Friday 23 March 2018

Rovers midfielder Bayly promises to pick his battles

Hoops midfielder will only put on 'Hannibal' mask at the right time

Robert Bayly
Robert Bayly
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

SHAMROCK Rovers midfielder Robert Bayly is adamant that the Hoops can still fight their way back into the title race, even if he has to control his own aggression to make it possible.

Leaders Dundalk are in control at the top of the table and they host Bohemians at Oriel Park tonight aiming to maintain their four-point lead over Cork at the summit.

The Hoops, who welcome Sligo Rovers to Tallaght this evening, are 13 points off the pace in fourth albeit with the controversially postponed game against Bohemians in hand.

Bayly, a colourful character with a chequered disciplinary history, is refusing to rule out a charge and is drawing on his previous title win with Rovers in 2010 for encouragement.

"I remember the last time I was here we were nine points clear with three or four games to go and we only won it on goal difference," he stresses. "So I wouldn't be too worried about the points difference."

After his stint with the Hoops, Bayly had short-lived spells with Bohemians, Monaghan United, Longford Town and Shelbourne before finding himself unemployed last winter.

Few expected the former Leeds trainee to get another chance with Rovers given his propensity for flying off the handle and getting into unnecessary trouble.

He accepts his reputation was deserved, and understands why Trevor Croly's pre-season call raised eyebrows.

"I didn't do myself many favours, did I?" he says. "I'd always have a bite back at a ref or if someone hit me in a tackle, I'd have to win the next tackle.

"I found myself playing a lot better this season when you play your own game and you're not worried about what other people are doing or holding grudges in games or holding grudges from before.

"If you are going to keep reacting then you are going to be fighting relegation battles because you won't be at Shamrock Rovers."

Still, the player known simply around the league as 'Boccer' retains plenty of the attributes that mark him out as a unique individual.

His combative streak brought him into conflict with new Rovers boss Pat Fenlon when they worked together at Bohs. Observers recall screaming matches between the pair that effectively spelled the end of his Dalymount existence.

But they've quickly put their differences aside. "It's been good, decent. He doesn't like it when you call him 'Trevor' in the mornings though," jokes the 26-year-old.


"He was great at Bohs but then we had a bit of a falling out but we cleared that up when he came in, thank God. When he came in, he said 'everybody has a clean slate..including you Boccer' and I was happy."

Indeed, Fenlon has placed his faith in the Dubliner, recognising the fact that he can bring a certain bite to proceedings. For all that he's toned down his behaviour, Bayly is prepared to mix it up when required.

"I have that streak in my game and it's just about finding the balance really," he explains, breaking into another smile. "Sometimes you need to put the Hannibal mask on! And you can wheel me back out."

Rovers need a favour from their arch rivals Bohs in Louth tonight. Manager Owen Heary respects Stephen Kenny's charges and has promised that his team will adopt a positive approach to the fixture.

"I think we'll do OK," says Heary who is struggling for bodies defensively. "It is a tough one. They're top of the table and they're there for a reason.

"We're not going to sit back and see how we fare out. We'll have to go and have a go. If we lose by having a go then no problem."

Stephen Kenny has urged the Dundalk public to respond in even greater numbers for the run-in with club officials just happy to be preparing for a football match after the furore surrounding the €18,000 fine arising from the waving of a Palestine flag in their Europa League loss to Hadjuk Split last month.

Irish Independent

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