Last Friday night saw the return of the SSE Airtricity League, like a lover who had gone missing it was great to have her back. Fans from all corners of the country fans made their way to stadiums in far away places to give support to the clubs they have grown up with and whom they hoped could give them a good start to the season. There is no doubt that the fans at this time of the season have high hopes for the months ahead and feel their clubs can go on and win trophies, sparking the mood for celebration. There is a long way to go before the medals are handed out and a lot of water will have to go under the bridge before then. The SSE Airtricity League as we know is technically a summer league and it would make you laugh that last week on the eve of the 2017 season we had storm Doris in Ireland. I saw a lot of photos from around the grounds showing a lot of problems within the stadiums, but with hard work from ground staff and management we kicked off on time and what a very interesting first weekend we had.
On the opening weekend in the SSE Airtricity Premier League there were victories for Derry City, Drogheda United, Bray Wanderers, Limerick, Cork City and the champions Dundalk. It was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend and there were plenty of goals to be seen, in the six games played we had nineteen goals. The biggest victory of the weekend came in Limerick as the newly promoted side put five past Sligo Rovers. It was a magnificent result for the newly promoted side and their fans have found a new hero as their Brazilian striker Rodrigo Tosi scored a hat trick. Two further goals from Lee Lynch and Ian Turner added to Sligo,s woes and manager Dave Robertson has a huge job on his hands to raise the morale of his players after this defeat. Morale will also be a problem in Dalymount Park after the home side Bohemians were beaten four one by Derry City. It was a bad defeat, there is no doubt about that. I was extremely disappointed for Keith Long and his players as they were well beaten by what looks like a very good Derry City team. This could turn out to be a long season for the men from Dublin 7 and they will need to get things going in their upcoming games or they could be one of those clubs fighting to stay out of the bottom three this season. Champions Dundalk started off were they finished last season and won a tough battle against Shamrock Rovers. Stephen Kenny’s personnel may have changed but his winning system is still working and they edged out Rovers by two goals to one. Although they lost the game, Rovers looked really impressive and I feel they will be the Dublin side that puts in a challenge this season for the title. All in all, the Premier League has started with a bang and it has the promise of an excellent season.
In Division One there were wins for Athlone and UCD with the other two games ending all square between Shelbourne and Longford Town and Cobh Ramblers and Wexford. The big game was the one played in Tolka Park between Shelbourne and Longford which ended in a nil all draw. Although it ended scoreless it was a superb game and neither side deserved to lose. I have no doubt these two will be fighting it out at the top end of the league this season. One other game that caught my eye in this division was the clash between Cobh and Wexford. The home side who are managed by Stephen Henderson, a lad who I have an awful lot of time for, really must fancy their chances having missed out in last season,s play off. It looked like they were cruising to all three points when Lee Duffy equalised for Wexford very late in the game. Cobh had taken an early lead in the game when Dean Swords scored a cracking free kick from about twenty five yards out. It was certainly two points dropped by the home side, but knowing Stephen as I do he will drill it into his players the need to compete and stay focussed to see out games like this.
So there we have it, the first weekend is over and done with. It gave us some great games and many questions to be answered and we will have the SSE Airtricity League back with us now until October. That is something I am delighted to say.