Owen Heary celebrates a goal for Shelbourne against Deportivo La Coruna in 2006. Tonight, he'll be wearing the red and black of Bohemians. ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Airtricity League

Column: Whatever happened to the glory days?

Bohemians v Shelbourne is the stand-out fixture in the Airtricity League this week, but times have changed for Dublin’s northside giants, writes Niall Kelly.

ONCE UPON A time, not so long ago, the white-hot clashes of Bohemians and Shelbourne were the standout fixtures of the League of Ireland calendar.

Derbies don’t come much more local than a meeting of Dublin’s northside footballing giants. Just two kilometres separate their respective abodes of Tolka Park and Dalymount Park, placing a premium on the rivalry in the build-up to the game and the all-important bragging rights in its aftermath.

It’s a fixture which has thrown up some classics. Collar a fan of either side on the way down to Phibsboro tonight and ask them about the 10-goal thriller in 2001. Wry smiles and rolled eyes are still a fairly standard response to the memory of Shels’ 6-4 win at the home of their bitter rivals.

And then there’s the fact that when these two meet, titles are usually decided, one way or another. At least, that’s the way it was for most of the decade just past.

From the summer of 1999 to the autumn of 2009, 11 seasons of the League of Ireland were played (the bonus coming as part of the adjustment to summer football). Of those 11, nine headed back to either Drumcondra or Phisboro, with Shels shading that mini-rivalry by virtue of their five to Bohs’ four.

The word dominance hardly does it justice. But although the glory days are a not-too-distant memory, the landscape has changed significantly as the old enemies prepare to renew their league rivalry for the first time since 2006.

Friends reunited

Both have been stripped of their heavyweight credentials – Shels by their penitential stint in the First Division; Bohs by the worrying financial problems that threaten to condemn them to a similar fate. They may have once commanded top billing, but for this season anyway, the northsiders will be little more than a sideshow as the real business is conducted in Tallaght, Sligo, and up north in Derry.

But that doesn’t mean that there’s not plenty at stake in Dalymount tonight. Aaron Callaghan’s young Bohs side have saved the best of their early-season performances for the Setanta Sports Cup, but they know that they had their chances in last Friday’s 1-0 defeat against Derry in the Brandywell.

Their cause won’t be helped by the absence of Adam Martin, who has settled quickly at the heart of the Bohs midfield but misses tonight through suspension following his red card last week.

For 93 minutes last week, Shels boss Alan Matthews would’ve been delighted with his side’s showing against last year’s runners-up, Sligo Rovers. And then the curse of the last-minute goal — the same curse which cost Shelbourne the First Division title on the final day of last season — struck again, when Jason McGuinness bundled home the Bit O’Red’s equaliser.


Over in Tallaght Stadium, two more old acquaintances will meet again when Roddy Collins brings his Monaghan United project to the home of the champions, Shamrock Rovers. The arrow on the love/hate barometer between Collins and the Hoops supporters leans decidedly towards the latter, and nothing would give Roddy more pleasure than to dent his old employer’s title aspirations at an early stage.

Rovers weren’t at their best in Hunky Dorys Park last Friday night and Monaghan will look to learn from the mistakes of Drogheda, who really came into the contest when they scrapped their initial game plan of ceding possession to Rovers and started to pressure the visitors in midfield.

This week, Drogheda are the guests of Cork City as Premier Division football makes its return to Turner’s Cross. The old adage that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” clearly doesn’t apply on Leeside, judging by the knee-jerk reaction of some City fans to their unexpected reversal against UCD last week. If Cork find it difficult to break down Drogheda, excitement and expectation could turn to frustration before the night is out.

Derry City’s record at the Carlisle Grounds has been excellent of late, with three wins from their last three trips to face Bray. But the seaside is not always an easy place to go and has been a banana skin for many title hopefuls on occasion over the last few seasons.

St Pat’s are possibly the side to have undergone the biggest transformation in the summer — just three of the side which won 1-0 at home to Bray last Friday night played in Inchicore last season.

With changes on that scale, and a new boss in Liam Buckley, it will naturally take the Saints a bit of time to gel. Jake Kelly and Christy Fagan are suspended for tonight’s trip to face Sean McCaffrey’s baby-faced Dundalk side.

Premier Division Fixtures (Friday 7.45pm unless stated)

  • Bohemians v Shelbourne
  • Bray Wanderers v Derry City
  • Cork City v Drogheda United
  • Dundalk v St Patrick’s Athletic
  • Shamrock Rovers v Monaghan United (Friday, 8pm)
  • Sligo Rovers v UCD (Saturday, 7.45pm)

First Division Fixtures

  • SD Galway v Wexford Youths (Friday, 7.45pm)
  • Waterford United v Limerick (Friday 7.45pm)
  • Longford Town v Athlone Town (Saturday, 7.30pm)
  • Finn Harps v Mervue United (Saturday, 7.45pm)

Sonic Youths: Wexford not getting ahead of themselves

It’s Friday, so here’s all your Airtricity League Premier Division team news…