Irish Football in 2019

We’re going to take a look back at what happened on the field last year in Irish football, because we’re sick of talking about what’s happening off it.

League of Ireland

Dundalk secured the title after a thrilling 3 – 2 win against nearest challengers Shamrock Rovers. Rovers had built a lead early in the season, but dropped points in big games. Ultimately Dundalk had the league wrapped up by September. It was a bit of an anticlimactic ending to what at one stage looked like it’d be a decent title race.

Bohs achieved a Europa League place with a young team. Their season included the biggest win and highest scoring game of the season, beating UCD 10 – 1. Derry City finished 4th, securing Europa League football on the final day with a victory over North West rivals Finn Harps.

St Pat’s put up a challenge for a Europa League place late on, but poor form early on meant they missed out. They’d have to be disappointed considering they made some serious signings preseason. Waterford and Sligo made up the Midtable, Waterford seeming to struggle a bit with European football being cruelly ripped away.

At the wrong end, Cork City struggled (while never likely to go down. You can listen to Pat Morely explain Corks issues here. Finn Harps struggled early on but made their way to a play-off place, ultimately staying up in the play-off final. UCD struggled losing so many players and finished bottom by 9 points.

In the first division, Shelbourne clicked after a slow start to win the division and get automatically promoted. In the Play-offs Cabinteely beat Longford Town, before Drogheda got passed Cabo to get to the final. Drogs would go on to lose to Finn Harps. Bray Wanderers missed out on the play-offs despite being in contention until late on. Cobh Ramblers were best of the rest, ahead of Galway who finished strong. Limerick were deducted 26 points, and finished last below Wexford and Athlone Town.

Women’s National League

It looked like Peamount would run away with it, but Shels stayed strong and handed the Peas their first loss of the campaign late on. It was an exciting ending to the season. In the 2nd last game round (originally scheduled to be the last) Peamount looked like they’d secured the league, they were ahead of DLR Waves and Wexford were beating Shelbourne. Shels came back to win 2 – 1 pushing the title race to the last day. They would go ahead in the table with a midweek win over Waves in their last game, but ultimately Peamount would beat Cork to lift the trophy.

Wexford Youths, the incoming champions, had a disappointing start to the season, and ended up finishing 15 points off Peamount. Galway continued to close the gap on the top 3, and they won the under 17’s championship. Cork achieved their joint highest points total, while DLR Waves, Limerick and Kilkenny propped up the table. Kilkenny United will not be in the league next season. Athlone Town have joined the WNL for next season, with Shamrock Rovers and Bray Wanderers entering U17 teams.

You can hear our interviews with our Women’s National League senior and young players of the year from 20:25 here.

Cup’s

Shelbourne lifted the Women’s League Cup early on in the season. Dundalk beat Derry City on penalties to lift the EA Sports Cup.

On the big day at the Aviva, November 3rd, it was Peamount V Wexford Youths in the Women’s Cup Final, and Shamrock Rovers V Dundalk in the Men’s Cup Final.

In a game of quality strikes, Wexford Youths lifted the Cup with captain Kylie Murphy scoring the winner in a 3 – 2 thriller.

In the men’s Cup Shamrock Rovers looked to have it sealed late on with a penalty…

Before Michael Duffy did this…

Both teams had chances in extratime, it went to penalties with Rovers winning thanks in part to heroics from Mannus.

That was Shamrock Rover’s first FAI Cup in 32 years.

Hear our pundits thoughts on both cup finals here.

Europe

5 European adventures for Irish sides, with Dundalk in the Men’s Champions League Qualifiers, Wexford Youths in the Women’s Champions League Qualifiers, and Cork, Shamrock Rovers, and St Patrick’s Athletic in the Europa League qualifiers.

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A word on the LOI teams in Europe

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Wexford Youths made a good account of themselves in the WUCL qualifying group stage, missing out by just one point. A 1 – 3 defeat in their first game to Vllaznia of Albania put them on the back foot, put they’d go on to beat group hosts Gintra Universitetas of Lithuania 1 – 2, and thump Birkirkara of Malta 2 – 7 in their final game. They finished 2nd on 6 points behind Vllaznia.

Dundalk entered the Champions League at the first qualifying stage, beating Latvian champions Riga 5 – 4 on penalties after both legs finished 0 – 0. They would go on to earn a draw in the first leg against Qarabağ, before being outmatched in the 2nd leg 0 – 3. In the Europa League 3rd qualifying round the Lillywhites were well beaten over two legs by Slovan Bratislava losing 4 – 1 on aggregate.

In the Europa League first round it was disappointment for St Pats and Cork. St Pats were beaten 1 – 4 by IFK Norrköping of Sweden, and Cork were upset 2 – 3 against Luxembourg’s Progrès Niederkorn.

Shamrock Rovers picked up a famous victory against Brann, winning 3 – 4 over two legs. They were beaten in extra time against Cyprian side Apollon Limassol.

Next season Peamount United will be in WUCL qualifiers, Dundalk will be in the UCL qualifiers, and Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians, and Derry City will be in the Europa League qualifiers.

Irish Men’s

It was a very flat year for the Irish mens team, scoring just 7 goals in 8 qualifying games. It all started on a windy day in Gibraltar where the minnows namesake rock came up against Ireland’s rock Shane Duffy. Hendrick scored the winner in a forgettable game. Georgia at home was next, and in a terrific performance against Georgia, with Hourihane getting the goal in a 1 – 0 win. Ireland kept their chances alive with draws against Denmark and Switzerland either side of a lackluster win over Gibraltar. A disappointing draw in Tbilisi and a loss to Switzerland meant Ireland had it all to do against Denmark, but they could only come away with a 1 – 1 draw. Ireland also had wins against Bulgaria and New Zealand in friendlies.

Ireland will now play Slovakia away in the play-off semi-final. You can read about it here.

Irish Women’s

A managerial change brought about the era of Vera, who led Ireland to two wins and a draw in the Euro qualifiers. In friendlies it was defeats to Belgium, Italy, and world champions USA, and a draw and a win against Wales.

In the qualifiers Ireland beat Montenegro 2 – 0 and Ukraine 3 – 2. The Ukraine game saw a record home attendance for a home Irish women’s game. It was a slightly disappointing end to the year with Ireland being held 1 – 1 away to Greece.

For our Premier Division team of the season podcast click here.

For our First Division team of the season and our talk on the FAI mess with Stephen Henderson click here.

Never miss an episode of our domestic football podcast Get Your Bleak On or our Irish rugby podcast Provincial Jazz.

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A Decade in Irish Rugby

The 2010’s came to a close a few days ago with two interpro derbies. It’s been an up and down 10 years, but it was certainly Ireland’s most successful Rugby decade.

We were joined by The Couch Pundit on this weeks Provincial Jazz to look back at the Irish sides this past 10 years and highlight some of the best moments of the decade. We also had Leinster and Ireland stars Hannah O’Connor and Michelle Claffey who spoke about a historic fixture for the Leinster Women’s side who went to Twickenham to play Harlequins.

This weeks Provincial Jazz on Spotify

As I said, it was Ireland’s most successful decade, so let’s take a look back.

2010

Ireland Men’s went into the decade as GrandSalm winners, so it was an underwhelming Six Nations with two losses, particularly losing the last ever (at least for now) match at Croke Park to Scotland. Brian O’Driscoll made his 100th cap against Wales, and Ireland got a fighting victory away to England to finish 2nd.

The Celtic League (as it still was) saw the edition of the play-off series. Leinster bet Munster in the final, but would go on to fall to Ospreys (it really does make the decade feel a long time when you consider Ospreys were one of the best teams in the league). Leinster and Munster lost to Toulouse and Biarritz in the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup (again back in the day Biarritz were a classy outfit. Toulouse went on to win the All French final.

In the Summer series Ireland men suffered heavy losses to New Zealand and Australia, before an improved November series saw them narrowly miss out to the SpringBoks, beat Samoa, and impress against New Zealand, which featured a beauty from Brian O’Driscoll.

Masterful

As for the Women, it was a decent run in the Six Nations with 3 wins. The World Cup was a bright spot despite heavy losses to England and the USA, with wins in the pool stages against the states and Kazakhstan, and a 7th place match victory over Scotland.

2011

2011 will be remembered for another near miss in a World Cup Quarter Final for the men’s team. After 3 wins in the Six Nations and an up and down warm-up campaign, a sluggish victory made it look as if it would be another World Cup heartache. However Ireland would pick a famous win against Australia, and win their final two games comfortably. This was the set up to an all too familiar fall with a frustrating loss against Wales.

Leinster would lift Europe’s grandest prize with a thrilling comeback against Northampton in the final. Leinster beat Ulster in the Pro12 (with two Italian teams having joined) before Munster would go on to win the final.

As for the Women, it was two wins, and three defeats in the Six Nations, two of which were narrow, one was comprehensive. Leinster Women beat Munster in the interpro final.

2012

A first ever all Irish European Cup final saw Leinster beat Ulster by 28 points to lift the European Cup for a 2nd season in a row. Connacht were in the Champions Cup for the first time.

The Women’s team came close to picking up a famous win away to France, but would have to settle for three wins from five. Munster Women won the interpro series.

Ireland Men once again came 3rd in the Six Nations, and had a decent November international series with wins against Fiji and Argentina.

2013

The year that was the start of the most successful period in Irish rugby history. The Ireland women won a GrandSlam for the first time in Six Nations history. Leinster Women were victorious in the interpro series.

It began with a whimper for the men, a 5th place finish in the Six Nations, and an underwhelming Autumn international campaign against minnows USA and Canada that was overshadowed by the Lions series.

In the league Leinster beat Ulster in an All Ireland final, while in Europe the boys in blue would lift the Challenge Cup, while Munster made the champions cup semi-finals.

Joe Schmidt’s first November series saw Ireland brush aside Samoa, be brushed aside by Australia, and then come astonishingly close to a famous first ever win against New Zealand.

2014

2013 ended with heartbreak-induced cautious optimism, and 2014 delivered. The 2014 campaign will be remembered for being Brian O’Driscoll’s final outing in green, and he lifted the Six Nations trophy with a last day victory over France. Leinster, Munster, and Ulster all reached the league semi-finals, with Leinster beating Glasgow in the final. Both Leinster and Munster would lose out to Toulon in the European Cup, which saw the beginning of the French sides strangle hold on the competition.

Ireland would beat Argentina in the summer tour, before taking 3 wins from 3 in the November internationals.

Ireland Women became the first Irish international side to beat New Zealand, beating them in the World Cup before getting knocked out to England. The Six Nations saw another 3 wins from 3.

2015

The 2015 Six Nations will be remembered for having the most hectic mental ending any rugby competition has ever had. Ireland came out on top after beating Scotland, not before France nearly handed England the trophy at the death. The World Cup promised a lot with an impressive win against France, but ultimately Ireland were well beaten in the Quarter Finals once again.

Leinster were beaten by an extra time intercept try against Toulon in the European Cup Semi-Finals, and yet failed to make the Pro14 play-offs for the first time, with Glasgow becoming the first Scottish side to win the league, beating Ulster and Munster in the knockout rounds.

Ireland women would win the Six Nations, and play a historic November international. Munster won the interpros.

2016

Connacht triumphed in the Pro12 with an exciting brand of rugby. The rest of the provinces struggled in Europe, none making it out of the pool.

Ireland Women won 3 Six Nations games, and played a historic November 3-test series. Leinster won the Women’s interpros.

The men’s team had a relatively disappointing Six Nations with 2 wins and a draw. The 2016 tour of South Africa saw Ireland pick up their first ever test win away to one of the top 3 Tri Nations sides. And then came that historic game in Chicago, where Ireland beat New Zealand for the very first time.

2017

An improved Six Nations saw Ireland deny England a Grandslam. They then had a two test series win over Japan, and beat South Africa, Argentina, and Fiji in November.

There was disappointment for Ireland women, as after 4 wins in the Six Nations, they had a poor World Cup on home soil, failing to automatically qualify for 2021. Munster won the Women’s interpros.

Leinster and Munster made the Champions Cup Quarter Finals, but we were once again denied the old rivals in the final. Leinster and Munster both fell to Scarlets in the play-offs of the final Pro12 season.

2018

At the end of the next decade we may still look back at 2018 as Ireland’s finest year. A grandslam secured in Twickenham, a first ever Southern Hemisphere series win, coming against Australia, and a first ever home win against New Zealand. If only the World Cup had been in this year, but that’s a bit of a case of this.

The titanic music adds to it

Leinster would complete a historic double, winning all their European Cup games and then lifting the Pro14.

Try of the decade

Leinster women were successful in winning the Interpro series. And Ireland women won just 2 Six Nations games and lost both their November internationals.

2019

The most disappointing year in Irish rugby history. Poor Six Nations which led to an incredibly frustrating World Cup. Ireland would finish 2nd in the pool and lose to New Zealand comprehensively in the Quarter Final. They looked worn out and without ideas.

The Women were no more fortunate, winning just one game in the Six Nations. Leinster Women retained the Interpro series, and played a historic fixture at Twickenham.

The Leinster men’s side retained the Pro14 having lost the European Cup final.

A decade of ups and downs, of success and failure. There were plenty of lows but a lot more highs. Sure it ended badly, but the foundation is there fro success.

You can listen to our Irish rugby podcast every Tuesday.

Happy New Year.

Never miss an episode of our weekly Irish Rugby Podcast Provincial Jazz or our weekly Domestic Football Podcast Get Your Bleak On covering League of Ireland and the Women’s National League.