Drama filled Irish Premier Division final day recap

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All 10 teams competed in an action-packed last outing

The 2020 Irish Premier Division came to a conclusion last night. Each team played just 18 league games in a season plagued by Covid-19. The season itself was not it’s drama, though. Last night in particular featured several twists and turns as each club aimed to finish their season on a high note. Some clubs rejoiced while others suffered the consequences of defeat. Here’s how it played out.

Finn Harps vs. Waterford

In one of the most decisive fixtures on the day, Finn Harps took on Waterford. Prior to the game, Finn Harps found themselves in the relegation/promotion play-off spot. Waterford also found themselves with a lot on the line. A win for Waterford would have ensured a European spot for the club. Additionally, only a win would suffice – along with other results – if Harps were to move out of that position.

They did just that as they narrowly defeated Waterford by 1-0. A goal from Adam Foley in the 27th minute proved to be the deciding goal. Harps were very nearly back where they started in the final minute of extra time, though. Waterford found themselves in the opposition box in the dying seconds with a clear sight of goal. They shot at goal, but Dave Webster was there to stop a certain goal as he cleared off the line.

In truth, Harps deserved to avoid a relegation battle, having won 3 of their last 4 games. After the Harps win, it was down to Derry City and Shelbourne to win or draw their games in order to ease their survival hopes.

Waterford can count themselves unlucky not to have made Europe after their season, but the better team won on the night.

Derry City vs. Cork City

As mentioned previously, Derry City had to at least draw their game to avoid slipping into the play-off spot. Cork City, on the other hand, had nothing to play for other than pride. The Rebels had been condemned to automatic relegation earlier in the season.

Despite the disparity of fortunes on the line for both clubs, Derry City very nearly succumbed to defeat. Cork took the lead through Beineón O’Brien-Whitmarsh’s goal in the 59th minute to put pressure on the Northern club. A Finn Harps win and a Shelbourne draw would have meant relegation for Derry if the scoreline remained as it was.

James Akintunde was the hero in the end, though. His strike for Derry in the 76th minute meant Derry almost certainly avoided the play-off. Derry had the best goal difference by far of the 3 clubs fighting for survival so even if Finn Harps won, Derry would likely retain their position in the Irish Premier Division.

The match finished 1-1 as Derry narrowly avoided a relegation battle.

Shelbourne vs. Shamrock Rovers

Similar to the Derry vs. Cork fixture, both teams in this fixture were playing for entirely different outcomes. Shamrock Rovers had already been crowned champions, meaning they effectively had nothing to play for – other than their unbeaten run. Shelbourne, on the other hand, had it all to play for. If results in their own game and other fixtures didn’t go their way, they would be dragged into a relegation play-off.

Shamrock Rovers’ showed no sympathy for the relegation battling Shelbourne as they fielded a strong side. Their quality showed in the end as they ran out 2-0 winners. Their win last night meant they finished the league season unbeaten. This is just the 3rd time this has happened in League of Ireland history, with Rovers also going unbeaten in the other 2.

A wonderful Jack Byrne goal kicked it off in the 22nd minute as he went on a marauding run up the pitch before smashing into the corner of the net. Jack Byrne has inarguably been the best player in the League of Ireland, despite what the naysayers may claim. His stock has only risen in the past few months and this may be the last time League of Ireland fans get to witness his ability in a Shamrock Rovers shirt in the foreseeable future amid reported overseas interest. The midfielder will also join up with the Republic of Ireland squad ahead of the Wales fixture.

Aaron Greene put the finishing touches on the game as his 57th minute goal effectively sealed Shelbourne’s relegation play-off spot. Results in the Finn Harps and Derry City games meant Shelbourne were condemned to the play-off spot.

Shelbourne will now face Longford Town on Saturday as they look to stay in the Premier Division for at least another season. It should make for a fascinating contest.

Dundalk vs. Sligo Rovers

After a disappointing domestic season by their standards, Dundalk needed a win to ensure a European spot. Similarly, a Sligo Rovers win would mean a *potential* European spot for the Bit O’ Red.

In a surprise result, Sligo Rovers ran out 2-0 winners. A bizarre goal from Jesse Devers in the 10th minute opened the scoring as his attempted cross went straight over Gary Roger’s head into the net. Sligo Rovers ensured their victory through a Ronan Coughlan goal in the 95th minute.

After Waterford’s defeat, Sligo move up to 4th place. Although currently in a European position (1st-4th place), that could change given the winners of the FAI Cup. In order for Sligo to qualify, they must either win the FAI Cup or a team from 1st to 3rd must win. Currently, all top 4 teams are still in the cup out of the 6 remaining teams, so it looks good for Sligo as it stands. There is no guarantee of a European spot as for now, though.

Despite Dundalk’s abysmal result, they still finish in 3rd place after Waterford’s loss to Harps. They will compete in Europa League qualifying next season, but it’s clear that much work is to be done if they intend to claim the league title.

Bohemians vs. St Patrick’s Athletic

St Pat’s could have potentially claimed a play-off spot with a win against Bohemians, but even if they did, they would have to rely on other results. Bohs’ on the other hand had nothing to play for as their 2nd place position was secured earlier in the season.

Bohemian’s have had an incredible season; particularly given the youthfulness of the squads they’ve chosen over the season. They were the youngest team in the Irish Premier Division and 21st youngest team in Europe’s top flight divisions as they finished the season. They continued to trust in youth last night as they played yet another young team. Brighton bound 16-year-old Evan Ferguson was the focus of attention as he started his first league match of the season.

The teenager nearly made an impression early into the game as a Danny Grant cross found him before he bundled the ball into the net. In a controversial decision, though, the goal was ruled out for handball.

St Pat’s were the first to score an official goal as Jordan Gibson broke the deadlock in the 37th minute. That didn’t last for long, though. Danny Grant scored the equaliser just before half time for Bohemians. The left winger has been in terrific form this season which has warranted his inclusion in the latest Ireland u21s squad.

Andre Wright, another in form man, secured the win for Bohemians with his penalty in the 63rd minute. The match finished 2-1 to Bohemians.

Here’s how the final league table looks:

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