Four observations from the League of Ireland – Gameweek 17

The Sean Russell fiasco reflects horribly on Limerick FC, Patrick McEleney is on fire for Dundalk, a Dublin derby delivers, and Drogheda United are the new goal machines in the First Division.

Here are four observations we made from gameweek 17 of the League of Ireland:

Irish football’s dark side rears its ugly head once again with Sean Russell debacle

If you’re a League of Ireland follower, you have heard about the plight of Sean Russell. The Limerick midfielder underwent a serious knee operation earlier in the year, but he has been made personally liable for the medical costs arising from it. This happened after the club for which he plays was unable to cover the €4500 bill.

On top of that, Limerick FC are unable to meet their financial commitments to the squad, with wages and expenses going unpaid. As a result, the team have voted to go on strike should payments not be brought up to date.

This is nothing new for the Super Blues, who had financial problems last year, or indeed Irish football in general. More clubs have gone bust or folded than not, with Bray Wanderers troubles over the past two years most notable. It’s been a while since a League of Ireland club ceased to exist, but we could be on the precipice of that happening again. And we’re not even halfway through the season.

Limerick owner Pat O’Sullivan has given assurances that the club’s situation is “lovely”, saying that it “will be fine, don’t worry about it, the club will be fine”. The club’s treatment of its players is, no matter what O’Sullivan says, execrable. Russell revealed to 98fm earlier this week that the club informed him he would be receiving a “solicitor’s letter” over the issue of his medical bills. We don’t know the contents of the letter at the time of writing, but it doesn’t take a genius to predict it won’t be good news for the player.

These instances are not as common as they once were, but they still happen too often. Irish domestic football is improving bit by bit every year, but this is a throwback to the dark days that the game doesn’t need.

McEleney at the heart of Dundalk’s return to form

Eight games unbeaten are this Dundalk side, as they picked up yet another win in Cork on Friday night to stay on top of the SSE Airtricity Premier Division.

The Lilywhites were slightly fortunate with the opening goal in the first half, as Dean Jarvis took advantage of a spill by goalkeeper Mark McNulty in the six-yard box. The original shot came from Patrick McEleney, whose exquisite take down put him in space to have a pop at goal.

Pat Hoban, back from suspension, should have made it 2-0 on the half-hour mark, but his penalty came off the post. As you can see in the footage below, the striker seemingly starts celebrating before realising the ball hasn’t gone in.

John Mountney put the game beyond doubt after the interval, however, heading in a cross from Sean Gannon on the right hand side. Once again it was McEleney who orchestrated the play, his raking cross-field pass finding the right-back in a terrific position.

It is no coincidence that Dundalk’s return to form has coincided with the Derry native’s return from injury, along with Chris Shield. They remain joint-top of the table with Shamrock Rovers, who beat UCD 1-0.

See Also: League of Ireland Team of the Week for Matchday 17

Pat’s and Bohs full-blooded battle shows what the league can offer

Dublin derbies are always heated affairs. No one wants to lose them, to relinquish the bragging rights, to have to go into work the next day knowing that you’re in for a slagging. That’s enough to stoke the crowd that bit more than usual, to get the players scrapping and fighting for every ball, to turn a run-of-the-mill football match into a proper battle.

That’s what we got in Inchicore on Friday even, as St. Patrick’s Athletic and Bohemians fought for a hard-earned draw in which no side feared losing and both wanted to win, but neither of them did. While the quality may not always be amazing in this here league of ours, we can always hope for contests such as these.

Pat’s, who have now failed to win in the last four games, took the lead through Darragh Markey and seemed destined to take all three points when Brendan Clarke saved Dinny Corcoran’s spot kick.

On reflection the goalkeeper may have been a little off his line…

The northsiders came away from Richmond Park with a point though, after Danny Mandroiu, off the back of a poor performance the week beforehand, slotted a free kick into the top corner in the 78th minute.

The angle from behind the goal is even better, showing just how rooted to the floor Clarke is:

As our own Darryl Geraghty wrote this week, it was “a war of attrition, with neither side giving an inch.” Not every game can be as entertaining as this one, but a bit more of the same every week and we’ll see a lot more people through the turnstiles of a Friday night.

Finn Harps 

Only three weeks ago hope seemed like such an alien concept to Finn Harps. After 14 games they had registered no wins, sticking to the bottom of the table like chewing gum on a shoe. They weren’t just off the pace of the rest of the league, they were well off the pace of UCD, the closest team to them in the standings and, at the time, in the all-important relegation playoff spot.

Since then they’ve gone on a four-game unbeaten run, winning the last two on the bounce. Their 3-2 win over Waterford finally took them off the bottom rung and above the Students on goal difference.

There was a dramatic end to the game which saw Sean Boyd grab the winner just moments after Damien Delaney scored an equaliser, leading the crowd to explode in ecstasy when the third goal went in.

There was an element of luck to final result, as Harps opened their with a well-taken free-kick, benefitted from a contentious penalty decision and were up against a porous Blues defence.

That being said, the Donegal outfit created several chances in the danger area and could have easily scored one or two more. At the very least they have discovered the wonder of scoring goals and that could be vital when it’s all said and done.

Drogheda make scoring goals look like child’s play

It feels like no one has been paying attention to Drogheda United, but let’s change that right now. Here are their last four results: 4-1, 0-1, 3-2, 5-0.

The odd one out there is their one goal defeat to Longford Town, who have been one of the best two teams in the First Division. That sequence of wins includes victories over Cobh Ramblers, Limerick and, most importantly of all, Cabinteely this past weekend.

It’s not even the first time the Drogs have scored five in one game. That came when they defeated Athlone Town 5-3 in early April. In total they have scored 26 goals, which is a rate of two per game. The only team that comes close is Shelbourne, who have found the net 21 times.

This win over Cabo was a huge statement of intent though, especially when you consider the Dublin side won their last meeting 4-1 and this fixture was in Stradbrook. The league leaders were on a rich vein of form, having gone seven games undefeated.

The Louth outfit now sit in fourth place and in the final playoff spot, but they may have designs on finishing further up the table than that. The one thing they will have to sort out, however, is their defence; they have conceded 18, which is more than any other side bar the bottom three.

See Also: League of Ireland Weekly Awards for Matchday 17