ANDY Boyle might not have been one of the more recogisable names in the Dundalk squad before a ball was kicked this year - but he's fast gaining a reputation as Mr Dependable.
The 22-year-old former Shelbourne and UCD centre-half is one of only two outfield players - Richie Towell being the other - who has featured every minute of every game to date, and on Friday he was this reporter's man of the match as he kept tabs on Cork dangerman Daryl Kavanagh.
Boyle's partnership with Mark Rossiter (right) at the heart of the defence is shaping up nicely, and with John Sullivan and Dane Massey regulars at full-back and Peter Cherrie an ever-present between the posts, there is a solidity which bodes well for the remainder of the season.
A second consecutive clean sheet in the league is a rare thing indeed for Dundalk, and the last time the Lilywhites achieved two shutouts in a row was in the summer of 2011 when they beat UCD and then frustrated Derry City in a goal-less draw at The Brandywell.
'Defensively we've tightened upm,' Boyle agreed after Friday night's victory. 'It was something we spoke about before the Bohs game, that we had leaked too many goals - too many poor goals.
'But we've two clean sheets in a row, and hopefully long may it continue. We do a good bit of work [in training]. There's a great group of lads here and we all get on, and the criticism is constructive and everyone gets behind each other.'
Boyle agreed that it was important to lay the bogey to rest in terms of not having
won at home this year.
'It's a thing off the shoulders, great to get a win at home for the fans and a bit of a monkey off our back.
'I don't think it would have become a serious issue if we hadn't won. We have done well at home and we've played some good teams, and especially against Derry I thought it was the best half we played, but we shot ourselves in the foot.
'We've played better here at home and lost, but three points all day is what we want. It was 2-0 and it could have been more, but we'll take it.'
Modest Boyle played down his own influence, preferring to point to the squad's success as a whole which many analysts - and maybe even Dundalk's own players - hadn't predicted.
'Maybe things are going better than I might have expected. To play every minute of game is great, but it's more about how the team is going and thankfully we've done well.
'I think that puts us fourth in the league which is great. I don't think anyone would have expected that, but we'll take every game as it comes.'
A trip to struggling Bray on Friday is Dundalk's next challenge, and with bottom side Shelbourne - his former club - bound for Oriel in mid-May there is every opportunity for the Lilywhites to strengthen their top-four po-sition in the coming weeks.
Reflecting on previous visits to the Carlisle Grounds, Boyle said: 'We won there with UCD 6-0 I think which was a bit surprising. I've done alright and I think I won there with Shels as well.
'Shels will be just another game. It hasn't been great for them, but hopefully they'll pick up a few more points. We look to go and win every game and three points is three points. It doesn't really matter who we get them against.'