We’ve had two rounds of First Division games and almost three full rounds of the Premier Division - all bar the postponed Derry City v Shamrock Rovers fixture. As such, it’s time to take a look at any patterns which may be starting to form and to see if anyone has carried their form over from the 2020 season.
For many Liverpool fans, last week saw right back Trent Alexander Arnold dominate the headlines for his non-selection in the national squad. His response on the field was to produce a sumptuous cross for Diogo Jota to open the scoring against Arsenal on Saturday night.
However, he’s not the only right back to be racking up assists this weekend. Athlone Town’s Aidan Friel has kicked off 2021 with an assist in each of his two games.
Last weekend his cross was converted by Stephen Meaney to open the scoring against UCD while on Friday, the unfortunate Gary Boylan turned a Friel centre into his own goal in the Midlanders’ 3-1 defeat of Galway Utd.
Not to be outdone in the marauding right back stakes, Drogheda’s James Brown also notched his second assist of the season by setting up Mark Doyle for the equaliser against Finn Harps on Saturday night.
Incidentally, similar to Friel, Brown’s other assist came courtesy of an own goal - Cameron Evans poking his pull back past Brian Murphy to seal a late defeat for Waterford in the opening round of the 2021 fixtures.
Brown is in productive form at the moment with a goal and five assists in his last six league games (last three of 2020 and first three of 2021).
Another to show form carrying over from last season is St Patrick’s Athletic frontman Ronan Coughlan. His towering header took all three points for the Saints against Bohs to add to his opener in the win over Drogheda the previous week.
Having also scored in the last two fixtures of the 2020 league season, against Cork City and Dundalk respectively, it leaves him with four goals from his past five league games.
Ex-UCD player Robbie Benson, whose corner kick was converted by Coughlan, has now recorded assists against Dublin sides Bohs, Shamrock Rovers and Shelbourne over the past two seasons.
His own former club, based in the capital, recorded an impressive 4-0 win away to Cobh Ramblers on Saturday night. A brace from Liam Kerrigan was added to by a Colm Whelan strike and Jack Keaney’s free kick.
That means the last two encounters against Cobh have produced three goals each for both Kerrigan and Whelan, while goalkeeper Lorcan Healy has yet yo concede in three encounters against the Munstermen.
Keaney also became the first person to score a direct free kick in the First Division in both 2020 and 2021 - his 2020 effort was against Shamrock Rovers II. With nine league goals and five assists last season for Shamrock Rovers II - including scoring three direct free kicks, Brandon Kavanagh’s loan signing by Bray Wanderers looked to be a shrewd move.
Two goals and an assist in this weekend's 3-3 draw with Shelbourne only adds to this view. Georgie Poynton also scored a brace in the game - his second a penalty. The Laytown native also netted a spot kick last season - against former club Dundalk - while recording four assists from set plays, one from a corner and three from free kicks.
Speaking of free kicks, Shane Griffin curled in the opener in their 2-1 victory away to Derry City. The same player scored a late winner against the Candystripes in 2020, his only league goal of the season.
Waterford scored a single direct free kick themselves, courtesy of Tyreke Wilson, last season while both goals at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium came form deadball situations - all three of their goals this season have been set piece related as Cian Kavanagh’s goal in the defeat to Sligo came courtesy of a Mascoll corner kick.
This weekend the winner came as a result of Oscar Brennan converting his own saved penalty before being sent off. A red card took up much of the discourse following Shamrock Rovers’ last encounter with Dundalk, however there were no dismissals at Tallaght Stadium in Friday’s encounter.
Long range strikes
Instead, the talk focused on the long range strikes from Danny Mandroiu and Dylan Watts which earned the spoils for Stephen Bradley’s men. Confounding the previous week, where no goals were scored outside the penalty area, both Rovers strikes were the far side of the eighteen yard box.
However, keeping with a pattern from 2020 - Dylan Watts scored against Dundalk at Tallaght Stadium and Danny Mandroiu found the net in a game where his team scored twice. All three of his 2020 league goals for Bohs came in 2-0 victories - over Waterford, Sligo and Shelbourne respectively.
From teams who’ve been slogging it out for silverware over the past few seasons to a team who have only been formed in the past few months. Treaty United have yet to concede a goal in their opening two fixtures, recording a goalless draw against Bray and beating Wexford. They now have also matched the number of clean sheets kept by Athlone Town in 2020.
Having used both Tadhg Ryan and Shane Cusack between the sticks it means that they’ve matched the achievement of both Cabinteely (Chambers and Kelly) and Cobh (Hunt and Barron) last season in having two different goalkeepers keep a clean sheet in the First Division.
Incidentally, Tommy Barrett’s men face Cobh Ramblers next week, whose squad now contains both Chambers and Barron. The duo were the respective sub keepers when Cabinteely met Cobh last August. The winning goal that night was scored by Shane Barnes.
Barnes is now with Athlone Town and is the man who has replaced Stephen Meaney in the last two Town games. Stephen Meaney’s opening goal of 2021 was assisted by Aidan Friel and is 22 years of age - the same age as Trent Alexander Arnold.
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