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Shels take league, but it’s St. Pat’s who’re celebrating

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Malachy Clerkin

The final day of Irish soccer’s National League season came and went on Sunday with the champions, Shelbourne, losing, 4-0, their manager resigning, the third-place team spraying champagne and declaring themselves champions, and the manager of the runners-up lamenting the fact that his club, along with all the rest, had dragged the good name of the league through the mud. Just another week in the ramshackle world of the National League.

Shelbourne went down away to Bohemians Sunday at Dalymount Park in what was comfortably their worst performance in years. Goals from Kevin Hunt, Fergal Harkin and two from Glenn Crowe gave Bohemians the victory and prompted Dermot Keely to tender his resignation as Shelbourne manager immediately after the game. Despite the fact that his team are officially champions of Ireland for the second time in three years, he felt that his shame in the performance his players had just put on was such that he couldn’t continue as their manager.

St. Patrick’s Athletic, on the other hand, were in jubilant mood down in Longford, where their 1-1 draw left them 10 points adrift of Shelbourne. Confident, however, that they will be awarded the 15 points the league took off them for the improper registration of Ugandan international Charles Mbabazi Livingstone, they broke out the champagne and celebrated what they see as a brilliant league campaign. They won eight of their last nine games and had they not been deducted those points, they’d have won the league by five point.

The second-place team, Shamrock Rovers, had a 3-0 victory over Galway United and will go into the UEFA Cup if St. Patrick’s appeal is not successful. Afterward, their manager, Damien Richardson, declared himself delighted that the league season was finally over and hoped never to see another one like it.

At the other end of the table, Dundalk were relegated despite their 3-0 victory at Monaghan United. They joined the home team and Galway United in taking the plunge. Longford will have to play off against Finn Harps to decide who takes the final First Division spot next year.

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On the international scene, meanwhile, Damien Duff found that the price of international success is domestic unrest when he returned to Blackburn Rovers on Thursday morning only to be told by Greame Souness to go home and rest. Having put on a fantastic display in dismantling Denmark, 3-0, at Lansdowne Road the night before, Duff was the subject of a prolonged outburst by Souness later on Thursday when the Blackburn manager criticized Irish manager Mick McCarthy for playing the Ballyboden winger for too long.

In truth, it would have been difficult for McCarthy to take Duff off, so completely was he entertaining the crowd and dismantling the Danes. His run and cross set Ian Harte up for the first goal and he was generally magnificent throughout. As McCarthy said afterward, any chance he had of springing Duff as a surprise package at the World Cup is now gone.

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