It will be two years ago on Monday, April 12th, since Dundalk slumped to a 2-1 defeat away to Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers were declared “title winners in waiting” having gone 13 points clear at the top of the table, albeit with a couple of games in hand.
That was a concerning time to be a Lilywhites supporter. Stephen Kenny had recently departed and there were definite question marks over his old assistant Vinny Perth’s ability to step up into the top job.
That night in The Showgrounds was bleak but Perth came out immediately from the dressing room and faced the music, held his hands up on certain matters and earned credit for it.
The rest, as they say, is history as Dundalk never really looked back from that moment that season and went on to win the title – ironically against the Hoops – with four matches to spare.
Fast forward 24 months on from that night and another management set up is equally at a crossroads. While no one in the media is calling for Filippo Giovagnoli or Shane Keegan’s head just yet, a large number of supporters have made their minds up about the pair.
Disappointingly, unlike what Perth did in Sligo two years ago, we can’t hear directly from the decision maker with Keegan coming out afterwards to face the media to defend players he didn’t sign, a team selection he didn’t make and tactics that he might not even truly believe in.
No player also put themselves forward either to at least show they still had faith in turning things around or perhaps try to put out a few fires that are now burning.
Patrick Hoban did speak to the club website and his words told us what we could have probably already guessed… the side have zero faith in Alessio Abibi.
The Albanian goalkeeper was at fault for Finn Harps’ opener seven days earlier and on Friday night in Tallaght Stadium definitely could have done much better for both of Rovers’ goals.
Abibi – while deserving of some criticism – is an easy target though as, from top to bottom, every player needs to do better.
The management team also need to work harder on the small details. A week earlier, Finn Harps stood in front of every free kick that Dundalk got to prevent them taking a quick one. Had we done similar, perhaps Danny Mandriou doesn’t even get the shot away for his opener.
There have been other minor things that, when all added up, don’t make a lot of sense. Andy Boyle has always been the left sided centre back in the back four during his time at Dundalk but against Finn Harps he played on the right of it. When Dundalk switched things up against Rovers on Friday though, he was back on the left side.
Similarly, Ryan O’Kane had played all his football to date for Dundalk on the left but on Friday was thrown in for his debut on the right. Wingers switching position is not uncommon – Junior is another example of a player who has played both sides already in his short time at the club – but there are obvious question arks over putting a 17-year-old into such a big game.
Everyone at Oriel Park is excited about O’Kane’s talent but the pitch in Tallaght has been taken in so much and is so narrow that it was never really likely to suit his talents. While rumours beforehand swirled he would start based on advice from America, there is also a duty of care not to knock someone so young’s confidence which a half-time substitution had the potential to do.
Similarly, David McMillan must be wondering what he has done wrong. On his last outing against Shamrock Rovers he scored a hat-trick to win the FAI Cup but on Friday night with Dundalk chasing the game he was left on the bench with the major change coming at left back.
Two years ago when things looked bleak it was a home match against Bohemians that turned it around with Patrick Hoban’s 94th minute penalty earning a victory the side scarcely deserved. It proved to be the first of a 23 match unbeaten run which included 21 wins and just the two draws, both against Derry City.
What seemed unlikely then needs to happen now if we’re to avoid more upheaval at the club.
It might only be three games in but the reactions to the superb Town End and The Men Who Save Football podcasts after Friday night show that supporters’ patience is wearing thin and, while that might seem premature, a lot of those views are based on form stretching back to last season and a setup off the field that is leaving a lot to be desired.
As we enter into round four of the campaign, a number of season ticket holders have yet to be sorted out and player sponsorships only began to be promoted last week. On and off the field, it’s as if the club wasn’t ready for the start of this season and as a result the club has much to do to show it is a well oiled machine.
Bohs was a turning point two years ago. It needs to be again come 10pm on Friday night.