Another week where European adventures dominate, and not all clubs are happy with that. Great news for one of the Rovers, likely the end of the European road for another while Pats and Shels feud like it’s 2002 all over again.
The Women’s FAI Cup produced a thriller and we even had last minute heroics in the men’s Premier Division. Let’s get you up to speed.
Shamrock Rovers guarantee group stage football
Could watch this all day.
Might watch this all day.
Going to watch this all day.
— Shamrock Rovers FC ☘️ (@ShamrockRovers) August 10, 2022
We use ‘guarantee’ deliberately there as we still don’t know if Rovers will play in the Europa League or the Europa Conference League. They handily beat Shkupi of North Macedonia though and will now face Ferencvaros of Hungary for a place in the Europa League.
So far Rovers have performed to expectations. They beat the two sides they should have beat (albeit very handily in both cases), and lost to the side they were expected to lose to. They won’t be favourites against Ferencvaros so how they perform there will tell us where Rovers are in the grand European scheme of things.
There’s lots of discussion of how this achievement should be received within the league. I wrote some years ago about how Dundalk’s Europa League qualification might effect the rest of the league. You can make your own mind up as to whether their qualification (and repeat in 2020) improved the League of Ireland.
It seems Rovers are better set up now to take advantage of the riches on the way to them and there’s nothing wrong with fans of clubs thinking that’s a bad thing. Even with the changes in rules and the advantage of seeding, no one can deny that an Irish club reaching the group stages is still quite an achievement.
Pats’ looooong stay in Sofia
An amazing performance and a deserved winner in Sofia from Serge Atakayi! 😍😍😍 #StPatsFC | #SaintsInEurope pic.twitter.com/WDZkpvN1I0
— St Patrick’s Athletic FC (@stpatsfc) August 4, 2022
While reaction to Rovers progressing in Europe may be mixed (in general it seems more view it positively than negatively), the reaction to St Pats exploits in Bulgaria among Shelbourne’s support, and management, was universally furious.
Under UEFA regulations club must travel to games in this round by charter. St Pats only had their flight out confirmed on Tuesday and on Wednesday flew from Knock to Sofia via Strasbourg. By Thursday evening their return flight remained unconfirmed, and by Friday evening, it was clear St Pats weren’t going to be home by Sunday.
The league postponed Sunday’s game in Tolka Park and Shelbourne were furious. The league is investigating the matter and we’ll soon find out the result of that.
What we do know is that Pats were brilliant on the field in Sofia and won 1-0 thanks to Serge Atakayi’s late winner. Tim Clancy has settled on a 3-4-2-1 formation in Europe and it’s paid dividends so far. CSKA are still favourites to progress but a big crowd in Tallaght tonight should help the Saints.
TV or not TV, that is the question
Last week RTE showed St Pat’s game in Sofia on RTE news now, and they’re showing the second leg tonight on the same platform. Rovers game with Shkupi in North Macedonia was restricted to LOI TV streaming and some LOI fans weren’t happy.
On the LOI Central podcast last year, RTE head of sport, Declan McBennett said that RTE would follow the champions until they’re out of Europe and then look at other options. He argued semantics on twitter this week as to whether that meant out of the Champions League (his interpretation) or out of Europe (most people’s interpretation).
Last year RTE did not show either of Shamrock Rovers games in the Champions League so even at his strict definition, it’s simply not true that RTE always show the Champion in action in Europe. It’s understandable in some respects that RTE are hesitant to show most games as it appears the audience figures aren’t great. However they are publicly funded and when they trumpet how much they support other sports, it’s odd that Irish football is the one to lose out most of the time.
There’s nothing stopping other channels showing Irish clubs in Europe of course. Since the demise of Setanta/eir Sports, only one game has been shown by any non-RTE Irish channel (Flora Tallinn v Shamrock Rovers on Virgin last year).
The group stages are different. Virgin have the contract for the Europa League and Europa Conference League and will show all Shamrock Rovers games. They’ll have to show all St Patrick’s Athletic games too if they miraculously qualify. Meanwhile, we’ve no idea when the next men’s LOI or FAI Cup game will be on broadcast TV.
Nothing beats a 93rd minute laser header
Amazing goal here from Pat Hobanpic.twitter.com/DgXb2HXOjS
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) August 5, 2022
Sligo Rovers look set to exit Europe after their heavy defeat away to Viking in Norway last week, but they bounced back brilliantly to beat Bohemians 2-1 on Sunday in the league. It keeps them in the mix for European qualification but they’re a good bit behind the top three.
Second and third played in Oriel Park and Dundalk needed a brilliant Pat Hoban headed goal deep into injury time to rescue a point. In the battle to avoid the drop, Finn Harps had a massive 3-0 win over Drogheda and jumped ahead of UCD again.
We have a full set of fixtures this weekend for the first time in months with Pats and Sligo playing Sunday because of their European games tonight. Derry City are eight points behind Shamrock Rovers but a win at home to them on Friday, and subsequent European backlogs for Rovers, will have them dreaming of a title again. Rovers had asked that the game be moved to Saturday or Sunday but Derry refused.
Dundalk in second will be hoping Derry win too as they ravel to Dalymount to take on Bohs. The game with most at stake this weekend may be the clash of UCD v Finn Harps in Belfield.
Cup of (nearly) thrills
The Women’s FAI Cup was at the quarter final stage at the weekend. We looked to have a huge upset as Peamount United raced to a 2-0 lead in Tolka Park before Shels roared back to take a 3-2 lead before half time. No scoring in the second half meant the league leaders were through to the semis. They’ll meet Bohemians who beat Sligo Rovers to reach the semi finals for the first time and we should see a decent crowd in Tolka for that one.
The other semi sees Athlone Town and Wexford Youths meet. Athlone continue to be the story of the year but struggled to overcome a dogged Cork City side. The holders from Wexford left it late but managed to sneak past DLR Waves to ensure the final will be a Dublin v non-Dublin affair once again.