Saturday 16 December 2017

Deluge forces Hoops to put champagne on ice

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

SHAMROCK ROVERS will be hoping for an upturn in the weather if they are to be crowned League of Ireland champions this evening.

There was major disappointment for the Hoops masses that were descending on Belfield last night when their game with UCD was called off due to a waterlogged pitch although -- with the 7.05 kick-off -- intense traffic amid the downpour in Dublin would have made it difficult for some to make it there in time.

Referee Neil Doyle made his final decision after a second pitch inspection at 5.30. He said that health and safety conditions for players was the ultimate factor.

The playing surface was in relatively good nick until persistent rain continued after the first inspection at 5.0.

It was immediately decided that the game would be rescheduled for the Belfield Bowl this evening, again with a 7.05 start to accommodate live television coverage on RTE2.

Rovers boss Michael O'Neill was supportive of Doyle's verdict, although all involved with the league will be desperate for conditions to improve today.

A win for Rovers would secure them the title ahead of Friday's final round of fixtures. However, if they were to draw or lose, the race would go down to the wire.

But with a forlorn Galway side set to visit Tallaght, Sligo manager Paul Cook -- whose team are in second place -- has already conceded defeat.

In an ideal world, though, the FAI would like all the concluding fixtures in the league to take place at the same time. Although there is confidence the game will go ahead tonight, the nightmare scenario would be another cancellation.

Rovers need the game to go ahead this week as they would like a clear run after Friday into next Thursday's Europa League meeting with PAOK Salonika -- a game that probably offers their best chance of picking up points in the group, and the associated prize money.

Officials of Shelbourne will also be hoping for a better forecast today. They can seal promotion from the First Division tonight when Finn Harps visit Tolka Park. A victory would be enough to earn Alan Mathews' side a return to the top flight after a five-year absence.

Shels would move four points ahead of third-placed Monaghan with a win. As it stands, they are a point behind leaders Cork, who visit Tolka on Saturday for a game that will decide the destination of the title.

Irish Independent

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