Game was up once Shams took the lead

The Sligo Champion - - SPORT -

LIKE be­ing forced to visit your grand­mother on a Sun­day when you were a child, there’s a ter­ri­ble te­dious­ness and dread about any call to Tal­laght Sta­dium. The sparsely pop­u­lated multi-coloured stands bring back lim­ited cheer­ful me­mories for those of the Bit O’Red per­sua­sion.

There has been the odd vic­tory up there. No­tably John Dil­lon’s dra­matic win­ner in 2011 and the Se­tanta Cup suc­cess three years later. But when it comes to fac­ing the Hoops on their patch, it’s mostly of­fered very lit­tle.

Last Friday was the lat­est episode of D24 dis­ap­point­ment. In fact you’d have to go all the way back to the fi­nal game of the 2013 league sea­son to find Rovers’ last win down there. Since then, Shams have man­aged to come out on top in seven of Rovers’ last eight vis­its, with the only ex­cep­tion be­ing a score draw last sea­son.

Stephen Bradley’s side were a mark or two bet­ter on Friday night than our last meet­ing at Tal­laght in March. Al­though again, noth­ing spe­cial.

Rovers were im­pres­sive at times in the first hour but not much to re­port on in terms of an at­tack­ing threat. There was a re­minder of how we can cre­ate goal-scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in the 16th minute. Jack Keaney’s speedy in­ter­ac­tion with Lee Lynch cre­at­ing the space for the stand-in full back to find David Caw­ley, but the height of the cross­bar de­nied him be­com­ing Rovers’ top scorer this sea­son.

Aaron Greene was on the score­sheet in that game in 2013. He along with Sam Bone’s abil­ity to push high up the pitch caused Re­gan Donelon plenty of prob­lems. The for­mer Sligo winger was able to swing in plenty of crosses but to no avail.

Kris Twardek strug­gled to track Bone’s jaunts for­ward while his im­pact on the game was mea­gre.

While on the other wing Caolan McAleer was prac­ti­cally ab­sent and not for the first time, the signs were there that this level re­quires a step or two more than what he can pro­duce.

Twardek and McAleer’s in­abil­ity to make their mark in mid­field meant both Caw­ley and Rhys McCabe were squeezed for room against the Shams mid­dle three.

McCabe re­sort­ing to com­ing closer to the side­line for space. He did pro­duce one or two fan­tas­tic long-range passes but most of what he tried to con­jure broke down two passes later.

The game was up once Shams hit the lead. One down, Ger Lyt­tle de­cided to with­draw Dren­nan in place of Pa­trick McClean to keep four at the back, which drew ques­tion­ing af­ter­wards. A goal be­hind and even with just ten men, surely that was the time to go for broke, risk it and play three at the back?

Lyt­tle’s move did see Rovers spend a lot of time in the Shams half in the dy­ing mo­ments but we were two down at that stage. Hind­sight is won­der­ful etc, but teams can be vul­ner­a­ble once they score so maybe the braver move would have been to go at them at one down?

Maybe I’ll just take as much so­lace as I can from know­ing we won’t have to go back there again, FAI Cup pend­ing un­til next sea­son.

The of­ten ridicu­lous­ness of our league was high­lighted last week for the umpteenth time this sea­son alone. The sit­u­a­tions at both Bray Wan­der­ers and Lim­er­ick lead­ing the FAI to come up with the idea of pro­vid­ing an emer­gency fund to clubs who can’t af­ford to pay their play­ers dur­ing the sea­son. It’s a good idea, for player wel­fare, to have such a fund in place, with penal­ties oc­cur­ring of course for over-am­bi­tious clubs who think they can af­ford to pay big names un­re­al­is­tic wages on the back of at­tract­ing 500 sup­port­ers to their ground ev­ery fort­night.

But the bitch­ing and sledg­ing be­tween the FAI and PFAI that has sur­faced from at­tempts to find a so­lu­tion, has long grown tire­some. The two or­gan­i­sa­tions, one the over­seers of the game in Ire­land and the other who is there for the ben­e­fit of its play­ers, seem to take ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to have a go at each other in the me­dia. This is enough be­fore you even con­sider that both groups are run from the same build­ing in Ab­bot­stown.

The PFAI seem to be the buzzing fly the football as­so­ci­a­tion’s front room. And they’re there for a rea­son and for sit­u­a­tions such as those of the past few weeks. The idea of ask­ing the PFAI in pub­lic to do­nate €150,000 to­wards the pot it­self seemed to be an at­tempt at a ‘put up or shut up’ type show of strength from the FAI to­wards their neigh­bours. But the FAI’s li­cens­ing com­mit­tee should, a long time ago, have had their own house in or­der.

There is of course par­tial blame on any club who bud­gets to spend what they can never bring back in. But it’s long ago that the gov­ern­ing body should have had a sys­tem in place that means clubs would never need to be saved by an es­crow ac­count such as the one pro­posed last week.

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