Monday 18 December 2017

Another sizzling derby in store as Brennan bids to dent Dundalk title dream

Eyes wide shut - Gavin Brennan wins the ball in the air against UCD’s Samir Belhout
Eyes wide shut - Gavin Brennan wins the ball in the air against UCD’s Samir Belhout

Marcus Cavaroli

TWELVE goals, nine yellow cards and four sendings-off.

That's the sum total of the first two Louth derbies of 2014 and there's every chance that this Friday's latest clash of Drogheda United and Dundalk will be another humdinger.

While Gavin Brennan was suspended for the 7-0 humilation in Oriel Park last time out, he was a central figure on the opening day of the season when the Drogs inflicted a shock 4-1 defeat on the Lilywhites, scoring and then controversially seeing red.

And having rediscovered something like his best form in recent weeks, the 26-year-old is certain to be in the thick of the action again.

With Dundalk having won their last four league games in the midst of a tremendous European run, everything points towards the Boynesiders' great rivals lifting the trophy come October, but a rejuvenated Drogheda have won their last four games - two of them friendlies - without conceding a goal and surely will be no pushovers this time.

'You have to give them credit - they had a massive result down in Cork and they'll be coming up here with nothing to fear,' Brennan said, 'but we're looking forward to the game. That's why we play football, for the big games like this, and hopefully we can keep a clean sheet and get the three points. That's the aim.

'It will be all guns blazing from both teams and I think the crowd will have to play a big part. I saw a couple of videos of Dundalk fans on Facebook marching down the road going for their buses to Cork, so I'm pretty sure the atmosphere will be bright early enough before kick-off, and we need our fans to come out and drive us on.'

Every regular outfield player in the Dundalk squad has got on the scoresheet this season, and defender Brian Gartland will take some watching after taking his tally to nine last week, but Brennan reckons Richie Towell and his midfield colleagues pose the biggest threat to the Boynesiders.

'Towell scored again for them against Cork and I'm sure Rico and the boys will have a game plan during the week to try to stop the midfield,' the Marleys Court native responded.

'But when we have the ball we have to go and create like we did against UCD. We can't be afraid of them.

'We're in a battle. There's two leagues at the moment and we're trying to get out of that dogfight and push up to the top of our league, so it's a big game for us also. There's still plenty of work to do and we have to keep improving.'

Brennan is in no doubt that the appointment of Darius Kierans as caretaker manager, with the help of Neale Fenn, has helped the squad rediscover the form that had them challenging at the top of the table under Robbie Horgan early in the season - and Damien Richardson's arrival has given Drogheda another boost.

'The last four or five weeks the lads have been unreal - the training has been top-notch, high-quality,' Brennan continued.

'We know what we have to do and we know what the boys want. If they don't get that and we don't play at that high intensity, they're after bringing in a few lads there [Peter McGlynn and Garreth Brady] who made their debut against UCD and are eager to get on.

'I think the two of them have brightened up training big time. They're young lads, eager to go and they've strengthened the squad.'

And having put four past the Students on Friday, confidence in the Drogheda camp is sky-high.

'The last time we played UCD it was tight, so we knew it was going to be tough,' Brennan added. ''We played some good football in the first half, but we panicked a bit. We could have been five or six up and we were kicking ourselves going in at 1-0.

'We didn't really start the second half brightly, it took us 10 or 15 minutes to get into it and I thought our second goal came a bit against the run of play, but they didn't really create much and Schlingermann had nothing to do.

'We just had to calm down and get the ball back on the deck and once we got the second goal we kicked on from there.'

Richardson's arrival hasn't been without its problems as Brennan has discovered something of a language barrier, but he's getting to grips with the new manager's ways - proof being in the way he contributed so handsomely to last Friday's impressive win.

'Me being from the town, he likes a big word!' laughed Brennan. 'I didn't know what he was on about half the time and I had to go and ask the lads in the corner - a little quiet one - but he had a word with most of the lads during the week and he's a top man.

'Darius and the like keep taking training and he has a look in and puts his input in, so it's all looking good at the moment.

'There's nothing much to change, the way we've been playing in the last three or four weeks. That's the reason he didn't put his own crew in, that's what he told us. He hasn't really changed anything - he wants us playing a high tempo which we have been over the last few weeks.

'A couple of the lads were saying before the UCD game that it was a good crowd. Maybe it was because of Rico and people think we're going to turn things around. Hopefully that's the case and people keep coming in, but next week I'm sure they'll be out in their droves.'

Drogheda Independent

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