Mixed week for Hibs loanees as positive ineligibility call is followed by surprise defeat in title race

Hibs pair Stevie Bradley and Runar Hauge have endured a week of mixed emotions with loan side Dundalk.

The Oriel Park side were awarded the points from a defeat last month following an investigation into the opposing team fielding an ineligible player, but suffered a surprise defeat to the League of Ireland basement club on Friday night.

Both results could be pivotal in deciding the title-winners this season.

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Ineligibility probe

Bradley and Hauge both featured in Dundalk’s 2-0 defeat by Sligo Rovers on Monday August 29 at the Showgrounds, but the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) charged Sligo, who knocked Motherwell out of the Europa Conference League at the second qualifying round stage, with fielding a player who should have been suspended.

Adam O’Donnell started for John Russell’s side before being subbed off shortly before the hour mark but shouldn’t have been on the field.

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When his involvement came to light, the FAI’s Disciplinary Committee charged Sligo Rovers with fielding an ineligible player although the Connacht club claimed they had received ‘contradictory communications’ regarding the suspension.

Following a meeting of the Republic of Ireland football governing body earlier this week, it was decided to award the game to Dundalk as punishment.

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Hibs loanees Runar Hauge, top, and Stevie Bradley are chasing the league title with Dundalk

An FAI statement read: “An independent Disciplinary Committee of the Football Association of Ireland has determined that Sligo Rovers FC fielded an ineligible player in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division fixture against Dundalk FC on Monday, August 29th 2022.

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“The Committee has ruled that Sligo Rovers FC will forfeit the game by a scoreline of 0-3.”

A statement from Sligo Rovers read: “Sligo Rovers are disappointed with the outcome of the FAI Disciplinary Control Unit hearing which results in an overturning of the recent win against Dundalk at The Showgrounds.

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“While we understand and admit that an error was made on the club’s behalf, the issue was contributed to by the omission of the player’s name from two weekly suspension lists issued by the FAI to all clubs, which led to confusion.”

Surprise defeat

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Although that three points gave Dundalk a boost in the title race going into last night’s round of fixtures, they conceded two goals in the last ten minutes to suffer something of a shock 3-2 defeat by University College Dublin (UCD) at the UCD Bowl.

Bradley put Dundalk in the lead on the hour mark after Tommy Lonergan had cancelled out Keith Ward’s opener but Dylan Duffy squared the game on 80 minutes before Lonergan scored in the 88th-minute to blow the title race wide open and lift the Students off the bottom.

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Huage played the last 22 minutes as both Hibees got gametime but with Derry beating Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers hosting Finn Harps, who now prop up the division, Dundalk will need to rely on a specific set of results to have any hope of winning a fifteenth league title.

Including tonight’s game, Rovers have three games on hand over Dundalk, and Derry City have one. At the time of writing Shamrock Rovers sit top with 56 points, Derry City are second with 55 and Dundalk are in third on 53 points.

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The final-day meeting between Dundalk and Derry City at the Brandywell on November 4 could well have a crucial role in determining the winner of the league.