What a difference a year makes

With St. Patrick’s Athletic slipping up at home to Bohemians, a 2-0 win over UCD last Friday saw Dundalk go top of the league for the first time this season.

This time last year the Lilywhites were four points adrift at the bottom of the table, which was their final position in 2012 before securing their Premier Division status in a promotion/relegation playoff with Waterford United.

In an interview on Monday Night Soccer on July 8th, Stephen Kenny, when discussing his side’s title prospects said: “It’s never happened in the history of the league that a team has come from bottom of the league one year to go and win it the next, so history suggests it won’t happen, or can’t happen”.

However, it has actually happened on two occasions. Shelbourne finished last in the 1945/46 season and won the championship the following year. Waterford were bottom of the league in 1964/65 but a year later Paddy Coad led the Blues to their first ever title.

Since then, the best performance by the lowest surviving team in the next season was Bohs – tenth in 1998/99 and third in 1999/00. The biggest positional leap for League of Ireland champions was Cork Celtic, who were twelfth in 1972/73 and first in 1973/74.

In the Premier Division, three teams won the title having finished 8th the previous year – Derry City (1989), Shamrock Rovers (1994) and Dundalk (1995).

In the 2000/01 First Division, Drogheda United were the worst placed survivors because Fingal-St. Francis were bottom and they merged with St. Pat’s in 2001/02, when Drogheda went on to win the title.

The only other team to finish last in the First Division and follow that up with promotion was Sligo Rovers, who finished level on points with Waterford in 1990 and lost a championship playoff.

Dundalk have won five consecutive league games for the first time in the top flight since a run of five victories from 26 November to 31 December 1989. Their record league sequence was ten straight wins in the 1967/68 season.

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