Republic of Ireland: Title race goes down to the wire
The Airtricity League in the Republic of Ireland is going down to the wire with just one point separating title chasing Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers with each team having two matches left to play. On another dramatic weekend of action Bohemians overtook Shamrock Rovers into first place with the former’s victory over St Patrick’s Athletic being complimented by a surprise home defeat for the latter at the hands of Sporting Fingal.
Shamrock Rovers went into the weekend as table toppers having enjoyed a two point advantage over their title rivals. The visitors to Tallaght Stadium were Sporting Fingal who were already in a comfortable fifth place in the ten team league and who had drawn all of their three previous league meetings with The Hoops this season. Would there be a fourth stalemate or would something give? When Shamrock Rovers took the lead through Thomas Stewart after 13 minutes it appeared that they would go on from there to gain three crucial points. The home side also received a great chance to double the lead in the 64th minute from the penalty spot but Chris Turner’s kick hit the crossbar and let Sporting off the hook. The home side’s lead lasted until the 87th minute when an equalizing goal from Sporting’s Gary O’Neill looked like the points would be shared between these two clubs yet again. However there was a shock in store when the visitors took the lead two minutes later after Glen Crowe’s effort was deflected into the goal to stun the home support who have now seen their team lose their fourth game in the last five league matches.
Bohemians, Irish champions for each of the last two seasons, took advantage of this unexpected late slip-up but they were made to work hard for it as they could only muster a one goal victory at home to fourth place St Patrick’s Athletic. A Kilian Brennan penalty in the 25th minute was saved by Pats’ keeper Chris Bennion but he was unable to stop the follow up from Raffael Cretaro whose fourth goal of the season proved the difference and ensured that Bohemians’ chances of a third successive league title were preserved.
The win means that the champions are undefeated in their last ten league games and they have hit form at exactly the right time whilst Shamrock Rovers are starting to lose their nerve. Both teams have two matches left to play in the Airtricity League with the new league leaders, who have 64 points after 34 games, facing 8th place Galway United and 6th place Dundalk. Shamrock Rovers, who are now one point behind having enjoyed a seven point lead a month ago, will play the bottom two clubs Drogheda United and Bray Wanderers in their final league matches.