17 Jun 19
The Irish Sun
ON Saturday morning, scores of League of Ireland players headed abroad to make the most of the mid-season break.
Their teams’ fortunes may be put to the back of their mind as they look to get away from it all and recharge for the second half of the campaign.
Dundalk players celebrate their 2018 success
But here SunSport has taken a look at how the 10 ten Premier Division sides have fared so far and outlines where they might need to brush up.
DUNDALK – 9 – EXCELLENT
THE departure of Stephen Kenny as manager after six success-filled years left people wondering how his loss would affect the club.
So far, the answer has been ‘not a lot’.
Dundalk duo Pat Hoban and Vinny Perth
After 21 games last season, Dundalk had accumulated 49 points, the exact same number they have collected under Vinny Perth this year.
Their goals return has dropped from 53 to 40 but they have leaked just ten goals, one fewer than last term.
They managed to get through a period when they were badly hit by injuries without serious damage and, since losing to Sligo Rovers in April, they have taken 31 points out of 33.
It is hard to see who can stop them but an extended European run would be a challenge, while they also need to ensure a new contract for Pat Hoban does not become a distraction.
SHAMROCK ROVERS – 7 – GOOD
FOUR losses in their last eight games has dampened the early-season enthusiasm at Rovers, who dropped just two points out of a possible 36.
The gap they opened up at the top of the table was a little misleading, with two games against bottom side Finn Harps taking place when other teams were not in action.
Aaron Greene reacts to a missed chance against Bohs
But, although a third derby defeat of the season to Bohemians will have meant they break up on a low, progress has been made.
They have 17 more points on the board than they did at the same stage last season. Their first game back is at home to Dundalk.
Win it and they are just two points behind but they need to score more goals.
They are averaging 1.53 a game.
The last time a team won the league with those sort of figures was when their boss Stephen Bradley played for Drogheda United in 2007.
The average for the last five champions has all been over two.
BOHEMIANS – 8 – VERY GOOD
THE bottom line at Dalymount Park every season since the club went close to going out of business at the start of this decade has been to avoid relegation.
But, having narrowly missed out on European qualification last year, as it turned out when Waterford were refused entry, a Europa League spot looks like a realistic ambition this time around.
Bohs players celebrate their derby victory over Shamrock Rovers
Friday’s win over rivals Shamrock Rovers left them six points clear in third, with one more game played than Derry City and one fewer than St Pat’s.
Given Dinny Corcoran has scored seven of their 25 league goals to date, they will need to strengthen in attack, with their top scorer gone for the foreseeable future after breaking his ankle.
But tying Friday’s derby hero Danny Mandroiu down to a new contract will ease fears that they might lose a talent who has lit up the League of Ireland in his first season in senior football.
DERRY CITY – 7 – GOOD
ALTHOUGH Kenny Shiels had won silverware — the EA Sports Cup — in his final season in charge, there was a sense that Declan Devine was inheriting a bit of a mess.
To be in the mix for a European spot with a considerable chunk of the season gone represents progress for the former goalkeeper.
Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe has been a standout for Derry City
He has used the loan market well, bringing in David Parkhouse from Sheffield United as well as Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe from Colchester United.
The Nigerian has been secured for the rest of the season but no deal has been struck for Parkhouse, prompting a move for UCD’s Conor Davis.
Capturing College frontman Davis would help to ensure that they have a cutting edge up front and allow them to continue to be resolute on the road, where they have been beaten only twice in 11 games.
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC – 6 – SATISFACTORY
AN opening-night win over Cork City, followed by a stoppage-time clincher from Mikey Drennan against Sligo a week later, represented a perfect start for new boss Harry Kenny.
But St Pat’s have struggled to achieve any consistency since.
Mikey Drennan celebrates a goal against UCD
They have dropped points against all of the other nine sides but are also one of only two teams to have defeated Dundalk.
They have not been helped by the fact the absence of some players has led them to playing wing-backs when Kenny’s preferred system is a flat-back four. But their stand-out problem is a lack of goals.
Keeper Brendan Clarke is having a solid season between the posts and Ciaran Kelly has shone.
But, at the other end, only Drennan and centre-half Kevin Toner have scored more than once. They need Chris Forrester to start delivering.
SLIGO ROVERS – 6 – SATISFACTORY
ASK a League of Ireland supporter which club is most likely to have a player scoring their country’s first goal at the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the chances are they would say Sligo Rovers.
The Bit O’Red has long had a tradition of casting the net far and wide for players.
Dante Leverock is stretchered off against Bohs
And the acquisition of Bermuda captain Dante Leverock, who netted against Haiti on Sunday, from Estonian outfit Trans Narva is a case in point.
When Leverock was knocked out against Bohemians last month, their other Caribbean star, Romeo Parkes, came to the fore with a double to seal victory at Dalymount Park.
They were two of 10 close-season arrivals and it looks like the team is beginning to gel.
They are the only side to have beaten the top three, recording home wins over Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers, and have the potential to further climb the table.
CORK CITY – 4 – MUST DO BETTER
IT IS difficult to put any positive spin on what has been, so far, a difficult season which has already seen John Caulfield’s departure.
Five consecutive top-two finishes — featuring one title win and four FAI Cup final appearances in a row, two of which were won — set high standards at Turner’s Cross.
Cork City interim boss John Cotter
It became clear rather quickly that they were going to be unable to match them this term and a parting of the ways with Caulfield seemed inevitable.
John Cotter got his reign off to a great start with a win over Bohemians but since then the only team they have beaten is UCD, twice.
Making up ground in the race for Europe is not impossible but looks unlikely.
The fact that they are seeded in this year’s Europa League may offer some chance of getting through a round.
WATERFORD – 5 – MUST DO BETTER
THIRD from bottom will be a disappointment for a side which finished third last season but they have between one and four games in hand on every other team.
But the problem is that, when they get around to playing those matches, they may have fewer options at their disposal than when they were originally scheduled.
Waterford ace Aaron Drinan
Aaron Drinan, Scott Twine and Hugo Keto’s loan moves have all ended while Aaron Simpson has also left, having only joined in April.
Drinan was the only unqualified success at the RSC but, with the bombshell landing that two months ago that the Blues would be unable to play in Europe, there will be precious little money to add bodies to the squad.
Worse still, they are vulnerable to losing key men such as Zack Elbouzedi, who picked up a shoulder injury during the Toulon Tournament, and Bastien Hery to rival clubs.
They get back to action after the break with a home game against Bohemians.
UCD – 4 – MUST DO BETTER
AFTER nine straight league defeats, followed by a month without a game, UCD have it all to do to turn their season around.
Collie O’Neill’s side had made an OK start to the campaign after winning the First Division last season.
Neil Farrugia has been a bright light for UCD’s season
But their poor run coincided with the onset of exam time in Belfield. Despite their struggles, keeper Conor Kearns, defender Liam Scales and attacker Neil Farrugia impressed sufficiently to get called into the Ireland Under-21 squad, although Farrugia later pulled out through injury.
He is still sidelined and, when he does next play, it may not be for UCD as interest in him hots up.
He, Scales, Conor Davis and captain Gary O’Neill are all wanted by other clubs and whether College can mount a successful survival bid may depend on their ability to keep their squad together.
FINN HARPS – 3 – MUST DO BETTER
GIVEN their geographical disadvantage and budgetary restraints, Finn Harps’ struggles this season will not have come as a surprise to anyone, least of all manager Ollie Horgan.
Sure enough, they failed to record a win in their first 15 games.
They then managed eight points from four matches, which hinted at something of a resurgence for Horgan and Co.
But, since then, they have lost five on the trot, conceding 16 goals.
Peter Burke’s struggles between the posts saw former Donegal keeper Mark Anthony McGinley line out in goal against St Pat’s on Friday.
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Horgan could really do with No 1 Ciaran Gallagher getting fit again.
Although there is talent in their ranks with players such as Daniel O’Reilly and Mikey Place, it does not look as if they have enough quality to get themselves out of trouble.
They are level with UCD on points but with three more matches played, their survival hopes may hinge on whether their rivals hold on to their best players.
Ollie Horgan’s Finn Harps are struggling