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We've rated each of the SSE Airtricity League clubs at the halfway mark of the season

Do you agree with our grades?

NOW THAT THE SSE Airtricity League has reached the halfway mark of the season, it’s the ideal time to take stock and look back on how the first half of the campaign has unfolded.

Bohemians

Dean Kelly Dean Kelly scored twice as Bohs beat Rovers last week Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Grade: A-

How they’ve fared: Even the most ardent of Bohs supporters couldn’t have envisaged their side’s resurgence to date with manager Keith Long making an instant impact at Dalymount Park.

Their league position of fifth doesn’t necessarily reflect an excellent first half of the season with the Gypsies pulling off some shock results, most notably beating Dundalk at Oriel Park and recently claiming derby day bragging rights over Shamrock Rovers.

Long and his players will be all too aware of the challenge that lies ahead as they look to consolidate their position and then push for the European berths.

Star pupil: Adam Evans – There have been several reasons why Bohs have enjoyed an upturn in fortunes and it’s difficult to pinpoint one player but the signing of Adam Evans was a shrewd piece of business.

The winger has already scored five league goals and alongside Dean Kelly is the club’s leading goalscorer. He’s featured in all but one of the 17 games.

Must do better: Paddy Kavanagh – It may seem harsh but a player of Kavanagh’s ability needs to be contributing more, particularly in the goals column.

Bray Wanderers

David Cassidy celebrates scoring There hasn't been much to celebrate for Bray this year Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Grade: D-

How they’ve fared: Where to start? It’s been another turbulent few months at the Carlisle Grounds with off-field troubles transferring onto the pitch. There has, however, been an improvement but underlying issues remain.

The appointment of Trevor Croly on a long-term deal seems to have rejuvenated the Seagulls but they remain second from bottom having won just three games thus far.

Star pupil: David Cassidy – A pretty straightforward choice given the midfielder has almost single handedly dragged Bray through the first-half of the season. With five goals to his name, he has more than all of the other forwards in the squad combined.

Must do better: Chris Lyons – Bray’s enduring defensive shortcomings will continue to be their downfall more often than not but the players at the end other of the pitch need to step-up to the mark too. For a player with much potential, Lyons has scored just once this season and looks a shadow of the striker who caught the eye for UCD and Bohs.

Cork City

Dan Murray and Garry Buckley react after a missed chance Cork have kept pace with the leaders but haven't hit top gear yet Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Grade: B+

How they’ve fared: Last season’s runners-up have kept tabs with Dundalk and find themselves just three points off the summit but their performances have been far from what we saw last term.

It’s hugely encouraging for John Caulfield that his side have rarely been in first gear yet they’ve continued to pick-up the results to stay in the hunt for the title.

You’d expect Cork to up their game after the break as they look to go one step better this time around.

Star pupil: Alan Bennett – One of several former internationals in the Rebels’ ranks, Bennett has been a rock at the heart of the City defence and has added another level of stability to an already sturdy rearguard.

Must do better: John O’Flynn – It’s been another disappointing season for the striker having failed to make an impression during limited game time. The 32-year-old has made just five appearances.

Derry City

Peter Hutton There's been plenty of food for thought for Peter Hutton Source: Presseye/Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

Grade: C-

How they’ve fared: The pre-season anxiety has been justified as Derry have been unable to find a spark to ignite another faltering campaign. Manager Peter Hutton is working off a limited budget and that’s been reflected in a squad which has been stretched more than once.

The Candystripes, who sit in ninth, are only four points above Bray and that relegation/promotion playoff spot having won just three games. The source of their problems is obvious having only scored 12 goals in the opening 17 games.

Star pupil: Ryan Curran – Although it’s rather gloomy over the Brandywell, there is always one or two young starlets who shine through. Curran has stood out so far with some impressive cameos and has been rewarded with two goals.

Must do better: Cillian Morrison – It’s easy to judge a forward’s performances by the goals column but when your side is firing blanks, a striker needs to start hitting the net – something which Morrison is yet to do for the Candystripes.

Drogheda United

Llyod Buckley celebrates scoring the first goal Drogheda will be hoping to kick on when the action resumes Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Grade: C-

How they’ve fared: On the face of it, it’s been a decent start for Drogheda. They’re a club who always punch above their weight, particularly in the cup competitions, so quelling expectations can often be a challenge.

United have picked up some encouraging results but they’ve been offset by some equalling disappointing ones and Johnny McDonnell’s side have been unable to build up any sort of momentum.

That said, they’re in a position to propel themselves up the standings in the second half of the campaign if they can address a couple of issues.

Star pupil: Daryl Kavanagh – The experienced forward seems to have settled at United Park after a couple of difficult seasons and has become the vocal point of Drogheda’s attack.

Must do better: Sean Brennan – With the onus falling on Sean Thornton in the engine room, there should be freedom and space for Brennan to pull the strings but he’s yet to really fire and has been substituted in 11 of his 15 appearances.

Dundalk

Dundalk team huddle The Lilywhites have been like a runaway train Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Grade: A+

How they’ve fared: What else can you say that hasn’t already been said about this side? Their title defence couldn’t have gone any better as Dundalk sit pretty at the top of the table having won 13 games.

There is, however, one blot on their copybook with that defeat to Bohs at Oriel giving the chasing pack a glimmer of hope. Stephen Kenny will know all his players need to do is go out and do the same when the action resumes but it’s easier said than done.

But it’s hard to look past Dundalk lifting the title again in October.

Star pupil: Richie Towell – All successful sides need to have one player who can do something out of the ordinary or turn a games on its head in a split second. In Richie Towell, Dundalk certainly have that and more. 11 goals says it all.

Must do better: Jake Kelly – This is harsh in the extreme but Kelly hasn’t been able to force his way into the manager’s plans since arriving during the winter. It’s probably not a reflection on his part but he’s been a bit-part player thus far.

Galway United

Padraic Cunningham celebrates scoring with teammates Galway have held their own in the top-flight Source: Presseye/Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

Grade: B-

How they’ve fared: It’s been a fine return to the Premier Division for Galway and after a slow start, they’ve exceeded many people’s expectations. Six wins means the Tribesmen are sitting comfortably in mid-table, seven points clear of the red zone.

Tommy Dunne has done a sterling job out west but he’ll know the job isn’t done quite yet.

Star pupil: Enda Curran – One of the reasons for Galway’s success has been their ability to score goals and Curran has been central to that. Eight league strikes is an impressive return.

Must do better: Samuel Oji - The defender was brought in to add some experience and nous to a relatively young side but two red cards has seen him sitting out large chunks of the season.

Limerick

Martin Russell Not much has gone right for Martin Russell and Limerick Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Grade: F

How they’ve fared: There’s still time for Limerick to repair the damage but they’ve an uphill struggle ahead. The problems off the field with Market’s Field and the fraught relationship between the club’s hierarchy and a section of supporters has transferred onto the pitch with Martin Russell’s charges yet to register a win.

The Shannonsiders are rooted to the foot of the table and are in danger of being cut adrift if they don’t start to pick-up points.

Star pupil: Shane Duggan – The midfielder has been a rare shining light.

Must do better: Everyone.

Longford Town

Pat Flynn celebrates scoring their first goal of the game with Stephen Rice Longford have sprung plenty of surprises this season Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Grade: B+

How they’ve fared: Just like Galway, Longford have adapted to the top-flight seamlessly and find themselves in sixth position at the halfway juncture. Despite losing their opening two games, Tony Cousins’ side have shown great spirit to pick themselves up and put points on the board.

Star pupil: Pat Flynn – Longford have conceded just 19 goals and the former Shamrock Rovers defender has been an integral part of Cousins’ back four. Aymen Ben Mohamed has also got people talking after his move from UCD.

Must do better: Gary Shaw – While they’ve been tight at one end, Longford have struggled for goals at the other. They look to Shaw for goals and he hasn’t been able to deliver as of yet with just two to his name.

Shamrock Rovers

Gavin Brennan celebrates scoring Rovers haven't been at their best but they're going in the right direction Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Grade: B+

How they’ve fared: It’s been a funny season for Rovers. They haven’t hit top form and have yet to really display their undoubted credentials but yet they lie in third and just four points off Cork.

A title challenge may be beyond them now but they’ve certainly shown signs of improvement under Pat Fenlon and there have been encouraging performances too.

Defeat to Bohs before the mid-season break was a setback though.

Star pupil: Mikey Drennan – The striker has showed all his class since moving home from Aston Villa. 10 goals has underpinned Rovers’ season.

Must do better: Stephen McPhail – We’re yet to really see the best of the former Ireland international and although he’s in the twilight of his career, McPhail is still capable of better.

Sligo Rovers

Danny Ledwith argues with referee Paul Tuite It hasn't rained but poured for Sligo Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Grade: D-

How they’ve fared: Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan at the Showgrounds with Owen Heary’s tenure heading towards a sour end. Remarkably, the Bit O’Red are just one point ahead of Bray after a nightmare few months which saw them win just twice.

Big changes are needed but it’s safe to say, this season is likely to be a write off for all concerned.

Star pupil: Dinny Corcoran – The striker, who made the switch from Bohs, has been a bright spark in an otherwise gloomy season. Corcoran has been head and shoulders above his team-mates having found the net six times.

Must do better: Everyone.

St Patrick’s Athletic

Killian Brennan It hasn't all been plain sailing for Pat's after a stuttering start Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Grade: C+

How they’ve fared: Another club who came into the campaign with lofty expectations but have failed to deliver. Liam Buckley’s Saints find themselves well off the pace and with ground to make up if they’re to harbour any hopes of qualifying for Europe.

Star pupil: Chris Forrester – The midfielder’s stock continues to rise and he continues to impress.

Must do better: Christy Fagan – Last season’s top-scorer has failed to hit the same heights this time around and although he’s threatened to rediscover his form of late, Pat’s need Fagan firing on all cylinders.

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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