Two decades after they last went head to head for a league title, Dublin clubs Bohemian FC and Shamrock Rovers FC have renewed their intense rivalry as they zero in on the 2009 Premier Division title.
When Rovers enjoyed their most successful period, winning four league titles in a row from 1984 to 1987, Dublin neighbours Bohemians were their main rivals. But Rovers have not landed the championship since 1994, while Bohs have won three titles in that time. After a slow start to the season – Rovers were third from bottom in the table after six games – the Hoops, led by their highly-rated manager Michael O'Neill and driven by goals from Scottish import Gary Twigg, have surged to the top of the table and with five games to go in the season, they hold a two-point lead over closest challengers Bohemians.
It has made the 2009 season the most exciting in years, as current champions Bohemians had last season's title secured with five games to spare. "If Rovers win their last five games they will have gone 26 games unbeaten and if they manage that, they deserve to win the league," said Bohemians captain Owen Heary, who is hoping to win the seventh league medal of his career. "I think we can win our last five games so it's just a matter of how many points, if any, Rovers drop, but I believe that if we win all five games now, we will win the title."
Back on top
Rovers, who were playing in the second tier only three years ago following relegation in 2005, have been on a superb unbeaten run since May, but the key game in their surge to the top of the table was a 1-0 win at home to Bohs, which put them on top of the table for the first time in a decade. However, veteran player Ollie Cahill, a league winner with two of his previous clubs, has warned Hoops supporters to expect the race to go all the way.
"I think the league will only be decided on the last day," said the 34-year-old Cahill. "There is a long way to go yet and the biggest mistake we could make now is to start getting cocky and start shouting about the UEFA Champions League. It's a nice position to be in, but there are five games to go. One slip-up from us and a win for Bohs and they are back on top, so we're not getting carried away."
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