By Ed Leahy
What a start to the season by Sligo Rovers. While all the European leagues are coming down to the business end of things, it looks like the Airtricity League Premier Division title is already heading back to the northwest, and it’s not due to be decided until October.
Derry City, to their credit, are hanging in there and if they had earned a share of the spoils in the league opener, which they probably deserved, there would only be two points in it.
But the five-point gap is in place, nine to Dundalk and a whopping double-digit 12 (TWELVE) to pre-season favourites Shamrock Rovers, St Pat’s and Cork City.
So it would probably be fair to award the entire team of the week to the Sligo 1 to 11. It would certainly make my job an easy one.
But unlike most team selections, this XI is all about the individual. Selfishness, audacity, cockiness, rebelliousness and downright greed… are all traits that I am looking out for when selecting my team of the week.
Eh, actually, goalkeepers and defenders; don’t pay any notice to that last line. You have a job to do and that’s what will get you selected.
1. Gabriel Sava (Drogheda United)
The highly rated keeper has had a mixed start to the season but Sava was back to his best in Tallaght on Friday night. Pulled off a crucial injury-time save to earn his side a deserved share of the spoils and commanded his area all evening.
2. Simon Madden (Derry City) Flying up and down the right flank is one of Madden’s main attributes and really adds an extra dimension to the City attack. Another clean sheet for the Candystripes at Dalymount as Madden and his back-four team-mates had a flawless night in Dublin.
3. Ian Bermingham (St Patrick’s Athletic) St Pat’s got their season back on track on Friday night with a hard-fought win at the Carlisle Grounds. Another clean sheet for Buckley’s side and Bermingham added an extra dimension in attack bombing up the left flank.
4 Derek Foran (Shamrock Rovers)
One of the few Shamrock Rovers players performing this season, Foran has been consistent in the middle of defence in the absence of the injured Jason McGuinness. Foran took matters into his own hands on Friday night, venturing forward and nearly winning it for the Hoops as his shot from distance hit the post before setting up Mark Quigley who should have made certain of the win but his shot was well saved.
5. Evan McMillan (Sligo Rovers) A nod to another Sligo Rovers clean sheet and McMillen was, once again, solid in defence for Ian Baraclough’s side. And as the manager has admitted, his team are yet to get going, which puts particular emphasis on a hard-working, tight defence. McMillen is excelling at his new club.
6 Stephen Bradley (Limerick) One of the classiest footballers in the Airtricity League, former Shamrock Rovers midfielder Bradley looks like he is hitting fine form again in a footballing Limerick midfield. Was influential in both Limerick goals at Oriel Park.
7 Patrick McEleney (Derry City)
Just edging out team-mate Barry McNamee for a place on this week’s eleven, McEleney’s strike at Dalymount on Friday night was certainly one for the scrapbook. The Candystripes are the only team keeping up with leaders Sligo and McEleney and the City midfield are pulling the strings.
8. Raf Cretaro (Sligo Rovers) Everything creative happening in Sligo this season appears to be coming through the re-vitalised Cretaro. Playing alongside the influential David Cawley and linking superbly with striker supreme Anthony Elding, this could prove the Tubercurry Tornedo’s best season in some time.
9. Michael Rafter (Derry City) Proving to be a contender for player of the season, the lively City striker has already scored five goals this season. Was at the heart of everything on Friday night, scoring one and dropping deep to set up the equally impressive Barry McNamee for a goal.
10. Anthony Elding (Sligo Rovers) Bouncebackability; a rare barren 90 minutes last Monday at UCD, Elding returned with a brace at The Showgrounds on Saturday night. That’s eight league goals in seven games already this season. ‘Nuff said.
11. Aaron Greene (Sligo Rovers)
Back to his 2011 form after a year’s sabbatical in Dublin, Greene stepped in to grab two goals at Belfield in midweek and was in top form in the victory over Shelbourne on Saturday. Adds great pace and excellent delivery, and gives Ian Baraclough another option to the goal-scoring machine that is Elding.