Drogheda Manager Discusses Loan Duo’s Future

Credit Graham Burrell

Freddie Draper and Elicha Ahui have been sensational over in Ireland with Drogheda, but as their two-season summer break approaches, the pair could be coming home.

Drogs boss Kevin Doherty doesn’t want that. Ahui played every minute of their first 13 matches, returning to action this week as they lost 1-0 to Cork City. Draper led the xG charts for the division but needed to add goals to his game, and in the last seven matches has smashed five, with two assists.

That is great for City, who have two gems getting regular matches, but there’s a hitch – the Irish season schedule means if they remain there until the conclusion, it impacts their ability to play for us, as Doherty told the Independent.

“It’s a tricky one because they (Lincoln) want them to play and are really, really happy with them here,” said the Drogs’ boss.

“We are still working with Mark Kennedy, who was here (against Cork). The only thing is that our season goes to November, and if they go back in November, they have no football for two months. So we are working on something at the moment for a solution. We’ll see, but Lincoln are very happy with them here, and the two lads are happy.”

If the loans reached their natural conclusion, Draper and Ahui would play on November 3rd against Shelbourne, also their opponents this Monday, before returning home. It sounds like if they were to do that, they could then not play for us until January 2024.

Both players have thrived in Ireland, although Ahui did not immediately return to the starting XI for the defeat against Cork. However, Doherty explained there was an element of caution around him being on the bench.

“People were probably wondering about Elicha (not starting against Cork). He has been great for us but has been injured and had three games in a week. He was on four yellow cards as well, and they get wiped (after last night).”

Drogheda play Shelbourne this Monday and St Patrick’s Athletic on Friday, before entering the two-week break period. Their first fixture after the break is June 23rd, and whilst the Imps pre-season schedule is not set in stone, we do go to Spain on July 1st, and given their form, it’s possible the two players could be included in the first team preparations.

Could the duo return? Much depends on the transfer business Mark has in mind. There’s no doubt the pair are getting regular exposure to decent-quality football, and thriving. It would seem sensible for their long-term development to keep them out there, but I suppose it depends if they’re seen as first-team squad players for 2023/24. If they are, they’ll come back. If they’re not, then a loan into the National League would seem like an option on their return, which many might feel is a step backwards.

It’s one of many big decisions the recruitment team have to make over the summer.