April has been a wonderful month for the country as restrictions and lockdowns continue to be eased – there’s a real feeling of optimism in society as summer beckons, no more so than in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division where the season has settled down and the first series of games is close to completion.

The May Bank holiday program will signal the end of the first complete series of matches. It’s looking good, fingers crossed, for a full league season of 36 games, and that’s what we all want, players, management - and the fans who are looking forward to attending games before the end of the year.

There were 31 games played in the month of April – the odd one being the re-fix of Derry City and Shamrock Rovers, which was postponed in March because of International call-ups.

Sixty-four goals were scored in those matches at an average of just over 2 goals per game – but while the quantity was quite low, it belies the quality of the games and some of the incredible goals that were scored by 44 different players during the month.

After the strange opening matches in March when none of last year’s top three -Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk and Bohemians - won a game, the results have settled down in recent weeks to leave us, at the end of April, with St Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers out in front, the only unbeaten sides – and also the league’s top scorers after eight series of matches.

Here is my take on the analysis of all those 31 games – with a few interesting take aways.

NUMBER OF GOALS

31 games have produced 64 goals, an average in the month of 2.07 goals per game.

St Pat’s and Shamrock Rovers have been the joint top scorers with 13 and are joint top on 20 points; Waterford and Longford Town have scored just 5 – and they are in 9th and 10th place.

WHEN GOALS ARE SCORED

There were 25 goals in the first half and 39 in the second; Here’s the 15-minute breakdown:

0-15 mins - 6

16-30 - 8

31-45 - 11

45+ - 0

46-60 - 15

61-75 - 9

76-90 - 11

90+ - 4

The earliest goal of the season so far was Darragh Burns for St Pat’s v Waterford after one minute and thirty seconds on 20 April - and that proved to be the winner as one of Stephen O’Donnell’s younger players proved that if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.

The latest goal so far also proved decisive in a narrow one-nil victory as Danny Mandroiu headed home the only goal of the game in the 95th minute against Drogheda United to snatch all three points with that dramatic finale.

So far, in 40 games, there have been no goals in time added on at the end of the first half.

MOST COMMON SCORELINES

It’s probably no surprise that the most common is 1-0 or 0-1 – that occurred 9 times in April, the home side prevailing 6 times, the away team on 3 occasions.

2-1 or 1-2 is close behind with 7, only one of those being an away win, that was Derry City in Dalymount Park on the last day of the month, coming from behind with two goals by Cameron McJannett.

0-0, 2-2, 3-0, 0-3, 1-3 and 0-4 have all occurred just once this season – and Longford Town have had the most unusual set of results as they have been involved in the 0-0, the 2-2, the 0-4 and the 3-0.

GOALS BY SUBSTITUTES

The manager’s dream is always to bring on a substitute that scores the decisive goal in a game and hats off to Liam Buckley in Dalymount Park on 20 April when not one but two subs scored, Mark Byrne getting his first ever senior goal to put Sligo Rovers ahead and David Cawley scoring the clincher in a 3-1 win.

Danny Mandroiu did the same for Shamrock Rovers with that late, late header in Drogheda that broke their hearts, the only goal of the game coming in the 95th minute.

Dave McMillan came off the bench for Dundalk in Derry to score one of the Goal of the Month contenders with a near post volley after replacing Patrick Hoban.

And last but not least, Ronan Coughlan scored within two minutes of coming on as a second half sub for St Pat’s v Longford Town, the goal that put the Saints on their way.

SET PLAY GOALS

There were no goals in April direct from a free-kick, so Shane Griffin’s goal for Waterford in The Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium in March is the only one this season.

Corners yielded six goals in April. There were eight goals from free-kicks and eight penalties scored out of nine awarded – Derry City’s Nathan Gartside with the only penalty save this season – though it didn’t have a happy conclusion as Oscar Brennan followed up to score on the rebound.

LONG RANGE GOALS

In March, there were no goals scored from outside the box out of 21.

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Happily, that’s a statistic that has completely changed in April: 13 of the 64 goals have been form long range, that’s nearly 20%.

And the longest was Graham Burke’s incredible long-range effort from the half-way line in Derry, a definite contender for the Goal of the Month and Season.

Six of those goals from outside the penalty area are included in the Goal of the Month competition that you can see below.

ASSISTS

There has never been an award in Irish football for the player with the greatest number of assists. Now that we have the coverage of every game, there is no reason why we can’t keep a tally of the best ‘assisters’ in our league.

There have been 56 assists for the 85 goals in March and April.

Every side has a player that takes responsibility for taking dead ball kicks – you might think that they have an advantage in this category - but if you look at the list of players at the top of the assist league, only about half of them strike the dead balls.

4 - Ronan Coughlan (St Pat’s), Will Patching (Derry City)

3 - James Brown (Drogheda Utd), Michael Duffy (Dundalk), Dylan Watts (Shamrock Rovers)

3 - Robbie Benson (St Pat’s), Raivis Jurkovskis (Dundalk), Darragh Markey (Drogheda Utd), Jamie Mascoll (Waterford).

31 players have one assist.

GOALS

Eight games into the season, there are just two players leading the race for the golden boot - centre-forward Adam Foley (Finn Harps) and centre-half Cameron McJannett (Derry City). Foley got 3 of his goals in March, while McJannett has scored all of his in April, a remarkable achievement by a centre-half, he will surely be a marked man at all dead ball kicks from now on.

4 - Adam Foley (Finn Harps), Cameron McJannett (Derry City)

3 - Graham Burke, Rory Gaffney (both Shamrock Rvs), Ronan Coughlan (St Pat’s), Mark Doyle, Chris Lyons (both Drogheda Utd)

2 - Darragh Burns (St Pat’s), Conor Davis, Dylan Grimes (both Longford Town), Pat Hoban, Dave McMillan (both Dundalk), Georgie Kelly, Ross Tierney (both Bohs), Johnny Kenny, Romeo Parkes (both Sligo Rvs), Danny Mandroiu, Dylan Watts (both Shamrock Rvs)

GOAL OF THE MONTH

Now it’s YOUR choice. Here are the best nine goals, in my opinion, that were scored in April.

GOAL A Danny Mandroiu (Shamrock Rvs) v Dundalk, 2 April

GOAL B Karl O’Sullivan (Finn Harps) v Drogheda Utd, 3 April (40 seconds)

GOAL C Adam Foley (Finn Harps) v Waterford, 10 April (50 seconds below)

GOAL D Graham Burke (Shamrock Rvs) v Derry City, 13 April

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GOAL E Jordan Gibson (Sligo Rvs) v Bohemians, 20 April

GOAL F Liam Burt (Bohemians) v Sligo Rvs, 20 April (45 seconds below)

GOAL G Dave McMillan (Dundalk) v Derry City, 20 April

GOAL H Ross Tierney (Bohemians) v Shamrock Rvs, 23 April

GOAL I Chris Forrester (St Pat’s) v Longford Town, 30 April (1'50" below)

GOAL J Michael Duffy (Dundalk) v Waterford, 30 April (2'30" below)

VOTE HERE

WINNER OF MARCH GOAL OF THE MONTH

Jordan Gibson's belter against Waterford received over 48% of the vote.

FINAL THOUGHTS

There are six more series of games to be played in May before the two-week break. Right now, after eight series of matches, the league table tells no lies: after bad starts, Derry City and Dundalk are starting to hit their stride; Finn Harps led the league after four games, now reality is setting in; a great start for Longford Town has dissipated and they find themselves looking up; promoted Drogheda Utd have kicked on; and St Patrick's Athletic and Shamrock Rovers have made identical, unbeaten starts to the campaign.

Every team knows that there is a long way to go. Eight down and 28 to go. I can’t wait!