Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Case For the Attack

By now, Pat Fenlon will have refocused his attentions on the demands of his day job, following his unveiling of the U23 squad for the upcoming game with David Jeffrey's Norn Iron side. Football is all about opinion; one man's stocking is another man's star; and Fenlon has been tasked with tattooing his views onto this representative squad.

It can come as no surprise that his own club supply the greatest cohort - four of the twenty players named - with league leaders St. Pats, and Shamrock Rovers, managing three. Many name Rovers as the best young side in the Premier Division; that may have been the case last season, but Pat Scully has released quite a lot of his talented youngsters.

Wisely, Tadhg Purcell was one of those whose talents were retained. The former UCD and Kilkenny City striker is one of the eircom League's finest young players and it is difficult to comprehend how he can have been omitted from Nutsy's chosen 20.

Look at the competition - Dave Mooney is a fair choice, the outright goalscorer option. Mark Quigley, likewise - a proven goalscorer with pace and an indefinable slipperiness about him. Ger Rowe - hmm. On his day Rowe is one of the best around; there were signs during his tenancy at Shamrock Rovers that those days were going to become more regular occurrences, sadly they are reassuming the regularity of Bank Holidays. The circumstances surrounding his dismissal from Pat Scully's gallery of pleasures were murky, the hand of Nutsy never far from the conversation. It goes then that Fenlon is an undoubted admirer of Rowe's undoubted, but too often unapplied, talents.

Then there's Denis Behan - the battering ram. There's always room for an alternative approach, and Fenlon is right to prepare for such an eventuality. Sometimes the heft and unsettling physical presence of a well-fed six-footer is required to disturb a comfortable backline. Denis Behan has fulfilled such a role with too much familiarity for Cork City over the last few seasons, unable to nail down a starting position under el Rico or currently, Alan Matthews.

Purcell fulfils such a purpose, and more for the Hoops. He's not an out and out goalscorer in the vein of Mooney's recent successes. That said, he netted 12 times from 27 starts as the Hoops swept to the First Division title in 2006 - it seems a long time back already. The transition to Premier Division defences should have provided him with a sterner challenge. The striker matched his First Division tally, this time from 22 starts. When one takes inflation into account this has to be taken as an increase in the scoring rate.

What it underlines is the upward trend in the learning curve. Even I'm getting bored now - he's getting better, improving & learning all the time. Anybody who watched his one-man show versus the Pats defence last weekend can't but have been impressed by his talent. That Stephen Paisley was motivated to return a performance, which served only to remind us of his latent talents, was testament to the torrid time the one-man show delivered upon him.

Purcell knows not what fatigue is; he will run himself into the ground week upon week - creating space, mayhem and eliciting errors from shaken centre-halves. His ability to retain possession, his ability on the ground and his awareness of what is occurring around him all lead one to predict a glowing future for him. That future should include U23 international caps, for he has no betters in his position. Purcell for Ireland!

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