Sunday, July 30, 2006


What a treat for the non-committed eL fan to look at the Premier Division table and see 4 clubs still competing tooth and tongue for supremacy.

At the time of writing Cork are preparing for their 2nd leg tie against Red Star; only the most optimistic amongst us believe that they will progress. In the words of Kevin Keegan, 'I would love it if they did.' Only the most pessimistic amongst us wouldn't give both Derry and Drogheda a fighting chance in their upcoming euro ties against Gretna and Start respectively.

Shels dismissal from Europe has coincided with an astonishing sprint to the top of the table as they have finally begun to believe everything that Pat Scully has said about them. They're playing with an elan typified by Bobby Ryan's first two league goals for the Reds and Joe Ndo's artistry.

Sligo have illuminated the competition with their attacking football and it's been refreshing to see a newly promoted club grab the bull by the scrotum and challenge mid table mediocrity. Even Gareth Farrelly's nightmare displays signs of slow evaporation as the Gypsies find some form.

If one was of the ilk which subscribes to scanning the pages of agony aunts in the hope of picking up a vulnerable woman or two, there may be seen there a correspondence signed; Disappointed, Dublin. I suspect this to be the work of Johnny McDonnell. While our man may be disappointed, he will not be despondent and recent new signings may restore the Inchicoremen to the fray.

Still tough to pick a winner, the European games could be a factor insofar as Cork are concerned. Their imminent dismissal would be a boon to their currently stretched squad, as with Shelbourne, they may rebound powerfully into league action. Drogheda's defence must surely be of Scottish descent and it will take them far. But both Setanta Cup finalists have continued to struggle for goals, with John O'Flynn and Declan O'Brien contributing about half of each side's tally they can ill afford their absences.

Derry City can do no wrong at the Brandywell, yet the naysayers continue to warn of their poor away form. They've picked up more points away than either Shels or Cork! Only an eejit would dismiss their chances. They have 4 top strikers to choose from plus the not inconsiderable contribution of Ciaran Martyn; goals are not a problem for the Candystripes, who responded to recent consecutive league defeats with recent consecutive league victories.

After falling unguarded into the deep end of negativity that surrounds football's finances let us celebrate the on field excellence and competitiveness of our native football league. Upward and onward.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


An already eventful season will surely take another twist or two when the League Cup Semi finals take place. One thing is guaranteed however; the citizens of Dublin will be represented in the final. And there's a tasty prize on offer. A place at Irish football's top table, the relative eurofest that is the Setanta Cup

On Monday August 7th the warriors of Shelbourne FC and Bohemian FC, two of the capital’s oldest clubs clash at Tolka Park in a celebrated Dublin Derby. It's sure to be a rare tussle as the Boez attempt to placate their uneasy supporters with the promise of a League Cup Final appearance. They've had a turvy-topsy sort of season, failing to ignite in the league but have enjoyed a kittensoft ride to the semi finals; accounting for Athlone Town, Monaghan United and Cobh Ramblers thus far, while impressively, not conceding. Irish U21 star Stephen Ward has been their goalscorer in chief with his tally coming courtesy of a hat trick against the Midlanders.

Shelbourne on the other hand have been aflame recently, and not in the crash and burn fashion which many green-eyed observers had wished for. Their Euro dismissal at the feet and heads of Odense and it's attendant dramas seem to have galvanised the squad. There are certainly questions to be ignored off field, but they’ve ticked all the boxes on it. Their Euro involvement precluded them from the opening round of this competition, and they have expunged the challenge of Dublin City in their 2nd round tie, before accounting comfortably for Finn Harps in the last eight. They also have the confidence of a comfortable 2-0 victory over the Gypsies in their only league meeting to date this season. To be fair to the Castleknock side, they have improved and gained in confidence since then but it's a lanky order for Gareth Farrelly's men.

It's hard to see beyond Shels here, but Bohs are sure to set them a tougher test than they did in their last meeting.

In the other tie, Limerick host high flying Derry City at Hogan Park on August 8th. Limerick appear to have been driving a circus clown's car recently…not only have the wheels come off but doors, bonnet and steering wheel; as their form has hit a wall, big red nose first. Unfortunately they’re not facing Shamrock Rovers, as the Hoops appear to be the only side that Lims can be confident of defeating currently; and it was at their expense that Limerick progressed to this round. They accounted for the Kerry League representative side in their opening tie. On the other foot, the Eurocrats of Derry City can do no wrong. They’re the defending champs and have accounted for Longford Town and an understrength Drogheda outfit at their citydel, securing clean sheets on both occasions. Following their defeat of IFK Gothenburg in Sweden, the trip to Hogan Park should be less than daunting for Stephen Kenny's crusaders.

Derry to reach the final !

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


It's been a snakes and ladders period for eL clubs recently. Cork City put in a scorching second half performance in Cyprus last week to maintain their Champions League push. Drogheda United and Derry City both have a decent chance of progressing in the UEFA Cup and Shelbourne have burst into life.

Yet on the day of Cork's progression much of our thoughts were fixed on the sudden, though not unexpected implosion of Dublin City. Many fans never took the club Seeryously, but their expunge-sion did not reflect well on the league in general. Poor ol' Cork found themselves RRS by Dublin again.

As the Southerners awoke the following morning, gingerly rubbing their tender rears, they were presented with the news that they would be without Danny Murphy and Joe Gamble for the Red Star match - both players attracting amorous advances from Apollonic counterparts. RRS UEFA style! Murphy's fists of fury earning him a second post match dismissal this season - surely this achievement must be recognised accordingly.

We use gold stars on jerseys to convey great achievements; why not a small red rectangle on the chest for every dismissal a player has received. Quinten Hann, the Aussie ex - snooker player came to Dublin a while back to fight Dublin footballer Jonny Magee over three rounds; we could invite him back to take on Danny in Turner's Cross - full house guaranteed!

Nonetheless, a great achievement was tainted by other stuff. Did Rocky lose his wallet? It was only on the 13th July that they signed Lee Roche, why did they bother?

The Shelbourne saga drags on. But suddenly on the field they've exploded into a goalscoring frenzy as Nutsy stuns the football world by picking an identical side for consecutive games. But the dark side remains.

Olly struggles manfully on, generating smoke and smudging mirrors; trawling ebay for that most precious commodity. Time. But maybe the most bizarre story has emanated from Barna.

I assume it's a picturesque place; it's a few years since I've been. The most famous resident of the western hamlet is legendary financial guru Nick Leeson. And he has warned the eircom League clubs regarding their fiscal imprudence. What's next, Rocky and Olly handing out Vaseline outside Turner's Cross from the boot of John Delaney's car? Ian Stokes liberally administering same to Damo's slightly reddened orifice? Priests wearing condoms? Referee's saying they got it wrong?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


The sun hasn't had much cause to shine on the Chez Shels in recent times, but it bestowed its warm glow on a sunny Tolka Park last night. The Dublin club, reviled and hated in equal measures by the majority of Irish football followers may have reached a crucial turning point in their season.

Upon entry to the Richmond Road citadel last night each punter was handed a blank white envelope. I opened it as a child would a stolen chocolate bar, hoping to find the 'Footballers For Sale' price list within. I fancied having Jason Byrne cut my grass as I supped from his boot telling him he'd missed a bit because he was trying to be too elaborate.

But 'twas not to be; not yet anyhow. The SHELBOURNE SUPPORTERS DEVELOPMENT GROUP have let their masks slip and presented themselves to the world. No natty costume, no sexy sidekick or trick car...just plain talking. the world of Ollybourne FC appears to be amenable to the well intentioned aims of the SSDG; and this must be seen as a massive step forward for fans of the club.

The club has formally announced news of their ongoing discussions with the interested parties regarding a possible move to the Morton Stadium in Santry. This el fan hopes that everything works out for the Reds.

In my unvaunted opinion Olly Byrne and Shelbourne have been the scythe that has helped to consign some of the more miserable aspects of League of Ireland football aside. Yes, the club are up to their nasal hairs in debt; much like Leeds United were once Peter Ridsdale had followed his dream. Leeds, however were pursuing bigger clubs; Shels pushed forward to become the biggest club; hauling others along in their wake; taking us to where we are now. Not Nirvana, but not yet Kurt Cobain.

There's still a heartbeat, hopefully Olly's recently promised rabbit shows up with millions to sustain the Reds still further. Then there's the football...

Pat Fenlon has retained a dignified and calm public demeanour as the walls were falling down around him; now his players sit astride the league table and anyone looking up cannot but admire their balls. Most goals scored, a single defeat, one game in hand - all that manure has produced some fine red roses.

Waterford had the pleasure of hoisting the fortnightly paid players to the summit. A very hot day preceded a very hot evening as the sun beamed it's rays onto the immaculate surface.

The opening half was turgid! Waterford's travelling support seemed to have come to offer sympathy, loyalty, and a silent vigil. At one stage the drummer struck up for a Shels free kick! The heat kept the pace down as the blue shirts remained rigidly behind the ball. Bobby Ryan's twinkling toes wide on the right were a constant menace to their defensive plans. Then, as befits any relegation battler, luck deserted United. Ryan was infield, left of centre, in stoppage time. The ball dropped to him, the defence discussed half time refreshments and Ryan scored only his 2nd league goal for the Reds hot on the heels of his first. And a finer pair you'll be hard pushed to find. Waterford had almost reached the Promised Land; but this game was wailing for a Shels goal.

With the new stand providing shade, and Waterford needing a goal, the second period showed a distinct improvement. The visitors became slightly less defensive, but without Reynolds, Chambers and new signing Hopkins their task was hopeless. Shels had almost too much time on the ball; it was as if they were expecting to be tackled, harried; but it didn't happen. Waterford began, and continued, like a side which wonder's what score they'll be beaten. And eventually they were; soundly.

They offered nothing up front; Daryl Kavanagh flashed. Against lesser sides with their best XI, maybe. But they've a lot of ground and morale to make up, and that's just the supporters! Mike Kerley has a massive job on his hands to turn this ship around; methinks they've already struck the iceberg.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Firstly apologies for the red-top headline, sometimes I just can't help myself. If it works for ZZ.... to the topic at hand, Cork's performance against Apollon Limassol.

For obvious reasons the boys weren't at full strength. Prematch this didn't appear to be a massive problem, after all it was only a Cypriot side they were playing; their national side currently sleeps at 92nd in FIFA's world rankings accompanied by such cruiserweights as Algeria and Gabon.

But it came to light that this side were not in anyway representative of Cypriot football; they were populated by hardened pros from across the continent; assembled at the behest of a Middle East moneyman who has allusions to Abramovich status - not unlike the situation at Shelbourne so! Gone were the commentary asides about postmen and fishermen; replaced by talk of World Cup squads and other such fanciful stuff.

And a fine strapping bunch of men they were and continue to be; the seed of the Stasi evident in their gentle tackling and delicate touch. But what of Cork? Well they seemed strangely off kilter.

They gave possession away at Aldi prices, the only rhythm generated in the ground came from the stands, they were unable to increase the tempo when required. All in all I felt it was a disappointing outing for el Rico's outfit.

Goldengob talked it up afterwards, and rightly so. Of premium importance was their clean sheet, and they are a goal ahead at half time. These are undoubtedly positives, but there is much to worry about.

Every time I've seen Cork this season I have come away with the view that if you can isolate Georgie they struggle. It doesn't necessarily make them a bad side, but it throws them out of their stride - and that gives you a chance.

Being unfamiliar with all the facts of what is going on in Georgieboy's boudoir I can only echo the sentiments of drunkenfoularsed man on bar stool: - 'no player can EVER be bigger than the team'-this moment of clarity from the aforementioned gusset-tongued individual bears my 100% endorsement. How el Rico attempts to enforce this mantra is his bag of rocks, that's what the man gets his gyno for. He needs to sort it immediately, if not sooner.

His side lacked subtlety on this occasion; Billy Woods, too often cast in cameo, was their best performer on the night and justice was served when he thrashed a fine right - footed effort into the visitor's net. O'Donovan and Fenn flattered regularly but inexplicably faltered regularly. These may well be the subtle signs of an ill - focused team; players with other things playing on their minds; the jetsam and flotsam of a turbulent week down South.

This game has lifted my head out of my backside, and 'tis not a pretty sight. We are not the only one's in Europe striving to improve our footballing status. These Cypriot sides are supposed to be cannon fodder. Our lads had 26 games in their legs; Apollon are out of season - that wasn't obvious. They had a relatively large travelling support, evidence of the club's success and a football fans desire for same.

Cork need every element in their favour if they are going to breast the tape in this particular tie. It's a 9pm kick - off [local time] next week, at least they won't be playing in extreme heat. They are going to have to trawl the depths of their determination and courage in the face of an expected onslaught from a capable side; and they will need Johnno and Georgieboy in the trenches with them. Good luck lads!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

S.S. eL

It's been a whirligig week in the land of eL. Noses seem to be have been pushed to one side by the determination of football fans to follow the World Cup; to prolong the autopsy into the completely unforeseen implosion of St. George's gold-laden emissaries against the cheating Portuguese; and don't mention the Italians.

Not content with reaching the World Cup Final for the 253rd time they've hoovered up headlines all over the geoid with their off field dealings. After all the drama and excitement our clubs have genuinely generated recently it's embarrassing to watch the Italians pout and twirl in search of attention. They are such drama queens, but you've only to see them roll around after a challenge to realise that.

The madness of recent times back home has been exacerbated by the transfer carousel, which is spinning furiously and relentlessly. Like the closing stages of a Monopoly game assets are being bought, sold, loaned, mortgaged and liquefied in the transfer tornado. Money is being produced from under the board, get out of jail free cards are being cashed in and almost anyone who's given the option is taking a chance.

Ollie's pulling rabbits out of his hat, Liam Kearney's beating a hasty exit in the car, Finn Harps are ironing out their problems, choose your own user for the old boot, and wonder where the next house or hotel will spring up.

Some may offer up the pressures of professionalism as a reason for the defection of Liam Kearney from our game, or the hissy fit of Georgie Boy in the Deep South. Thankfully our players and club officials haven't taken to defenestration, but as mentioned earlier our Latin friends are more adept when it comes to histrionics.

But the core business for the fan is the football, and the swirling results of recent times have made for an ever more intriguing battle. Pat's will rue the break as they've stumbled back into the action; it's pass the parcel as the top 4 exchange the leadership like it were a brown envelope; Drogs have become beatable. In the first division Cobh are on fire whilst Limerick continue to defy the odds.

And yet this week I expect support to galvanise for the Louthmen and their Southern nemesis as both clubs enter the European arena. With the exception of a few needlebrains, eL fans will be urging both sides on to greater voyages in the name of the good ship eL, an oft holed vessel which we're all happy to row and bale out when needed, for now it's all we've got. HEAVE - HEAVE, ad nauseum.