IT WAS supposed to be the most entertaining and competitive League of Ireland First Division we were going to have for some time, but with fives games remaining, Shelbourne are all but Champions, and I would be surprised to see any team outside of the play-offs force their way into the top-five.
Apart from Shelbourne and Treaty United, others teams must look at themselves and admit that they have failed to live up to expectations. Shels haven’t been head and shoulders above teams in terms of dominating games through free-flowing football but they are efficient and know how to win games.
Their superior physicality does shine through in games and they use the experience in their side to their advantage. There hasn’t been one player that has really stood out for me in the league throughout the season, but if I had to pick one player of the season, then it would be Shels’ centre-back Ally Gilchrist.
The Scottish defender has had his injury problems in the past, which have had a negative effect on his game. He’s not as quick as he once was but he has become a more intelligent player and reads the game excellently. Against Cork City, and having to face the pace that Cian Murphy possesses, Gilchrist limited the striker and timed his challenges to perfection. He’s a real leader in the Shels team and although Ryan Brennan will receive most of the plaudits for the number of goals he has scored, Gilchrist is the star man for me.
Treaty United manager Tommy Barrett has to be among those up for manager of the year for how he has not only managed to assemble a squad, last minute, willing to play for practically free — which is a challenge in itself — but to also have the Limerick outfit fighting for promotion.
Galway United and Bray Wanderers are the two clubs that have disappointed most this season. I would imagine Galway’s budget would be close to if not bigger than Shels’ yet, John Caulfield’s side are 10 points adrift of the Dubliners. You could excuse some of Galway’s poor campaign if they played attractive football, but it would be hard to find someone to admit that they enjoy watching the Tribesmen’s style of play.
Yes, I am an advocate of winning football, but over-relying on set-pieces has not worked for Caulfield’s side and they have shown they are capable of passing the ball on the rare occasions that they do.
Galway are a full-time team and would have budgeted for promotion. I do fear for the players were the club not to go up through the play-offs because I don’t imagine the club remaining full-time if they are in the First Division again next season.
Bray were a side I predicted to be challenging Shels right to the end for the title but the Seagulls have lacked consistency. It was a very slow start by Gareth Cronin’s side. It wasn’t until the seventh league game that they got their first win. On paper, they have a team capable of competing for the title but they find themselves in a battle to secure fifth spot.
I’ve seen Bray on a few occasions this season and they are yet to impress me. For all of the technically good players they have, there is a lack of pace in the Bray squad. Perhaps a few years ago, teams could get away with a shortage of mobile players in their team but in modern football, that is not possible and it’s the main reason why Bray are struggling.
Cork City know that next season has to be better. I think supporters have been very patient with this young squad and will be encouraged by recent results and performances, but a repeat next season is not acceptable.
City have to mount a serious promotion challenge. There can be no more excuses about the players lacking experience.
They were given a pass this season, but next year, their won’t be over 2000 supporters at Turner’s Cross if the team isn’t performing.
Cobh Ramblers waved the white flag on their season by dismissing Stuart Aston when the club still had a chance at the play-offs. That’s nothing against Darren Murphy, who recently was appointed manager on a full-time basis.
His job has been very difficult because this isn’t his group of players. Now that Murphy knows he will be in charge next season, I expect a large turnover of players.
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