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Five things we learned from the Airtricity League this weekend

Shamrock Rovers were the big winners after another round of League of Ireland matches.

Image: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

1. Hoops happy again

SHAMROCK ROVERS WERE the major benefactors from this weekend’s games as they easily dispatched of Drogheda United, with another result also going their way.

The Hoops dealt yet another defeat to Drogs, with second-half goals from Craig Sives and a brace from the returning Gary Twigg, but Derry City dropped points at home to Bray to extend their gap over the Candystripes to three points.

Although Sligo are now just two points behind after they defeated Galway United on Saturday, Michael O’Neill’s team will be rubbing their hands with glee ahead of Thursday’s game against Bray.

2. Drogs days might not be over

The change in the relegation/promotion system for this season means despite Drogheda’s embarrassing start to the season it might not lead to definite relegation, mainly because Galway United’s desperate form is keeping them in with a shot of finishing second from bottom, and therefore safe.

Even if they did finish last, they wouldn’t be automatically relegated, because the Premier Division will be increased to 12 teams next season and third place in the First will face whoever finishes last in the Premier in a one-legged play-off.

While most believe that both deserve to go down after their dismal starts to the season, it won’t be the case. I’m probably in for a little abuse here, but four or five First Division teams would do much better than both Galway and Drogheda in the top tier and it’s a shame that one will stay up.

They face each other on Thursday night, a result that could go a long way to deciding who will go into that play-off.

3. Who said this league is boring?

Go on, take a guess…when was the last 0-0 in the Premier Division?

It was 9 May, when St Pat’s held Shamrock Rovers at home. However, that has been the sole scoreless draw in the 23 league games played so far in May, and to think some people say this league is boring.

The entertainment on show in both divisions so far this season has been quite brilliant at times. There’s no-two horse race like in Spain, and anything at all can happen. Each week there is some surprise result, and any side apart from the bottom two are capable of taking points off each other on their day.

Get to a game and you’re unlikely to go home disappointed.

4. Conan’s good cause

Conan Byrne is a rarity in footballing circles. Away from football the Shelbourne striker is eloquent, interesting and intelligent. He has considerable business acumen, playing a big role in Sporting Fingal’s work off the field before they withdrew from the league and now the striker is also embarking on a charity mission to Zambia.

He will hold a golf classic at Swords GC this Friday, and with all this week’s games on Thursday night because of the Carling Nations Cup, why not get a group together and enter a team of four for a good cause.  Feel free to get in contact with the man himself by emailing: conanbyrne.zambianmissions@gmail.com.

Meanwhile, on the field Byrne is turning into something akin to a machine as his second-half goal meant Shelbourne remained on top of the table after overcoming a stiff Longford Town at Tolka Park.

5. Return of the big guns

Rumours are circulating around the banks of the Lee that Denis Behan and Joe Gamble could be on their way back to Cork City after they were released by Hartlepool United at the end of the English domestic season.

Both have had preliminary talks with City boss Tommy Dunne and also confirmed that they would like to move back to Cork after a difficult season for the duo in north-east England.

There were further hints over the weekend when three players were released by the club. Rory Morrissey, who had little time to impress, an unimpressive Timmy Kiely and third-choice right back Alan Carey were all shown the door, and the belief is that the money saved from paying the trio can go towards bringing back at least one of the former stars.

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