Reason 501 why I despise this league?
After the SH nation masterclass in the Rugby World Cup where basic skills were executed at a supreme high standard, it was back to the tried (bash ball) and trusted (error strewn) Pro 12 action. The top six concept was exciting for the competition and the season ending rush to grab those elusive European Cup places caught the eye for the neutral. However, there are serious issues with the product and look no further with the Edinburgh versus Munster clash tonight to emphasize the point. Murrayfield resembled a NAMA estate in the middle of Longford. The now consistently poor officiating on show would have driven anyone who bothered to attend this fixture for the hot whiskeys early doors and the two teams on show produced little in attempting to launch any cohesive attacking play. There can be zero excuses for Edinburgh who played for two ten minute periods with a player advantage, their failure to create width to stretch Munster was deplorable. Munster’s good discipline (zero yellow cards heading into this contest) was thrown out the window as Van der Heever and Saili had stints in the sin bin. Few complaints on either but it was a shame that Wilkinson was not officiating Edinburgh in the same manner. The number of penalties leaked by Edinburgh in the scrum (albeit the more dominant unit) necessitated a yellow card but Wilkinson had the blinkers on. Offside was non-existent tonight and when Munster and Edinburgh play in European action next weekend, their respective officiating crews will be far more stringent. Dreadful officiating standard tonight and does nothing for the brand when two teams are quite limited in terms of game plan. Ian Keatley to his credit kicked superbly when required to win the game for Munster but there was precious little to entertain one’s self until the Hidalgo Clyne drop goal attempt at the death which was blocked. The brand of rugby by both teams was dish water; no wonder fans are not paying their hard earned dosh to watch this. Cue Sky Sports to try to promote the top of the table clash at Thomond Park when Connacht come to Munster. The Pro 12 fraternity hold their breathe for a half decent game after dinner time on Saturday.
Limerick FC – Opportunity Lost?
Congratulations to Finn Harps last night, they deserved the playoff win but for Limerick, the reality of life now in the second tier of Irish football will hurt for several weeks to come. This relegation hurts more considering the gallant attempts to get out of a wretched relegation situation which saw the Shannonside outfit not win a league fixture until August 1st. The win against Sligo Rovers last weekend staved relegation off for a week. Sport is viciously cruel; last weekend Limerick were on cloud nine, this weekend it is utter dejection. Where did it go wrong? The shambles that was the redevelopment of Markets Field focused too much energy away from the team on the pitch. Martin Russell’s task as manager was undermined with minimum transfer funds at his disposal; a critical misjudgment considering the caliber of player that left the club last season. Rory Gaffney, Barry Ryan and Sam Oji joined the likes of Danny Galbraith out of the football club and with no like for like replacement, last night was inevitable. BJ Banda’s goal to secure Finn Harps promotion summed up Limerick’s defensive woes this season; no pressure on the Finn Harps cross and there was even less pressure applied to Banda as he headed his effort into the net sparking wild scenes in Ballybofey. Limerick’s relegation has resulted in an interesting crossroads for the football club. Will the local fan base continue to support the club after let us face it a quite rocky start to the season where the Limerick 30 were banned from home games by the club. It was a PR disaster for the club and the frosty relations between the club and fans thawed with the upturn in form. 3,500 fans for the Finn Harps home game last Monday spoke volumes on the potential niche market for professional football in the town. Will the fans turn out to watch Limerick play Cabinteely next season? It is an interesting backdrop.
Chelsea’s season goes from bad to worse, another defeat at the Britannia (despite having good moments) will do little to dispel speculation on Jose Mourinho’s future at the football club. Effort was in abundance but the lack of confidence within the team is frightening at this time. How does Jose reverse the trend? Willian and Hazard are the only players providing an attacking platform at present. Diego Costa is offering little, zero threat at present and Chelsea have precious little options to replace the temper tantrum hothead. Stoke soaked up the pressure exerted by Chelsea and Jack Butland’s performance in goal again has meant that Begovic’s departure to Chelsea has not being missed. Troubling times for Chelsea, hard to see where the team goes from here. They are playing for the manager but there is a distinct lack of pace all over the side.
Manchester United keep another clean sheet, keep possession but today were indebted to Jesse Lingard for the win. Lingard offers pace and ability to beat his opponent out wide. His curling effort after fifty-two minutes was superb and opened the game for the hosts who prior to the goal offered little in the way of chances. The lack of pace in the final third, the final ball and the sheer inability to play passes in behind opposition defenses was again highlighted in spades today. Martial’s pace setup the penalty dispatched by Mata deep into second half injury time secured the three points but in all honesty unless United change their style of play, they will be consigned to a top three / four team.
What has happened to Swansea? Gary Monk was the toast of South Wales last month but ever since their loss to Watford away, things have gone downhill fast. Norwich absorbed Swansea’s dominance and hit them with a sucker punch counter attack move finished by Howson. Swansea’s attacking threat has being nullified. Montero is subdued and is the chief creator for the attacking duo Gomis and Ayew. The lack of confidence in attacking play is clearly evident and this is a serious test of Monk’s managerial credentials to arrest the slide in form. A pivotal fixture against AFC Bournemouth awaits after the international break. Wonder what Swansea do if Bournemouth take a share of the spoils? Monk and Swansea are under pressure and a relegation battle could be on the cards.
AFC Bournemouth – it has being a pleasure but they are as good as down. Their most recent loss to Newcastle highlights the gap required in this level. Newcastle scored with their only shot on target (could Federici do better?) and Bournemouth flat out controlled the ball thereafter but a distinct lack of quality in the final third is glaring. Glenn Murray will score goals but he needs support; experience is required and January cannot come quick enough. The problem is that Eddie Howe’s charges could be stranded at the foot of the table when the transfer window starts again.
Entertaining game at Upton Park, two teams who will fight it out for top six honors this season. West Ham and Everton goals were superbly created; the hosts effort was an excellent Lanzini curling effort and Everton’s goal was a super ball to Lukaku which split the West Ham central defense. A draw was a fair result.