Downbeat boss hopes young guns will stay
Soccer: SSE Aitricity League
Relegated Drogheda United will attempt to claim a notable double over FAI Cup semi-finalists Shamrock Rovers and secure a first home league win in exactly six months when the sides clash on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
The Boynesiders were officially consigned back to First Division football following last Friday's 2-1 defeat at Derry City and they now have only pride to play for in their remaining four matches. And while encouraged by his team's performance at Maginn Park, which was certainly full of heart, Mahon couldn't help but feel downbeat about the club's plunge to the foot of the table since victories over Shamrock Rovers (home) and Finn Harps (away) back in April.
Speaking on Sunday evening, the Drogheda boss said: 'It's embarrassing for me to be relegated with four games to go. When I was managing UCD we got beaten by Galway in the last game of the season to go down, but I didn't feel as bad then as I do now.
'We've had a really difficult season - a horrendous season - and maybe we were lulled into a false sense of security after the first round of games, but if I'm totally honest I had my doubts [about Drogheda staying up] after the match against Cork when we played them at home [lost 1-0 on August 4th].
'I know they are going to win the league, but I thought that was a game we could have won and we definitely deserved at least a draw. We were denied a stonewall penalty near the end and afterwards I was thinking 'things just aren't going for us'. It's caused a lot of stress and sometimes you wonder if it's really worth it.
'The only positive was that we gave a lot of young players a chance in the Premier league, and we would hope that they will stay with Drogheda and that they will benefit from the experience.
'One or two maybe got carried away, getting promotion last year, but now they know what life in the League of Ireland is like.'
The visit of Shamrock Rovers at least guarantees a reasonable attendance at United Park, with the home support likely to be outnumbered, and it would be remarkable if Drogheda could earn a repeat of their 2-1 win over the Hoops back in April, when they scored the winner in stoppage time despite being down to 10 men.
Asked whether next week's Cup replay against Dundalk might be a distraction to Rovers when they play Drogheda, Mahon replied: 'It's too late for us and it doesn't really matter what other teams do. We have been relegated now and it's terrible really. 'But Rovers are the iconic team in Irish football, they're going for Europe and I always like managing teams against them because it's always a good atmosphere and there's always a big crowd and I hope that's the case this week.
'They have a lot of young players and they deserve credit for that, and I would have a lot of time for Stephen Bradley who's a former Drogheda player. 'I'm looking forward to the game, all the pressure is off and hopefully we can go out and keep playing the way we did against Derry and try and get a win.'
In team news, Sean Russell is available again after injury and Stephen Dunne could feature after missing the Derry game because of a foot problem and a family bereavement, but Jake Hyland remains sidelined along with Chris Mulhall (suspension) and Thomas Byrne (international commitments).
As for the 2-1 defeat at the hands of Derry City last Friday, Mahon had sympathy for Conor Kane whose third-minute error put the Candystripes in the driving seat. 'It's unbelievable that we gave away another two early goals,' the manager responded, 'but we recovered from it and played quite well, and it would have been interesting if we had scored 10 or 15 minutes earlier than we actually did.
'We have young players who made mistakes that cost us the match, but hopefully they are going to learn from it. They were shattered afterwards, Conor Kane in particular, but I said to him that it's in the past and you have to put it behind you.
'We have had a few really bad performances - Bohs at home, Cork away and Dundalk at home, but we have had some good ones as well as Friday was probably one of those.'