Waterford FC boss.

Welsh defender Cameron Evans stretched to cut out James Brown’s low delivery from the right, only to see his attempted clearance end up in the corner of his own net.

It was just reward for Drogheda who had been the superior side throughout against an inexperienced Waterford team who had acquitted themselves well and may have thought they were destined for an opening night draw.

The trip to Head In the Game Park represented Kevin Sheedy’s first game as a full-time manager, at the age of 61. The ex-Republic of Ireland midfielder has previously worked as a youth coach at Everton and most recently in Saudi Arabia.

Longford Town 2-0 Derry City

Longford Town enjoyed a dream return to the top flight after a four-year absence as goals from Dylan Grimes and Joe Gorman brought a deserved opening night victory over Derry City at Bishopsgate to put the midlanders top of the Premier Division table.

Longford manager Daire Doyle promised his side would be competitive from the get go and the midlanders were certainly that, carving Derry open to create a real chance from their first foray forward inside 90 seconds.

Maintaining their positive start, Dean Byrne had a valid penalty shout ignored, when his cross appeared to strike the arm of Derry skipper Eoin Toal, before the home side’s early enterprise was rewarded with a fine goal on nine minutes.

The ball was swept across field from a throw-in, with Manley helping it on to Grimes on the right flank.

Oozing confidence, Grimes skipped inside Danny Lafferty as if he wasn’t there. The backtracking Ciaron Harkin was then unable to block the low drive that found the far corner of the net through a crowded goalmouth.

As in the first half, Derry were on the back foot from the restart as Gartside was called on to make a terrific diving save from a Byrne drive two minutes in.

But the Derry keeper, called up this week to the Northern Ireland international squad, was culpable for Longford’s second goal on 72 minutes.

The 23-year-old could only parry a long-range free kick from Aodh Dervin into the path of Gorman who swept the loose ball home from close range.

Sligo Rovers 1-1 Dundalk

Sligo Rovers and Dundalk started their respective campaigns with a point a piece after both sides played out a draw at the Showgrounds.

Patrick McEleney made the most of a mistake in the Bit O’Red rearguard early on, but Sligo recovered well and secured a deserved point courtesy of Romeo Parkes leveller mid-way through the opening half.

A mx up between Greg Bolger and goalkeeper Ed McGinty was pounced on by McEleney. The attacker making the most of the young goalkeeper’s indecisiveness as he cut out McGinty’s pass towards Bolger before firing home.

The hosts, who haven’t won a league opener since 2014 had their equaliser after 22 minutes. Parkes marking his return from a loan spell in the US as he nodded Robbie McCourt’s whipped free from the left past Dundalk net minder Alessio Abibi.

Finn Harps 1-0 Bohemian FC

A coolly taken Adam Foley goal on 38 minutes proved to be the match-winner as Finn Harps opened their season with a narrow win over Bohemians.

Foley took advantage of an undercooked James Finnerty backpass before rounding goalkeeper James Talbot to open his account for the campaign.

Bohemians had plenty of the ball, shaded the chances and would’ve been aggrieved at having not been awarded at least one second half penalty in Ballybofey.

The Dublin 7 outfit had a huge appeal for a spot kick turned down on 72 minutes when Ethan Boyle appeared to tug Ross Tierney, although referee Paul McLaughlin shook his head. Ryan Connolly later seemed to get away with one late on.

This weekend’s fixtures:

Friday March 26th 

  • Dundalk v Finn Harps
  • Waterford FC v Sligo Rovers

Saturday March 27th 

  • St. Patrick’s Athletic v Drogheda United
  • Bohemian FC v Longford Town

League table:

This coming weekend will also see the return of the SSE Airtricity League First Division here are the fixtures for the opening round:

  • Bray Wanderers v Treaty United – Sunday March 28th
  • Cork City v Cobh Ramblers – Friday March 26th
  • Galway United v Shelbourne FC – Friday March 26th
  • UCD v Athlone Town – Friday March 26th
  • Wexford Youths v Cabinteely – Friday March 26th

 

That’s about it for the inaugural edition of the League of Ireland Lowdown be sure to check back next week for the latest round of results.

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