Who Is The Jenga Piece?

Game 30

Dundalk 1-0 Shamrock Rovers

Oh what a night! Those are the kind of nights where you wonder how anyone doesn’t love sports. I mean, there’s lots of reasons why people don’t like sport, I get it, but come on. Did you see or hear that on Friday night?

The perfect performance, the perfect atmosphere, the perfect goal, pretty much the perfect night.

I say pretty much perfect because, well, we are where we are and you’d be mindful to read this as a reminder.

What struck me afterwards was how after all the injuries, all the COVID, all the nonsense, the starting 11 is really starting to make sense. Everyone in a position that makes sense and the only player I thought might suffer from being in his position is Sean Murray and it doesn’t look like he’s struggling does it?

Maybe it’s slightly fatalistic, maybe it veers slightly to the morose but its been a difficult year and you might forgive me for thinking about where this might start to go wrong? Everything seems a bit too good right? It made me think of the Jenga Theory.

I first heard of the Jenga Theory from Dave Dameshek on his podcast but I’m pretty sure he said it came from Bill Simmons which wouldn’t surprise me.

The Jenga Theory is essentially the theory that there is one piece of every team where if that piece was pulled out? The rest of the team would fall to pieces. You can lose one or two players to injury and your team survives but if you lose that fatal piece? Doom.

As an example take Eric Cantona. He was Manchester United’s Jenga Piece. Each season he finished with Manchester United they won the Premier League. The year he didn’t finish the season because he kung fu kicked a fan? 2nd. The season before he got there and the first season after he left? 2nd. Jenga. The team was complete with him, without him not so much. Close, but no title celebrating cigar.

Jurgen Klopp is about the only true current example I can think of where the manager is the Jenga Piece. Alex Ferguson makes a pretty good case for being the greatest Jenga Piece of all time though.

I honestly thought we lost our Jenga Piece when Chris Shields left to go up north. The most consistent member of the team, the heartbeat, all that good stuff. The one who pulled it all together.

And maybe we did, maybe we did lose the lynchpin and we had to find a new one. Someone had to take up the mantle and become the new…I’m conscious of how many times I’ve said the words Jenga Piece. My wife will read this before I post it and tell me I’ve used it too many times. I get it. It’s ok.

Who are the candidates to be our new JP? Or at least to be our JP until the end of the season? I’m using JP instead of Jenga Piece not because my wife told me to but because I started getting tired of it.

It’s worth thinking about because we’re down to the bare bones of our squad and it might be an idea for those in charge to get some industrial sized bubble wrap.

By the way, it’s not my fault if anyone gets injured this week. That’s not how the world works! I don’t have that power! If I did, I would use it for good and not for causing injuries.

So let’s look at our contenders. The first contender is not one I would have thought would be anywhere near this conversation a couple of months ago but what a difference a month or two makes. Peter Cherrie has possibly transformed our team?

Is it as simple as having a dependable, stable, confident goalkeeper? Is that all that was wrong? Because you can point to his run in the side being the beginning of our upturn in form. If he wasn’t there would we fall to pieces?

The goalkeeper then has a lot of impact on our 2nd candidate. Andy Boyle will inevitably get a large chunk of the vote at the end of the season for player of the year and it’s hard to imagine just how bad things would have gotten if he hadn’t stayed fit in those darker days earlier in the season.

In the vacuum left behind by the OG Jenga Piece in midfield we have rotated and alternated players. Each one has come in and in the last few weeks been exemplary.

Sean Murray has been in absolutely outstanding form over the last month or so. Goals will always be a measure for players like him but the man has covered so much ground in those games, I heard Vinny Perth talking about how a number 10 in Stephen Kenny’s teams is expected to cover a lot of ground and Murray has been doing exactly that in Perths side.

To me, amazingly, the goalkeeper is still in the lead. But that brings us to the main two contenders. Patrick Hoban has been sensational in recent weeks. He’s raised his game, he’s been a leader and has gotten plenty of goals. But. David McMillan is almost back from injury and that hurts Hoban’s case.

They are very different players but they’re both very, very good players. I don’t think any of us would feel like the tower would crumble if we lost Hoban and McMillan replaced him.

That brings us to number 7. To me, the Jenga Piece for the rest of the season. Against Rovers on Friday night he was triple teamed by traitors on the left hand side and he still prevailed. We have no one who can come in and do what he does to anywhere near the level he can.

It’s tough to pick between Cherry and Duffy for who is the most indispensable player for the rest of the season for me. Hopefully we don’t lose anyone. We will lose all of them in a couple of months but please no more injuries before the end of the season.

Who do you think is Dundalk’s current Jenga Piece?

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