Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Celine Dion Factor

Hers was the name on every sweaty pair of lips that arrived late into the romantic surroundings of Dalymount Park on Friday night last. Floodlight issues had forced kick-off time to be moved forward to 19.15, inconveniently colliding with the slightly larger following for the aforementioned diva, who were thronging in their tens of thousands to GAA HQ.

'Twas a beautiful summer's evening in leafy Phibsboro as this straggler strode purposefully towards the ground from the Northside. It was slightly depressing to note that there was nothing around me to suggest that an eL Premier Division game was soon to start less than 50 metres away. At least when the Hoops are providing the opposition the place is replete with hungry dogs and Gardai on horses. I don't mean that the dogs are on the horses with the Gardai.

As ever, some hardy souls had made the four-hour trek from the Northwest, and they had the Rovers manger sat in their midst. Whether or not this modified their abuse of underperforming players I could not tell. To my mind, few of the visiting side underperformed on the night.

It seems as if every ground you visit now features an overly large person with childish features - sometimes cartoonish - wandering around waving, dancing and generally being friendly to uncomfortable victims. The Bohs version of this phenomenon bears a strong resemblance to Dennis the Menace, but is as yet nameless.

On the field of play it was a case of Fenn is the Menace for the Gypsys. Pat Fenlon deserves credit for revitalising the career of a player who was in danger of being washed up following a disastrous season under the guidance of Sean Connor. Bohs held territorial sway for much of the first half as the visitors adapted to the absence of centre-half Mauro Almeida and Benin-bound striker Romauld Boco. The reluctance of Rovers' central defenders to be drawn out of position by Fenn was crucial to the game's opening goal. He collected, was watched, was watched, played a 1-2, was watched, shaped to shoot, was approached - too late. A rapier-like effort cut low into Pat Jennings' right hand corner.

It's my first time to see Paul Cook's side in the flesh and I am impressed. They recover their composure to finish the half in the ascendancy. Apart from one of those special PJ moments - he dwells on a clearance, only to eventually whack it against Glenn Crowe; the runaway ball sails over the bar - there is little threat to their goal.

In the battle of the attacking full-backs it was current title-holder Owen Heary who bossed the opening half; Seamus Coleman was to the fore after the break. His side may well have fared better had they been able to supply their front two with ball to their feet. With the double-lock of Ken Oman and Liam Burns breathing down their spines, any other type of delivery seemed pointless. That said, such was Sligo's second half dominance that Fenn slipped again into that near obscurity from whence he had been rescued. With the anonymous Jason Byrne already withdrawn from his midfield role, it was Glenn Crowe who made way for Rovers' old-boy Darren Mansaram.

Fenlon's persistence with Byrne on the right may be a passing thing - no pun intended - but he has never been more than an average footballer with an eye for goal. His contribution from midfield is limited to the mundanities of average footballers. Back to Mansaram - within a couple of minutes of his introduction the lanky striker had burst free of his marker. Ultimately there was little danger, yet the Bohs faithful cheered his effort loudly. So loudly as to belie their collective nervousness.

A game which captivated began to see-saw as the final fifteen minutes ticked down. For all their territorial dominance and abundant possession it was striking to note that Brian Murphy had yet to be seriously tested by the Bit o'Red. PJ too was enjoying a sedentary second half. With fewer than ten minutes remaining, Joxer Kelly & Mansaram linked on the outskirts of the Sligo penalty area.

Thit Joxer ar an talamh. Bhi se in san bhosca. Pionos. Apologies for lack of fadas. It seemed a soft peno from this vantage point, but the injured party was forced to withdraw from the action. Killian Brennan added to his reputation by netting the spot-kick. Sligo hearts hung low - this was yet another of those harsh footballing lessons. Whilst they digested it, Brennan added a second.

It was tough on Rovers after they had turned in a fine performance for most of this match. Anto Murphy revealed another side to his game following his long-throw party-piece years at Pats. Coleman's forward forays are effective, but his inexperience was betrayed by his willingness to over-carry late in the proceedings. Possibly a sign of the youngster's frustration and, conversely, his ability to shine on a bigger stage.

Cook will grow tired of empty plaudits - yes his side play a neat and attractive brand of football - they are a match for the top sides, but remain a notch below. Hopefully cup success comes their way, it will provide the backroom staff and off-field drays with renewed vigour for their difficult tasks.

What of Bohs - after all, they ran out clear winners against such a talented side. The Gypsys will fail to excite throughout this campaign. It is not Nutsy's style. He has quickly crafted an effective unit. Not for them the 4-3 win, or the 4-3 defeat; just the points. 1-0 will do. They are tough to break down, Fenlon would sleep a little easier if they were a little more potent - but Bohs will present a stiff challenge to anyone who fancies wresting the title from the stuttering Drogheda United this term.

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