A Mahon on a Drogs mission
It's his job to make sure it doesn't happen, but Pete Mahon knows it will be a "catastrophe" if Drogheda United are relegated from the top flight.
Speaking to this newspaper at the start of the season Mahon, who was then the assistant manager at United Park, predicted that the 2015 campaign would be a "dogfight".
He got that right, as United go into the final day of the regular season in real danger, knowing that depending on tonight's results they could be safe from the drop altogether (though that's unlikely), they could be diverted into the head-wrecker that is the promotion/relegation play-off, or they could be relegated automatically.
Mahon was unable to predict all that came in between: he departed the club when McDonnell exited in August, but earlier this week Mahon returned to Drogheda, this time as manager for the remaining game/games of the season, due to red tape. Mark Kinsella, who took over from McDonnell, could only serve as manager for 60 days due to rules about coaching qualifications, so Mahon has answered the call.
He leave no doubt over his role as Mahon insists he's manager in name only and that Kinsella will call the shots and make the decisions for this game away to Shamrock Rovers tonight, where United may need a win to even have the luxury of a play-off.
While matters at the top of the table are all but sorted, with just the final Europa League place up for grabs between St Patrick's Athletic and Bohemians, it's very nervous at the bottom with Limerick and Drogheda in the most trouble and barring some spectacular results, one of those clubs will go down while the other will take on either UCD or Finn Harps in a play-off.
"It has turned into a dogfight," says Mahon, at 68 the oldest manager in the league. "And we go to Tallaght to play Rovers tonight needing a win to stay in the league. It's a big test for us and we have to see how the players react.
"The players have to realise what's at stake. I remember when I was here earlier this season, saying to the players that certain games were not must-win matches. That's gone now and we must get a result to even have a chance of staying in the league, once we at least match Limerick's result we will be ok for now but realistically, a play-off is the best we can do."
Mahon has been through relegation before, with UCD, and reacted well by earning instant promotion back to the top flight but the veteran has been around long enough to know that the First Division is a graveyard.
"For a club like Drogheda to go down would be catastrophic," says Mahon. "With the plans for a new stadium and the potential in the town, this could be a really big club, but relegation would be a disaster.
"But talk is cheap, we are where we are and the players now have to realise the importance of this. These players are all out of contract next week, they can up their tents and away away but the supporters and the board will be here, the club will carry on. I have a responsibility to them to keep the club in the top division and we need the players to do it now."
Mahon makes no secret of the fact that Kinsella is in charge tonight. "My name is on the team-sheet but Mark Kinsella is really the manager," he says.
"Mark asked me to go back and give him a hand. I will help out as much as I can. It's been a strange week, I nearly fell off my seat when I got the call from Drogheda on Tuesday night to go back.
"I met Mark for a chat yesterday to talk about tonight's game, we will prepare the players as best we can, but once the whistle blows to start the game, it's up to the players."