Most teams in the Irish League at the moment seem to have a player who attracts a lot of headlines and that is, of course, a good thing. One of Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton’s many talents during his tenure has been his ability to consistently unearth excellent young players. Not only will he discover them but is steadfast in his determination to blood them as soon as is feasible in his team. It really seems no time that young tykes Rhys Marshall and James Singleton were coming through. Still, at a fresh enough age, they are absolute veterans of the Mourneview scene nowadays.
Mark Sykes, of course, is now sitting in the throne recently vacated by Bobby Burns and should he travel across the water, centre-back Caolan Marron seems to be the next young blade ready to step up according to reports. It is with all this in mind that I looked forward to selecting him for this week’s Player Watch. Setting up on left of fellow centre-back Dylan King he was full of rousing vocal encouragement to his colleagues immediately before kick – off. I was interested to see if this leadership would transfer to his footballing abilities. Walking it rather than talking it as it is generally better known.
His first jousts were mostly aerial and was by and large winning the headers coming his way though occasionally coming off second best against Robbie McDaid who it should be said, does surprise a few centre-backs with the spring in his leap. The first instance of ‘reasons why’ he is being noticed happened after about ten minutes of play. Ross Redman was advancing along Glentoran’s left flank and pushed a ball onto a forward colleague. It was in a safe enough area of the pitch as regards a threat to the Glenavon goal and it perhaps was a bit of a call to come in off position to intervene… but intervene he did nicking the ball away from the Glentoran forward and then shepherding and processing, moved the ball onto the next piece of its Glenavon journey. The split-second thinking and decisiveness was evident. It wasn’t long before this was repeated with a swift burst to the other touchline to close down the light on Curtis Allen.
This whip-like speed both in his head and feet is gold dust in football penalty areas and it was next seen when a quick Glentoran throw-in had his team in disarray. As his colleagues slowly realised the building danger he appeared to be the only one who had sensed the climbing Richter and he cut in across to block John Herron’s impending right foot shot. It was impressive defence. Another thing I noticed is his habit occasionally of stepping back under looping balls to get a better and wider view of his immediacy. It feeds into the idea that sometimes when you watch an aerial contest between two players you can feel that it might have been better if Player A or B hadn’t contested. Sometimes he did this and contested but now and then he didn’t. I could be unnecessarily reading into this but it was interesting.
He can resemble the characteristics of a reptile in his play and I mean that positively. Perhaps because of the speed he has, he doesn’t waste energy… but when he strikes he strikes. There was certainly a touch of the laser-guided missile about him as he set off from afar to unceremoniously dump Robbie McDaid into the pebbles on the touchline. Deal with the issue and ask questions afterwards. In that respect, there is a touch of the Vidic about him. He started to find a bit of bother in the air losing out on a reverse header by Allen and then was penalised in a dangerous area for climbing on McDaid. I suppose as an addendum to this he will have been disappointed to lose the first goal to a McDaid header as he had been led outside the penalty area.
He did not go up for corners which perhaps was unusual for a centre-back but that most likely was due to his ability to match McDaid’s speed. One can see why he is being noticed. He exudes calmness, physical and positional authority and executes the right decisions with aplomb. When winning the ball under pressure he has an interesting habit of curling his leg around the ball in a protective fashion. He did find himself one on one occasionally and won these critical battles. It must be said with opposing players being sent off he had little to deal with in the second half and indeed did go up for corners at this juncture.
It would have been interesting to see him against Allen and McDaid for the full ninety minutes. Should Glenavon continue to have a successful season I imagine he will be an important part of that. Well done again to Gary Hamilton for playing these young players.