Aaron Callaghan’s Red and Black ArmiesPosted: March 22, 2012
When the final chapter of the Pat Fenlon era at Bohemians was signed off at the end of last season, the focus was turned towards who would be his replacement would be. Former manager Roddy Collins was mooted as a possible and likely replacement for Fenlon, so it perhaps came as a surprise when former Athlone and Longford Town boss Aaron Callaghan was appointed on New Year’s Eve.
The first press conference was delivered with excellent poise. Everyone in the room knew there were major problems at the Gypsies, but Callaghan seemed like the right man to take Bohs forward, and despite a poor start to the season, he still is.
On the 13th of February, the scene was set for Bohs to start a new dawn. Portadown awaited as the first opposition in the Setanta Cup. The team sheet was released to the waiting press and bar a handful of players, there weren’t many faces lining up for Bohs who played for the club in the 2011 season. A complete transformation had been forced upon Callaghan after many players had left due to the crippling financial position that the club is firmly stuck in.
However youngsters such as Keith Ward, Dinny Corcoran and Karl Moore (all brought in to fit in with Callaghan’s footballing philosophy of quick passing and moving) played and they did themselves a lot of justice. Corcoran and Moore both got on the score sheet in impressive ways and the Callaghan era got off to the perfect start. The job was finished a week later at Shamrock Park with a 1-0 away win over the Ports, but since then, the dark clouds have since returned to Dalymount Park.
Six games have passed since then; three of them in the league, two more in the Setanta Cup and one more against fierce rivals Shamrock Rovers in the Leinster Senior Cup. Unfortunately, none of these games have heralded a much-needed victory. Five losses with the one exception coming in a 0-0 stalemate against Northern Irish side Crusaders (although, the loss in the Leinster Senior Cup only came after penalties.) The only goal during this period came against Rovers and with Bohs bottom of the Airtricity League with no points and no goals to their name, the doubts have started to creep in.
It’s not all bad for the big club, though. They have, without doubt, the hardest five games that any team could have asked for in the league. Three Dublin derbies, against St Patrick’s Athletic, Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers along with two taxing trips to Derry City and Sligo Rovers is how Bohemians begin the 2012 league campaign. The second half of the first set of fixtures will on paper be a lot easier to the youngsters, with teams widely expected to finish in the bottom half of the league making up the rest of the fixtures Bohs will be to play afterwards.
It is also worth noting that Aaron Callaghan is not unfamiliar to this situation at all. The situation at Bohs has it’s similarities with Callaghan’s first venture into management with Northern Irish side Crusaders. When the Dubliner took over, The Crues were just beginning to implement some cost cutting measures on the squad that had finished as champions just two years previously. The solid spine that was in place the season before had been ripped apart by the previous manager, so it was a leap of faith by the new man to bring in some players from the South of Ireland. Players such as Pat O’Toole, Glen Wade and Ian Hill were persuaded to make the move to north Belfast.
Unfortunately, after five games, the Hatchetmen had not won a game and had only one point to their name. The team was struggling for goals and the then 33-year-old manager took it upon himself to take a gamble. Former Crusaders and Linfield youngster Crawford McCrea was brought in to the squad with the hope that he would begin to ease the scoring burden around Seaview. It proved to be an inspired signing, as McCrea helped spark an amazing upturn in form which saw Crusaders launch themselves into a third place finish. It was not long after this that Crusaders and Callaghan decided to part company. The board was continuing to try to tackle the financial issues at the club and getting rid of the player/manager seemed part of the measures they were putting in place.
The 45 year old’s time in Belfast has proven that he is no stranger to working under financial constraints and the remarkable turnaround that he orchestrated shows that he is still the right man to take Bohemians forward. The comparisons between both clubs are glaring to see. The five key players that left Crusaders are similar to nearly every first team player leaving Bohs at the end of last season and then there is the tough start that he has endured at both clubs. Callaghan needs time to work his magic, and if he does, the Bohs will rise again.
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