League of Ireland Roundup

Image Credit: Sportsfile

Shane Lynch rounds up the League of Ireland season after another year of drama

Shamrock Rovers were crowned champions of Ireland for the 20th time in their history, completing the ‘three-peat’, winning three successive titles. The Hoops completed the historic feat against St. Patrick’s Athletic on Matchday 34, with title rivals Derry City succumbing to a frustrating 0-0 draw against Sligo Rovers. There was a party atmosphere around the stadium at Tallaght, with the Hoops securing a 1-1 draw in their UEFA Conference League match against Gent; and with that a cool €166k in prize money. Rovers will be looking to add some more quality to their ranks with the aim of securing a fourth successive league title in 2023, and a longer spell in Europe too, after an underwhelming performance in the groups

Derry City had to settle for second. After going toe to toe with Rovers for most of the season, a disappointing draw against Sligo was enough to hand Rovers the title. Despite missing out on the league title, Derry still have the chance to bag some silverware this season and are looking ahead to an FAI Cup Final against Shelbourne in the Aviva Stadium. With European football already secured for Derry, Shels will be keen to cause an upset and deny Dublin rivals Pats the last European spot. 

Dundalk secured European football with a third place finish. A 2-1 victory over Bohemians on Matchday 33 coupled with Pats’ defeat to Sligo Rovers meant that the Louth outfit clinched a European spot at Casey’s Field. The Lilywhites will enter the qualifying round of the 2023-24 UEFA Europa Conference League next summer. A club with plenty of history in Europe, Dundalk fans will be dusting off their passports as Stephen O’ Donnell’s men look to be heading on a European adventure once again. O’Donnell’s former club St. Patrick’s Athletic missed out on 3rd place, and will be hoping that Derry do them a favour by beating Dublin rivals Shelbourne in the Cup final on Sunday to secure a place in the UEFA Conference League qualifiers. 

On the other side of Louth, and at the other end of the table; Drogheda United have secured another season of Premier Division football, finishing eighth above UCD and Finn Harps’ respectively. Despite a poor run of form towards the latter stages of the season which included a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of close rivals Shelbourne, the Drogs did enough earlier on in the season to create breathing space between themselves and the teams in the bottom two. As one of the few semi professional clubs in the Premier Division, there have been calls from inside and outside for the intervention of external investors to secure the long term financial viability of the Boynesiders. 

Sligo's Adam Keena finished top of the scoring charts, racking up an impressive eighteen goals over the course of the season. While there have been no fireworks at the Showgrounds this season, the Bit O' Red have maintained  a solid foothold on the Premier Division ladder, with the potential there to finish in the European spots if they can keep a hold of their star man Keena, and add quality and depth to their squad in the upcoming transfer windows.

Finn Harps have been relegated to the First Division after a three season stint in the top flight. There was no late season flurry from the showtime Harps this season, and their fate was sealed in a 3-1 defeat to UCD in Finn Park on Matchday 35. Harps’ time in the Premier Division drew to a close with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Drogheda United last Sunday. Alongside Finn Harps’ time in the Premier Division, Ollie Horgan’s managerial reign at Harps also drew to a close in Drogheda.  

While Harps prepare for a return to second tier football, UCD survived relegation to the First Division after a nail biter against Waterford FC. Pundits and fans alike had written off UCD and were of the opinion that the Students would be unable to tame maverick players like Junior Quintera and Phoenix Patterson.

UCD drew first blood against the Munster side, with the goal coming via the head of Tommy Lonergan, after a delicious cross was fired into the box by Alex Nolan. Lonergan ensured his feelings were felt as he celebrated in front of the Waterford faithful, much to their outrage.

With 93 minutes gone, referee Rob Harvey pointed to the spot after a suspected handball from centre half Jack Keaney. Patterson stepped up and blasted his penalty high over the bar and into the Inchicore night sky, with ultimately the last kick of the game. UCD will play Premier Division football next season.