The 2020 League of Ireland season is finally under way, with the Premier Division returning with a full round of fixtures over the weekend.
Every week, we’ll get stuck into the main talking points from the weekend’s matches.
In week one, we witnessed dramatic late winners, the first Dublin derby of the season, Shels’ return to the top flight, and Storm Dennis wreaking havoc.
Storm Dennis scuppers TV coverage
RTÉ was forced to cancel its scheduled live TV coverage of the Dublin Derby due to safety concerns over the stormy conditions at Dalymount Park, much to the disappointed of the fans.
Those without tickets for Saturday’s clash between Bohemian FC and Shamrock Rovers had to settle for radio commentary on RTÉ Radio 1’s ‘Saturday Sport’ instead.
The decision was taken by RTÉ Sport and the SSE Airtricity League due to the dangers posed to cameramen and crew due to the high winds and stormy conditions posed by Dennis.
“The decision was taken on health and safety grounds due to the inclement weather caused by Storm Dennis and its effect on the working conditions of broadcast staff,” an RTÉ statement said.
The match went ahead, but was hindered by the hostile weather conditions.
An unfortunate but sensible decision from all those involved.
Greene sinks 10-man Bohs
Aaron Greene emerged as the hero of the Dublin derby, smashing home a close-range finish in stoppage time to snatch all three points for Shamrock Rovers in Phibsboro.
The 30-year-old, who was sent off in last year’s corresponding fixture, drilled the ball into the roof of the net after Bohs ‘keeper James Talbot parried Aaron McEneff’s initial effort.
Bohs played the last 25 minutes with 10 men after right back Andy Lyons was sent off with 25 for a second bookable offence.
Lyons went to ground in the Rovers box in the second minute, but despite his protests, he received a yellow card for simulation rather than a penalty.
Greene had a couple of half chances for the Hoops, with the adverse weather conditions making it difficult for either side to produce fluid football.
Kris Twardek was denied a debut goal for the Gypsies when his effort was blocked by Rovers’ Roberto Lopes in the 25th minute, before Alan Mannus was forced into an excellent sprawling save by Keith Ward.
Graham Burke, McEneff and Jack Byrne tested Talbot in the second half, before a heavy challenge from Lyons on Burke resulted in the 19-year-old’s dismissal.
Stephen Bradley’s visitors used their numerical advantage to push for a breakthrough, with Bohs’ Anto Breslin forced to make a goal-line clearance.
However, Greene broke Keith Long’s side’s hearts at the death, ensuring the Hoops start the season with a priceless win at the home of their biggest rivals.
Nothing like a last-minute winner ☘️
— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) February 15, 2020
Shels back with a bang
Shelbourne marked their long-awaited return to the Premier Division with an impressive 1-0 win over Cork City at Turner’s Cross.
The newly promoted Dublin club stole all three points in the 86th minute when Ciarán Kilduff pounced in the box to head home after the ball struck the crossbar following former Cork player Karl Sheppard’s corner.
Former Cork striker Kilduff finished from point blank range to inflict defeat on Neale Fenn’s new-look City team, which featured eight new players after a summer reshuffle at the Leesiders.
Shels nearly took an early lead, with Dayle Rooney firing a shot wide in the opening exchanges.
Ian Morris’ visitors had the best opportunity of the first half, with Ryan Brennan heading against the post on the stroke of half time.
Both sides carved out chances in the second half in front of the crowd, with Cork’s on-loan Arsenal forward Joseph Olowu heading a good chance wide with 10 minutes remaining.
Shels saw out the game to make a winning return to the top flight.
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) February 15, 2020
Massey’s Valentine’s gift for Dundalk
Premier Division champions Dundalk began their title defence with a 1-0 win over Derry City at Oriel Park on Friday night.
Lilywhites left back Dane Massey – making his 200th start for the club – scored the only goal of the game, producing a crisp left-footed volley from substitute Jordan Flores’ corner with 11 minutes remaining.
Jamie McDonagh had gone close for the Candystripes in the first half, blasting into the side netting.
Ciaran Coll managed to divert Michael Duffy’s clever lob over Peter Cherrie off the Derry line, with both sides scoreless at the interval.
Daniel Kelly struck the woodwork six minutes into the second half for Vinny Perth’s champions, with Tim Nilsen forcing Gary Rogers into a good save with a header at the other end.
Dundalk debutant Camden Smith forced Cherrie into a strong save, before Massey’s clever volley finally gave the hosts the advantage.
Derry pushed for a late equalizer, but are now without a win in their last 14 visits to Oriel Park.
Winning starts for Waterford, Finn Harps
Waterford, featuring nine new signings in their starting eleven, have made an excellent start to the 2020 season by beating St. Patrick’s Athletic 1-0 in Dublin.
Kevin O’Connor slotted into an empty net in the 50th minute after Blues striker Matt Smith intercepted Robbie Benson’s sloppy back pass and rounded Brendan Clarke.
Waterford’s summer signing Brian Murphy made an instant impact; the veteran goalkeeper making multiple crucial saves for Alan Reynolds’ away side.
St. Pat’s, who fielded six summer signings in their starting lineup, were furious when penalty appeals for an apparent drag on Rory Feely were waved away.
Murphy made a string of important saves to deny Dean Clarke, Feely and Chris Forrester, with Ronan Hale also forced to clear one Saints effort off the line.
What a way to start the season @WaterfordFCie 🙌
Big win at @stpatsfc 😎
— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) February 14, 2020
At Finn Park, Karl O’Sullivan’s goal for the hosts decided a scrappy contest against Sligo Rovers in Donegal.
Ollie Horgan’s hosts included five new players in their starting lineup, while Liam Buckley handed four Bit O’Red players their debuts.
In the 56th minute, O’Sullivan bundled over from close range after Harps worked a clever short corner into the Sligo box, with Dave Webster heading Mark Colye’s cross to O’Sullivan at the back post.