By Alan Smith
IT TOOK a third of the season but finally it looked like summer football had arrived on Friday, if only for the glaring sun which left everyone squinting with hands above their eyes for the entire first half.
This was the archetypal League of Ireland night, helped by the fact that league celebrity Tom was in attendance, still wearing the same jacket he has worn for the past 20 years, telling all and sundry who will win the league.
Nil-all draws rarely get more entertaining. Both teams could have won it but at the end City were perhaps the more disappointed team, mainly down to their goal chances. As clichéd as it might sound, it was just one of those nights: hitting the bar, having a goal ruled out and missing a penalty.
Pat’s threatened too, of course, and walking out of the ground it was hard to comprehend how the game had finished scoreless.
The disappointment of not coming home with the win shows you far City have come in the past few weeks. To borrow a phrase from Fianna Fáil during the good times, there’s a feeling of ‘a lot done, more to do’ at the club now. The only difference being City don’t really look like ruining what they have going for them.
They’re only looking one way and that is up the table. With the first round of games completed, the
consensus is that the team have done OK but after such a torrid start things are looking positive now.
Friday’s result may have only been a point but it was further proof that this squad are more than capable of matching the best in the league.
Despite Dan Murray missing out through injury, this looked like their strongest line-up yet. John Dunleavy offers much more pace than the skipper in the middle of the defence and partnered with Kalen Spillane, there were no moments of worry from the young duo.
Colin Healy looks set to remain at right-back as well for the foreseeable future and hopefully this defensive foursome remains on Friday night against UCD.
City look like a united force now, worlds away from the disjointed team that kicked off the campaign against the students, but there is still a belief that there is more to come from them. They can perform better and turn results like Friday’s draw into wins.
But they won’t come much closer than last weekend. Tadhg Purcell’s penalty may have been a tame effort – Brendan Clarke’s save wasn’t even that good – but the striker can be forgiven for that, because he was terrific up front.
Tommy Dunne has said he will sit down with the striker this week for a chat about his future. Whether he signs or leaves the club remains to be seen but after a start to life on Leeside that was effectively scribbled out due to a lack of fitness, he has looked in terrific form since linking up with Vinny Sullivan.
The real star at the weekend however, was Mark McNulty. He pulled off some wonderful stops to deny Pat’s and will be delighted with a long overdue second clean sheet.
With a card happy referee, who dished out seven yellows in total, five of those to the away side, it made for a feisty affair too.
The match had all the ingredients of a classic with the exception of one key component, but when the team’s biggest concern in recent weeks was shipping bad goals, the shutout was very refreshing.
It’s becoming a running joke now that at least one journalist asks Dunne about the City crowd afterwards but then again if you’re not used to seeing it, then it comes as quite a surprise to witness such a loyal travelling band of fans.
On Friday night, the away support was, once again, awesome. No other side can bring such numbers to away games, especially when you factor in the shortest trip this season is Tallaght, which is just a 500km round journey.
And although there was one individual asleep at the back of the stand for the first half – no doubt due to
liquid consumption en route to Inchicore – to stand among such a large band of travelling supporters is a privilege that fans of few other teams in the country are afforded.
A couple of those fans, though it must be stressed not too many, voiced their annoyance after the Bohs away game because the players didn’t applaud them at full-time for their support.
Something must have filtered through to the dressing room because the trips to the capital since then have ended with Dunne waving his players over to the away end.
It’s only a small gesture, but very much appreciated.
Even Tom was impressed at the end – though he reckons it will be Sligo’s year.