The Republic of Ireland's most successful club face a battle to maintain their top-flight status after a disastrous Premier Division campaign.
All or nothing
A dismal end-of-season run, including five straight defeats, saw Shamrock Rovers FC drop to eleventh in the 12-team division. Rovers must now play a two-leg play-off against First Division side Dublin City FC, the losers of which will play next season in the second tier. The first leg falls tonight at Dalymount Park with the return at Dublin's Tolka Park home on Friday.
'We can stay up'
A 2-1 defeat at home by Waterford United FC on the penultimate weekend of the season sealed Rovers' fate, with only relegated Finn Harps FC separating them from the foot of the table. "I am confident we can stay up, I have seen the players and I know what they can do," said Rovers coach Alan O'Neill, who took over on 17 November after manager Roddy Collins was suspended by the club.
Earlier in the season, the club were threatened with liquidation until a supporters' trust stepped in to take over. In May they were deducted eight points due to financial irregularities, a penalty without which the club would have escaped the bottom two.
Behind champions Cork City FC and Derry City FC, Shelbourne FC finished the season on a high, although it was only enough for third place and a berth in the UEFA Intertoto Cup. The 2004 champions won eleven of their final 13 games, and goalkeeper Dean Delaney kept clean sheets in ten of the last eleven matches.
Tolka Park clearout
Despite the late-season run, Shels manager Pat Fenlon has already released seven players, including former Irish international Curtis Fleming, Glenn Fitzpatrick and Hussein Yazdani, along with four players who had been loaned out from Tolka Park.
Waterford are still celebrating their fightback to avoid the drop. Waterford had gone almost five months without a league win when former Cork City FC manager Pat Dolan arrived as an 'adviser' in September. Dolan sparked a stunning revival, including a win and a draw against the top two sides Derry and Cork. The 2-1 win away against Shamrock Rovers on 11 November made them safe, and the club is now trying to agree a deal to keep Dolan on board.
Despite Finn Harps' relegation, manager Anthony Gorman has pledged to stay on. The newly-promoted Donegal side won just five matches all season, finishing six points behind Shamrock Rovers.
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