The Finishing Line
It was a year ago today that Sligo Rovers defeated St. Patrick’s Athletic to win the League of Ireland title and it could be decided in the same fixture this evening with Sligo visiting league leaders St. Pat’s at Richmond Park.
The game would do well to beat the drama of recent seasons with the furious finale in the West of Ireland twelve months ago and the memorable sight of Dean Kelly becoming engulfed in a massive pitch invasion on campus in 2011.
The Premier Division has been won nine times on a Sunday but were it to happen today it would be the first time in ten years. The most common day is Friday (12).
The most frequent venue is Oriel Park and Tolka Park with four each and the last time St. Pat’s won the title, under Liam Buckley in 1999, they finally sealed it in Inchicore. A team leapfrogged the front runners in the final game six times.
The victors won it in their own ground 14 times, an away ground 13 times and a neutral venue once (the RDS in 1993). On six occasions they beat the holders in the deciding game (1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2002/03 and 2008) with four of those occurring in the reigning champions’ own stadium.
There are a few notable examples of the champagne being put on ice. In 2000, Shelbourne could have won it at home to Drogheda the previous Tuesday and failed and Shamrock Rovers have ruined Derry City’s party twice.
If Derry had beaten the Hoops on Tuesday April 15, 1997 they would have won the title then and there but it was a 1-1 draw. On Sunday April 2, 1989 in front of 12,000 expectant fans at the Brandywell, David Kealy gave Noel King’s side a surprise 1-0 win.
Where and When (The number in brackets is the final position of that team in the table).
1986: Sunday, April 20 at Glenmalure Park. Last game. A point would guarantee Shamrock Rovers the League of Ireland crown and they won 4-0 versus Cork City (10).
1987: Sunday, March 8 at Glenmalure Park. Fourth last game. Shamrock Rovers 3-1 Galway (6) as the Hoops completed a historic four-in-a-row.
1988: Thursday, April 21 at Oriel Park. Last game. A draw would do for Dundalk against St. Pat’s (2) and it finished 1-1.
1989: Sunday, April 23 at the Brandywell. Last game. Derry just needed a draw with Cobh Ramblers (11) and they won 2-0 with a brace from Paul Doolin.
1990: Monday, April 16 at United Park. Second last game. St. Pat’s won 2-0 against relegated Drogheda (11).
1991: Sunday, April 21 at Turner’s Cross. Last game. Dundalk and Cork City were level on points ahead of their showdown and a two-legged playoff would be required if the game ended in a draw. It finished 1-0 to the Lilywhites thanks to a goal from Tom McNulty.
1992: Sunday, April 5 at Oriel Park. Third last game. Shelbourne won it with a 3-1 win over Dundalk (4) who relinquished the title on their own turf.
1993: Saturday, May 22 at the RDS. Last playoff game. Cork City beat Shelbourne 3-2, who finished third in the second phase playoff table and second in the second phase of the regular season. I hope that’s clear.
1994: Wednesday, March 30 at the RDS. Second last game. A win guaranteed Shamrock Rovers the championship and they duly delivered with a 2-1 scoreline against Shelbourne (5).
1995: Sunday, April 23 at Oriel Park. Last game. The trophy was in the wrong place as Dundalk claimed it with a 2-0 win over Galway (9). Leaders Derry slipped up by drawing 1-1 in Athlone where Stuart Gauld missed a penalty.
1996: Friday, April 19 at Oriel Park. Second last game. St. Pat’s beat the holders to win the title for the second time under Brian Kerr, a 2-1 victory over Dundalk (7).
1997: Saturday, April 19 at the Brandywell. Third last game. Derry defeated reigning champions St. Pat’s (5) by two goals to nil.
1998: Friday, May 1 at Buckley Park. Last game. St. Pat’s won 2-1 against Kilkenny (11), overtaking Shelbourne who lost 2-1 at Dundalk.
1999: Sunday, May 2 at Richmond Park. Last game. St. Pat’s only needed a draw to win the league and they won 1-0 against Bray Wanderers (11) with a goal by Canadian defender Jeff Clarke.
2000: Friday, April 7 at the Regional Sports Centre. Third last game. Waterford (10) were beaten 2-0 by the celebrating Shelbourne.
2001: Sunday, May 6 at Buckley Park. Last game. Shelbourne surprisingly lost 1-0 at home to Cork so Bohemians leapfrogged them with a 5-0 victory in Kilkenny (12).
2002: Friday, March 22 at Tolka Park. Second last game. Shelbourne’s 0-0 draw with UCD (7) proved to be the deciding game because of St. Pat’s’ 15 points deduction.
2002/03: Sunday, January 12 at Tolka Park. Third last game. Bohemians won 1-0 away to Shelbourne (2) and Bobby Ryan got the goal.
2003: Friday, November 21 at Tolka Park. Third last game. Bohemians’ 2-0 loss at Drogheda meant that Shelbourne’s 2-0 victory over Cork City (3) gave them the trophy.
2004: Friday, November 19 at Richmond Park. Last game. Shelbourne required a minimum of one point against St. Pat’s (8) and it was a scoreless draw.
2005: Friday, November 18 at Turner’s Cross. Last game. Derry City (1) were on 72 points, a point clear of Cork City, who defeated the northerners 2-0 to take the championship.
2006: Friday, November 17 at Tolka Park. Last game. Shelbourne 2-1 Bohemians (9). Shels had to come from behind in the game and pipped Derry to the title on goal difference.
2007: Friday, October 19 at United Park. Fourth last game. Drogheda United 2-0 Cork City (4) as the Boynesiders won the League of Ireland for the first time.
2008: Friday, October 10 at United Park. Fifth last game. Bohemians won 2-1 against Drogheda (8) and Pat Fenlon’s double winners finished a massive 19 points clear in the end.
2009: Friday, October 30 at the Carlisle Grounds. Last game. Bohemians would have to lose with a 17 goal swing to be overtaken combined with Rovers winning away to St. Pat’s. The Hoops lost 1-0 and Bohs drew 1-1 with Bray Wanderers (10).
2010: Friday, October 29 at the Carlisle Grounds. Last game. A point would suffice for Shamrock Rovers as long as Bohs did not beat Dundalk by five clear goals. The Gypsies won 3-1 and Rovers drew 2-2 with Bray Wanderers (9) to narrowly win the title on a superior goal difference of +2.
2011: Tuesday, October 25 at the UCD Bowl. Second last game. Postponed for 24 hours because of heavy rainfall in Dublin. Substitute Dean Kelly was the hero for Shamrock Rovers with a 94th minute strike in this 2-1 win over UCD (8).
2012: Saturday, October 13 at the Showgrounds. Third last game. A crowd of over 5,000 saw a late penalty by Player of the Year Mark Quigley clinch a 3-2 win over nearest rivals St. Pat’s (2) and Sligo Rovers’ first title in 35 years.