By Robert O’Reilly
Drogheda United will host Shamrock Rovers in their penultimate home game of the season this Saturday, kick-off 3pm at United Park.
The Drogs’ relegation to the First Division was confirmed last Friday as they went down 2-1 to Derry City at Maginn Park.
Having won only four league games this season, relegation has been on the cards for a number of weeks with Drogheda United manager Pete Mahon accepting responsibility for his side’s relegation to Ireland’s second-tier.
“It had been coming but it doesn’t lessen the blow, getting relegated is a terrible feeling,” Mahon explained Thursday evening. “I’ve made mistakes this season and the buck stops with me, this is on my shoulders.
“I did take issue though with some of the pundits out there who have criticised our players over the last few weeks.
“We have a very young squad who have been learning at this level and it is my job as a manager to protect them. I think a lot of those pundits could do with remembering how tough it was for them at that age.
“A lot of these players will have big futures in the game and this season will stand to both them and the club.”
Mahon has revealed that preparation for 2018 is already underway with the Dubliner having spoken to a number of the current squad about re-signing for next season.
“There is a lot of talent in this group and we’ve already began putting the ground work in for next season.
“I’ve spoken to a number of players about next year and all the talks have been really positive. The players know the type of people we are and what we’re trying to achieve here.
“Obviously there’ll be incomings and outgoings at the end of the season. I’m eager to add real experience and the right attitude but if we keep the core of what we have as well as adding from the underage group, we’ll be doing well.”
Drogheda’s remaining league games could have a huge impact on who joins them in the First Division with games against Limerick, Finn Harps and Sligo Rovers to come.
“We have four games left to play and we’ll be giving it our all. We won’t disrespect the integrity of the league as we play three of the teams facing relegation as well as Rovers who are going for Europe.
“We beat Rovers here earlier in the season and it would be a good feat for us to do the double over them.”
Drogheda will be without the injured trio of Stephen Dunne, Sean Russell and Jake Hyland while Chris Mulhall misses out through suspension.
Thomas Byrne is unavailable as he is away with the Ireland Under-19 squad.