Friday, June 09, 2006

Forza First!

It's time to avert your eyes from the gaudy trinket that is the World Cup while the dullsville opening group matches take place, and focus the football section of your brain on the eircom League 1st Division. Yes it's still there!

You may be excused for ignoring the aforementioned division given the recent suggestions re. promotion /relegation and absence thereof, but there is still an interesting battle burbling nicely in the bowels of our national league.

Go moch doirse [I think it's gaeilge for 'early doors'], we had Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk going head to head at Tolka Park, the Hoops winning in a best of three game, as there were no particularly 'odd' goals scored. This result signalled the determination of the Behooped Nomads to shake off last season's disasters, while sending the Louthmen into an uncontrolled spin, which continues.

Finn Harps are top scorers in the division. Conor Gethins rattled four past Kildare at Station Road in their opener, before Harps were relieved of his assets by injury. But as the Muller people say 'there can be no pleasure without pain' and young Davitt Walsh has benefited from Gethins' absence with a five-goal haul of his own.

It is indeed fortunate that the Donegalmen are so adept in the opposition box, as this appears to be matched only by their ineptitude in their own penalty area; very few scoreless draws when Finn Harps are in town.

Limerick weren't expected to set the league alight and they fulfilled that prophecy with a 2-0 defeat away to Galway in their first fixture. Subsequently, however, they have made a habit of winning by a single goal, mirroring Premier leaders Drogheda. Indeed the Drogs also fell victim to the Limerick single goal phenomenon at United Park in the FAI Cup. Thus far the Lims have been a revelation, opening up a five point lead at the summit.

At the other end of the table, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that Monaghan desperately need to record a couple of wins when the sides return to action. Currently a half dozen points adrift of a compact pack, they are curiously the division's most consistent outfit; currently blazing a trail with seven consecutive defeats.

Significantly, only seven points separate Kildare, 2nd from bottom and Shamrock Rovers in second place, so a decent run will put any of the mid table sides into a good position. It's been a turvy-topsy affair thus far: Dundalk are the finest example of this while Galway have lost only once, and already beaten Limerick, yet their manager has cut his bungee.

An early special achievement award has to be shared betwixt Kilkenny City and Athlone Town, both of whom have surpassed expectations. The Cats were left to sup from an empty plate when Pat Scully felt a Hoop on his shoulder, taking half of his felines with him to the South Dublin club; thus leaving Aidan Fitzpatrick's hastily borrowed squad to introduce themselves to each other in a very short space of time. Michael O' Connor's charges tasted victory only six times last term, yet they're halfway to matching last season's points total after only 11 outings.

Early doors it may be, but with the shadow boxing complete, sides now know what they are up against in what may prove to be a very open contest. FORZA FIRST.

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