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Barstooler: 5 big talking points from last weekend's Airtricity League action

If you’re stuck for something to say when chatting about domestic football, here’s a cut out and keep list of semi-intelligent points.

Soak it up: Drogheda fans celebrate their win against Derry.
Soak it up: Drogheda fans celebrate their win against Derry.
Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

IN THE FIRST of a new series, we look at the biggest talking points from last weekend’s Airtricity League action. If you’re stuck for something to say when chatting about domestic football , here’s a cut out and keep list of semi-intelligent points.

Is Aaron Callaghan setting the bar too low for Bohs?

Pat Dolan certainly seems to think so. On RTÉ’s MNS last night, Dolan took a thinly-veiled swipe at Callaghan’s management style by arguing that Bohs have “conditioned themselves to be mediocre” this season.

The realities of life around Dalymount means that Bohs are going to be very limited this season, so they can hardly be blamed if they play to contain teams as they did very effectively for 78 minutes against Shamrock Rovers on Friday night. Rovers’ full-backs Kerrea Gilbert and Killian Brennan weren’t allowed to push on as they might have liked, while Stephen Traynor kept the pressure on the Rovers midfield.

Callaghan’s main problem is not what his side are doing without the ball, but what they are doing with it. They’ve yet to score in five league games.

Are the Brennan brothers holding Drogheda together?

It’s still too early to start reading into early-season form, but it’s safe to say that Drogheda’s strong start has been a bit of a surprise.

Their only defeat so far came against Shamrock Rovers on opening weekend, when the champions laboured to a 2-1 win. Since then, they’ve been on a four-game unbeaten run which includes wins against Cork, Bray and Derry City and a draw in the Louth derby against Dundalk.

The return of the Brennan brothers — Gavin, Sean and Ryan, all of whom missed the Rovers game through suspension — has been central to Drogheda’s strong start. They starred again in the win against Derry, but Drogheda are hardly a three-man team. Seven different players have already chipped in with at least one goal this season.

Can Pat’s replace Danny North’s goals?

Last weekend underlined the importance of having an out-and-out goalscorer in your team. At the top end of the table, two tight games were turned on their head by men with a proven knack for finding the net: Shamrock Rovers’ Gary Twigg and Sligo’s Danny North.

Rovers struggled to find a way through the Bohs defence until Twigg’s one-touch-and-finish goal 12 minutes from time. Similarly, in the Showgrounds, Sligo found themselves closely matched by Dundalk in the first half until North gambled and stole in to score at the back post five minutes after the restart.

Only time will tell if Christy Fagan is an adequate replacement for North at St Patrick’s Athletic, but with just five goals in five games, the Saints will need to find a goalscorer quickly if they are serious about challenging for the title.

Have Shels steadied the ship?

Shelbourne’s 1-1 draw against St Pat’s on Friday night will have helped reassure Alan Mathews that his side remain on course for a top-half finish in their first season back with the big boys.

Dean Delany’s sending-off was the most obvious of the extenuating circumstances in their 4-0 defeat against Shamrock Rovers, but Shels again showed organisation and resilience to compensate for Glenn Cronin’s sending off, frustrating Pat’s to earn a point.

Why is it so hard to get pitches right?

The state of the Premier Division pitches has been second only to red cards when it comes to major talking points in the Airtricity League this season.

The issue was raised again by Pat’s manager Liam Buckley in his post-match comments on Friday night when he picked on the Tolka Park surface, a point also raised by Sligo officials following their trip to Drumcondra on opening weekend.

Down the road in Phibsboro, Bohemians find themselves in a very similar situation, largely due to the overuse of the pitch. Bad surfaces will encourage unattractive football, and it’s an niggling problem which should be avoidable since the move to summer football.

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Niall Kelly

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