Dundalk march on, Cork’s new manager, and Cabo make history – Three LOI observations for Gameweek 22

Dundalk move one step closer to retaining the SSE Airtricity Premier Division title after victory over Shamrock Rovers, Cork City appoint a new manager to try and salvage their season, while Cabinteely’s latest acquisition made history on his debut.

The title race is all but over… or is it?

Considering some people were calling the league in favour of Shamrock Rovers within the opening two months of the season we’d be foolish to say the title is wrapped up with several months to go.

But after beating their closest competitors in Tallaght on Friday, they opened up an eight-point lead in the table. That kind of gap for Dundalk is like a 20 point lead for anyone else. They simply do not relinquish advantages like that, they have too much experience and talent on board right now to do so.

The angst over whether Vinny Perth and John Gill could keep the good times rolling after Stephen Kenny left to take the Ireland U21’s job seems to have been misplaced, although I should stress it’s still early days yet for the dynamic duo.

There is still European competition on the horizon, and how well they do on that stage will define how much of a success the season is as much as defending the league title will be. On top of that, if they go on a run and the fixtures start to pile up, then that could create an opening for the Hoops.

So we’re not counting the Dublin side out for the time being, but it’s looking like a sixth league title in seven years for the Lilywhites.

Read: Gannon, Barker, Junior – LOI Team of the Week, Gameweek 22

All change on the south western front

Cork City have finally found a permanent replacement for John Caulfield sixty days after his sacking — and not a moment too soon either.

The Rebels lost in dispiriting fashion on Friday evening, downed 4-1 by Derry City on their own home turf. Interim manager John Cotter was unforgiving in his assessment of the performance, telling the media after the game that there was “no hunger, no drive, no passion” from the squad.

The club have drafted in Cobh Ramblers academy manager Frank Kelleher, who previously managed the Cork City women’s team to FAI Senior Cup glory in 2017.

It’s imperative that City appointed a new head coach, not just for the sake of stability and being able to finally start afresh, but also because they needed a Uefa Pro Licence holder to lead them into European competition in the next month.

Kelleher has a major job on his hands, however, as the team is a shadow of the side that won a league title and two FAI Cups in the not-too-distant past. Although relegation is highly unlikely, the football has been turgid thus far and any hope of glory that was harboured going into the campaign has surely been obliterated.

Europe offers a chance for redemption and to salvage this dumpster fire of a season, but they will need to play infinite levels above themselves right now to make any progress.

Read: David Moyes, Frank O’Farrell and the link between Manchester United’s chosen ones

Cabinteely’s Asian starlet makes history

It took just 270 seconds for Yuta Sasaki to put his name in the history books after scoring on his debut for Cabinteely in the First Division on Friday night, becoming the first Japanese player to score in the League of Ireland.

Sasaki came on in the 87th minute, but within moments found himself in acres of space clean through on goal before deftly placing the ball into the net to secure a 2-0 win over Wexford. He’s the second footballer from Japan to play in the Republic of Ireland, following in the footsteps of Hisanori Takada, who was a goalkeeper for Drogheda United during the 2003/04 campaign.

Off the pitch, the club were offering a brilliant deal for match goers of a pint and a burger with your ticket for just €5. That is sensational value for your Friday night and hopefully more people take advantage of it in the second half of the season.

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