Dundalk Still Hard at Work

The Airtricity League title may have been secured by beating Bohemians, but the season is far from over for Stephen Kenny and his magnificent squad of players. It is a season that will be remembered for games that seemed to come along in threes for Dundalk. After the victory against Bohemians, another three games were on the horizon for the new Champions, Saint Patrick's Athletic, Galway United and then Zenith awaited the new title holders. With the league title already in the bag, the big game of this trilogy was the long away trip to face Zenith. After losing to Zenith in the home tie, Stephen Kenny and his squad knew they would be in for a tough game in Russia.

Before heading to Russia, Dundalk had to play their last two Airtricity League games of the season. A trip away to Saint Patrick's Athletic a couple of nights after beating Bohemians turned out to be a very interesting game. It was one of those games that the bookmakers took a real hiding on, and whoever set the odds at 4/1 for Saint Patrick's, should have had his bumps felt. The dogs on the street knew that Dundalk would rest a lot of players, and of course they did to give the legs a time to rest. Bookmakers do not make many mistakes like this and when Saint Pat,s went ahead you felt there was more to come and they easily ran out five two winners. This was probably Dundalk's worse performance of the season but with all the changes in personnel it was always going to be the outcome, manager Stephen Kenny actually made nine changes from the previous game. I am sure having beaten Bohemians, Stephen let his players off the lead and do a little bit of celebrating. It was after all the hard work that won them the league, so giving them a bit of freedom could only help in recharging their batteries.

Last up for the Champions in their league campaign was a home game against Galway United. Having lost to Saint Patrick,s, the league winners were ready to put on a good show in front of their adoring fans and finish off the campaign with a win. It was a party atmosphere around Oriel Park on the night and the home side were in no mood to let Galway ruin the night. It was one way traffic from the start and there was no way Dundalk were going to lose this one. Two goals from Dean Shiels and one each for Barrett and Kilduff saw the Champions run out four one winners. The home side even had the luxury of seeing a Robbie Benson goal ruled out for offside. This victory was Dundalk,s 25th of the season and consistency like that wins titles.

Dundalk travelled to Saint Petersburgh with the hope of getting something from the game against Zenith. It was always going to be a tough game for the Lillywhites, as, after all Zenith had come to Dublin in the previous game and taken all three points. But on the night Stephen Kenny,s men nearly pulled off the shock of shocks in the Petrovsky Stadium. They were giving a good account of themselves throughout the first half until the 42nd minute, when centre half Brian Gartland was caught in pocession and it allowed Giuliano in to score. It must have been a magnificent team talk for Kenny at half time, as in the second half they took the game to the home side. It was a surprise turnaround and when Daryl Horgan equalised you could feel the sense of uncertainty in the home crowd. Dundalk dug in and were nearly coming away with a point when Giuliano grabbed a second goal with ten minutes left. It was a huge disappointment for Dundalk not to get something out of the game and this just shows how far this club has come in such a short space of time.

They can still qualify for the knockout stages of this competition and next up is AZ Alkmaar, a game that Stephen Kenny and his men must win. Closer on the horizon, is an FAI Cup Final against Cork City, a game that if they win would result in them winning a double double, all we can do now is wait and see.

Final Weekend of the SSE Airtricity League

This Friday night the SSE Airtricity Premier League comes to a conclusion. It has been a memorable season for all the right reasons. Great crowds, great games and great champions in the men from the North East, Dundalk. Manager Stephen Kenny and his team have been deserved Champions and in fairness had the title rapped up from a longtime as their was nobody to touch them. Although they have been crowned Champions their is still a lot more to sort out in this season of summer football. Relegation and European spots are still up for grabs as we enter the final game. It has been a season that saw the TV stations come on board and with games been shown  live on the National stations it all looks well for the future.

I am sure if Sky was to be advertising the last round of games they would be building it up as Fantastic Friday, we all know they can go over the top at times, mind you I have to admit they would not be to far off the mark in this case. Their are few things need to happen to sort out the season,s final standings. Bohemians welcome Cork City to the home of Irish football Dalymount Park. The home side under manager Keith Long know that if they can beat their visitors and Saint Patrick,s Athletic lose in Galway, it will be the side from the north side of Dublin who will grab that European spot. It would be the Gypsies first appearance in Europe since 2013, This is going to be a tough ask and they need Galway to do them a huge favour as Saint Pat,s will be a tough nut to crack. A big crowd is expected and maybe Bohemians will hope Cork have one eye focussed on the FAI Cup final which they play on the 12th of November against Dundalk.

At the bottom of the league, the big thing is not to finish eleventh, as this put,s you into a play off with the Division One play off winners. SSE Premier League football,is what clubs want in Ireland and not to be in the pit of Division One next season. As it stands Drogheda United are the team in the dreaded eleventh spot. They need to go to Shamrock Rovers and win and hope the two teams above them lose. Those two teams Galway and Sligo Rovers just need to avoid defeat and even at that, they could still stay up on goal difference. As I said at the outset, it is the final round of games and I will be heading to the Bohemians v Cork match and I am expecting a real belter, after all Bohemians need a win so it will be all out attack on the night. Once all the results are in, all we have to look forward to is the play off legs and of course the FAI Cup Final,it will be a long winter without the live football fix.