BETTING COLUMN BY SEAMUS O’CONCHUR
It is probably a good time for all of us to take stock and reflect on the season so far, after a full series of fixtures. We will publish a P&L figure for this page in the coming weeks, but it’s easy to see now that it’s going to be negative. Like the teams in the Airtricity League though, there is little sense in dwelling on what has happened in the season thus far, and such energies as we have for these Friday nights is best spent on plotting how to win points for the remainder of the season.
Picking out the underachievers and the overachievers of the season so far is relatively easy. Using points as the indicator, Dundalk and Cork have overachieved, St Pat’s are where we expect them to be, and Shamrock Rovers, despite being 4th in the table, would be joint-top had they beaten Limerick at home last weekend in the last round of the first series of games.
So making a case for them under-achieving may not be as easy as it looks on first glance. That Dundalk are where they are is fairly consistent with Stephen Kenny’s pedigree as a manager, despite the fact that we all have our opinions on his ability to manage a side at the top for a sustained period. We really should not be surprised at their position, although we might not quite have had them down to pick up six points from trips to Sligo and Inchicore.
Speaking of Sligo, what’s wrong with them? Eight points off the top is not where they want to be, or where we expect them to be. Once Cork play their game in hand against Limerick, they too could be eight clear of Sligo along with Dundalk. However, over the second series of fixtures, we would expect that Cork will regress slightly, and coupled with an improving Sligo outfit, it’s probably safe to say they’ll be closer to the top than they are now by the time we’ve gone through this second series of games.
This weekend Sligo and Dundalk clash in the Setanta Sports Cup final and it’s probably worth a bet on Sligo for the reasons outlined above. In order to make money from betting on football, there will come times where you will have to either buy low or sell high (ideally both). It means that you have to pick out progressive teams and oppose sides who are doing well but may not quite convince. In this case, Stephen O’Donnell is a big loss for Dundalk, particularly in this spot as Rovers have a fairly useful midfield themselves and will look to control possession. Sligo’s draw against an in-form St Pat’s last weekend means they might just be picking up their form, even if they’ve left themselves a lot to do in terms of a serious league title challenge. By opposing Dundalk here we are not necessarily saying that they have peaked and won’t win the league, just that it might not be a great time to back them considering they dismantled the then-league leaders in the shape of Cork City last Friday night. Consider an even bigger bet on Sligo if they drift for any reason.
Getting back to the bread and butter of the league now, and there is little value to be had in this round of fixtures. Derry worked hard against Bohs and despite the home fans going away thinking Dinny Corcoran cost us the game, there is no guarantee that we would have found a way through the Candystripes back four with eleven men. Like ourselves they have struggled at home this season, but all things considered I think I would want to see a shade of odds-against before backing the away side in this game. Derry may scrap their way to a draw here.
St Pat’s look like league champions of late, and it was no surprise to see ex-Bohs player Chris Forrester getting the player of the month award for April. He will go on to greater things, but himself and his team might not have things all their own way at home to Cork tonight. It would be interesting to see the prices for this game if Cork hadn’t been hammered in Dundalk last week, and the truth is that we simply don’t know if their early-season form was a flash in the pan, or whether like Dundalk they can go to Richmond Park with no fear and come away with a result. Again, Pat’s aren’t for me at the prices. At a best price of 4/5, it’s just not the sort of bet you will make money on in the long term in this league.
At the risk of being accused of insanity, we will return to the bet we tipped for the opening day of the season, in the shape of Limerick to beat Bray Wanderers. Bray may be a bit tougher under Alan Matthews than in recent seasons but there is no obvious reason to expect them to finish much better than where they were last season. They actually have 2 points more than Limerick at this stage of the season but again it is doubtful that that will be the case at the end of the season, and it’s arguable that Limerick shouldn’t be as big as the 21/10 available with Pinnacle.
Sligo Rovers, 1pt 2.63 (Pinnacle)
Limerick, 1pt 21/10 (Pinnacle)