No such excitement in the top league – among the best it was business as usual, somewhat supporting the sceptics view that enlargement of professional or semi-professional football was hardly the way for elevating the quality of the game in a relatively poor country where the best players played in England by definition. Changes or no changes, things were staying as they were…
University College Dublin was the weakest team and ended last and relegated with 8 points. Shelbourne was unlucky to a point, but certainly weak – they were 10th with 13 points, but relegated on worse goal-difference. Cork City survived on better goal-difference, but the future did not look bright for them.
Limerick City had a so-so season – 6th with 24 points – but they also marked a new divide: they finished 5 points ahead of Athlone Town, 7th, which suggested that the enlargement of professional football was perhaps further weakening of most teams – the newly reduced top league was sharply divided into two groups of teams and perhaps the limited resources of the country could not support more than half-a-dozen decent teams. Say what you like, but even among the better teams there was no strong competition – Dundalk finished 3rd with 30 points and Galway United came closest to rivaling the best known Irish club with 31 points. But were they really close?
Shamrock Rovers won the championship like many times before. On the surface, it was not an easy season – they were only 2 points ahead of Galway. No doubt, Irish spirit kept every team fighting against Shamrock Rovers, but ability was limited and really the leaders had it easier than their rivals, especially against the weaker half of the league. At the end, they won 15 out of total 22 games, tied 3 and lost 4. Galway lost fewer games – 3 and Dundalk 4, but both challengers won only 12 matches each and that was the big difference making Shamrock Rovers winners. They scored most goals – 44 – and had second-best defense – 17 (Dundalk allowed only 16 goals in their net). At the end, the attack prevailed and attack was most important against the weaker teams in the league.
If anybody doubted the class of Shamrock Rovers, the team was quick to kill the argument: they reached the Cup final and there disposed of Waterford United 2-0.
Waterford United was weaker, no doubt, and winning was not their forte – ties were their specialty this season – but at the end their disappointment was compensated with a chance for playing a bit of international football by representing Eire in the Cup Winners Cup. Thanks to Shamrock Rovers, as it was…
Rovers collected one more cup and repeated their Cup success of the previous year. A double was the final result of the season, clearly proving that they were the strongest Irish club even in the new environment. Some things never change.