For those that watch the League of Ireland, it seems apparent (to me anyway) that competitive balance in the league has shifted in the past number of seasons.
On the 4th of November 2018 Cork City and Dundalk will meet for the 4th successive year in the FAI Cup Final. The meeting of the same two teams, four years in a row, has never happened in the FA Cup or Scottish Cup. This is also true of the Copa Del Rey and many other cups across Europe I have checked.
Given the dynamics of a knock-out competition, and the probability of drawing a team at any stage, it is quite remarkable that Cork and Dundalk meet again. It is all the more remarkable that the last 3 meetings ended tied at the end of normal time, meaning neither has been beaten over 90 minutes in the FAI Cup since late summer 2014! This year's league table gives us further insight to the dominance of these two clubs, and how Dundalk's achievement in regaining the league title is somewhat of an outlier in recent years.
Since 2009 (ten full seasons) six clubs have been crowned champions of Ireland; Bohemians (2009), Shamrock Rovers (2010 and 2011); Sligo Rovers (2012); St Patrick's Athletic (2013) Dundalk (2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018) and Cork City (2017).
The charts below demonstrate how Dundalk and Cork have solidified their positions in recent years.
This is important in the context of what comes next. The other four winners of the League since 2009 have failed to regain their title. This is not unusual and I have previously addressed the issue here.
What Dundalk and, to a lesser extent, Cork City are doing is not what we have been used to in recent years. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues. While such dominance will not be welcomed by fans of other clubs, it is in the interest of the league generally, in terms of improving UEFA coefficients and European club competition progression.
The upcoming FAI Cup Final will be required viewing. If extra time is needed, both Dundalk and Cork will go close to 5 years without losing a FAI Cup game in normal time. I wonder has any other country ever had this experience?