The much loved SSE Airtricity League returned last weekend for the first round of games in the 2018 season. First up was a Dublin Derby between old foes Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers who as we all know have no love for each other at all. In the weeks running up to the game a lot of people were asking how both sides would do this campaign. The game was sold out for more than a week before Friday nights clash and there were even ticket touts outside the ground asking for anyone buying or selling a ticket, something I do not think I have ever heard outside a League of Ireland ground.
On the field both sets of players could feel the white hot atmosphere and for the first fifteen minutes it was a very scrappy affair with neither side really creating anything in a game that was shown live on TV. Sometimes these live games can be drab affairs and players are afraid to make mistakes in front of the cameras. Both sides had added new players during the close season and you could clearly see that both sides were having problems settling in. Rovers took the lead when Ronan Finn finished off a classy move by the hoops when an overhead kick by Burke came back off the post, mind you there was a hint of offside about the goal but as there was no VAR so the goal stood and it was one nil to the away side. From the moment Rovers went in front they took total control of the game and their slick passing was causing Bohemians all sorts of problems. When referee Paul McLaughlin blew the half time whistle you could see the home side just wanted to get into the dressing room and listen to the advice of manager Keith Long on how he wanted to change things, so as to get his team back into the game. Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors in these games but it was clearly evident at the start of the second half that the Bohemians manager had given his side a good talking too as they settled down a lot better in the second half and started to find each other with the ball. The game turned in the home sides favour when Dean Casey headed home a magnificent effort in the 72nd minute and it lit the fuse for a mad twelve minutes. Bohemians took the lead when a long clearance by goalkeeper Shane Supple was headed on and found Paddy Kavanagh in loads of space and he buried his shot past Horgan in the Rovers net. The two goals really rattled Rovers and the game was over as a contest when Casey headed home again to make it three one. It was a well deserved victory for Bohemians as they really put it up to Rovers and the away side seemed to collapse the longer the game went on. It was hard to figure what went wrong for Rovers after their first half domination and you have to be concerned if you are a Rovers fan when you see both your centre half,s playing as if they were total strangers to each other. All in all it was a super start to the season for Bohemians but Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley has a lot to do to lift his side after the defeat.
As a footnote to the outcome of the game you can not let the moment pass without heaping praise on referee Paul McLaughlin who was superb, you do not hear that said very often about a match official. Last Friday night Paul knew the importance of the Dublin Derby and refereed it accordingly, he let the game flow as best he could and was not blowing for free kicks every couple of seconds. Good refereeing can help a game flow and bad referee can destroy the prospect of a good game but on the night Paul was superb, high praise indeed from someone who can be highly critical of referees at times. Overall it was a great night back for the SSE Airtricity League and the events on the pitch did not let anyone down.