“THIS IS A GREAT TEST FOR US”

DUNDALK v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League
Friday October 20 2017, 7.45pm, Oriel Park

Bohemians are down to the bare bones but manager Keith Long has challenged his side to rise to the occasion once more against the form team in the country.

Long must plan without six first-team players but his team are in a confident mood ahead of tomorrow’s trip to face Dundalk.

Having halted Cork City’s title party last week, they are now looking forward to challenging themselves against a side who were top dogs for the previous three seasons.

But Fuad Sule and Keith Ward are both suspended, Lorcan Fitzgerald (knee) and Warren O’Hora (hamstring) remain out, while Georgie Poynton and Ciarán O’Connor, both on loan from Dundalk, are unable to play against their parent club.

Long said: “We’re down to the bare bones but it’s a great test for those who will play.

“You should want to play against the best in the league and Dundalk are the form team at present.

“They’re unbeaten in 15 games so this will be a good challenge for our players to see what level we’re at.”

Having been the first team in the league to beat Cork City this season back in July, Bohs once again showed last week that they can, on their day, give anyone in the division a run for their money.

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The 0-0 draw was enough to ensure that the Leesiders did not clinch the title at Dalymount Park but the Gypsies felt they were perhaps unlucky not to claim all three points.

Long said: “We were excellent in the second half and created a lot of chances.

“I don’t think there would have been any arguments had we gone on to win the game.

“But Dundalk present a fresh challenge. They’ve been champions the previous three years for a reason.

“Players they brought in at the start of the season have settled in now and they’ve been putting teams to the sword lately – they have the best front five in the country.

“We have to be ready for them.”

Bohs’ absentee list has made that challenge all the more difficult but has, however, provided an opportunity for stars of the club’s U19 team to make the step up to the first-team squad.

Eoghan Morgan, Jamie Hamilton and Andy Lyons did just that against Cork last week and took their place on the bench.

Graham Lawlor’s Bohemians U19s topped the Northern Elite Division and last night beat Limerick 2-1 in the league quarter-finals to set up a last-four tie against Sligo Rovers at Dalymount this Sunday.

And Long in keen to reward and nurture Bohs’ rising stars with involvement in the first team.

He said: “We’re missing bodies so it’s an opportunity for them. We had the three lads on the bench last week and they will travel with us again tomorrow.

“There are others in Graham’s team in our thoughts too. The likes of Ryan Graydon, Cian McMullen and John Ross Wilson, they are all on our radar.”

Another man who will be relishing travelling with the first team tomorrow night is Eoin Wearen.

The midfielder, 25, ruptured his cruciate in pre-season and has been on the long road to recovery ever since.

Tomorrow will be the first time he has been included in a matchday squad this year and Long has backed the former West Ham man to bounce back stronger than ever.

He added: “This set-back has matured Eoin. He’s been top class.

“He’s volunteered to do opposition scouting reports for us and his analysis has been excellent.

“Being out for that length of time isn’t easy, but his attitude around the place has been superb.

“He’s been training hard and he is in the best shape I’ve seen him. He will come back a better player.”

“WE’VE NOTHING TO FEAR”

Keith Long says Bohemians have “nothing to fear” from champions-elect Cork City tomorrow.

John Caulfield’s men need just two points from their remaining games to win the title.

The Gypsies are confident though having been the first side to inflict a league defeat on City this season back in July, breaking their 22-match unbeaten run.

City remain on course to be crowned champions despite losing three games since.

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Bohs on the other hand are looking looking to consolidate their position in sixth and if possible to climb further up the table.

Long knows his side will be up against it once more, but they are looking forward to embracing the challenge.

Long said: “It’s a great game to be involved in. There’s a lot of expectation on Cork City.

“But we’ve shown we can beat them already this season – we were the first team to do so.

“We will have to be at our very best again but we’ve nothing to fear from them.

“Cork have their job to do, we have ours. Our players have pride in the jersey – pride in playing for Bohs – and will want to win.”

A bumper crowd is expected as Cork City look to lift the league trophy for the first time since 2005.

Long said: “That’s what players want – to play on big occasions in front of large crowds.

“Cork have nearly sold out their allocation for the Des Kelly Stand and we hope our fans will do likewise in the Jodi Stand.

“We would love a full Jodi Stand and our fans behind us like they have been all year.”

Having lost just once in their previous seven league games, Long was disappointed to see his side go down 1-0 away to Sligo Rovers last Saturday.

Having fallen behind in the ninth minute through Vinny Faherty, Bohs’ efforts were made all the more difficult 15 minutes later when Keith Ward was shown a straight red card.

Long added: “We had a difficult night in Sligo. We conceded early and were down to ten men.

“We had two good chances to get back into the game in the second half but we didn’t take them.

“Our performance wasn’t up to the standards we’d set in previous weeks. It wasn’t down to lack of effort, but we didn’t click on the night.

“We want to get back to winning ways now and finish as high up the table as we can.

TEAM NEWS

Bohs must plan without Lorcan Fitzgerald (knee) and Warren O’Hora, who aggravated a hamstring problem while on international duty with the Ireland Under-19s.

Both defenders could miss the rest of the season.

Ward (ban) misses out but Paddy Kavanagh return from suspension.

Eoin Wearen (cruciate) remains sidelined.

“CONFIDENCE IS THERE”

SLIGO ROVERS v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League
Saturday October 7 2017, 7.45pm, The Showgrounds

​Keith Long has challenged Bohemians to once again pick up where they left off.

The Gypsies have sat out three weekends of the last six with no competitive game due to the scheduling of this year’s FAI Cup.

But despite a stop-start fixture list, they have so far managed to maintain good form and have now built up a five-point cushion in sixth place.

Long said: “The gap between our games hasn’t been ideal, you would like a bit more continuity.

“But we’re in good form. We’ve only lost one in our last seven league games, so there is confidence there.”

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Bohs’ last run-out saw them come out 3-2 winners in an enthralling Dublin derby against St Patrick’s Athletic at Dalymount Park a fortnight ago.

Long said: “We played some really good stuff. We played with a lot of purpose and our attacking play was excellent.”

Last month, Long challenged his team to be more clinical in front of goal and they responded with seven goals in two games.

That hasn’t gone unnoticed with play-maker Keith Ward, who hit a hat-trick in the 4-1 win against Drogheda United three weeks ago, nominated for the September SWAI/SSE Airtricity Player of the Month Award.

He said: “The front four have been excellent. Izzy Akinade caused St Pat’s endless amount of problems.

“Dinny Corcoran has been excellent all year – I can’t praise him enough. His finishing has been outstanding all season.

“Keith has been in great form too and he deserves the recognition of being nominated for Player of the Month.

“We will really miss Paddy Kavanagh through suspension tomorrow, he’s been in good form for us lately too.”

Another man sitting this one out is Warren O’Hora as the Cabra man is in Waterford on international duty with the Ireland Under-19s.

But Long is happy to see a product of Bohs’ Under-17 and Under-19 teams get the recognition he deserves.

Having made his first-team debut off the bench against St Patrick’s Athletic in July, the 18-year-old has earned great plaudits for his confident performances ever since.

Long said: “Warren’s accomplished a lot since he’s come into the team.

“He’s assured and has a level of mentality beyond his years, especially in such a key position.

“There aren’t many 18-year-olds playing as a regular centre-half in the Premier Division but he’s taken it in his stride.”

While the Bohs’ current position and recent attacking flair belies pre-season predictions, tomorrow’s opposition will feel they have under-performed this season as find themselves in the relegation zone.

Long added: “They’re another team fighting for their lives. We know we’ve work to do.

“We have to be organised and ready for them.”

TEAM NEWS

Warren O’Hora (international duty), Paddy Kavanagh (suspension), Lorcan Fitzgerald (knee) and Eoin Wearen (cruciate) all miss out.

Oscar Brennan comes back into the reckoning having been suspended for the St Pat’s game.

“It should be a good spectacle”

Keith Long believes there will be many twists and turns between now and the end of the season.

And he has challenged his Bohemians players to make sure they are at the right end of it.

Last Friday’s 4-1 thumping of Drogheda United brought Bohs one step closer to securing Premier Division football for 2017.

The position of tomorrow’s opponents looks more precarious – Liam Buckley’s side are only out of the relegation zone on goal difference.

But Long has ruled out any notion of complacency as he looks to consolidate Bohs’ place in the top half of the table.

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He said: “We’re not safe yet, despite what some may say.

“We still need points and we want to finish the season as strongly as possible.

“The complexion of the league table will change again tomorrow night.

“It’s up to us to look after our own result and our own performance to make sure we don’t get dragged down.”

A big crowd is expected for Bohs’ final Dublin derby of the season.

St Pat’s came away with the bragging rights from their last trip to Dalymount Park after a comprehensive 4-0 win in March.

But Bohs got revenge with a 3-1 victory at Richmond Park in June.

Long said: “It’s a big game, a good game to be involved in.

“They’re going to come here looking to win and so are we.

“It should be a good spectacle.”

Before last week’s trip to United Park, Long challenged his team to be more ruthless in front of goal having come up short in their previous league outing against Galway United, which ended 1-1.

They did just that with Keith Ward claiming a hat-trick against the division’s bottom side, while Dinny Corcoran added the icing on the cake with a sublime long-range effort.

Long added: “Wardy was on fire and Dinny’s goal was top notch.

“We asked the players to be more clinical and to deliver a 90-minute performance and they did.

“It’s not an easy place to go to, despite Drogheda’s position in the table.

“But it’s a different proposition tomorrow and we have to deliver another good performance.”

TEAM NEWS

Oscar Brennan (suspended) and Dylan Hayes (hip) will sit this one out alongside Eoin Wearen (cruciate).

“WE NEED TO BE MORE CLINICAL”

DROGHEDA UNITED v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League
Friday September 15 2017, United Park, 7.45pm

Keith Long says Bohemians are going to have to dig deep once more to get another victory at United Park this season.

Bohs face a Drogheda United side rooted to the bottom of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division and in last-chance saloon if they want to beat the drop.

But Pete Mahon’s side have twice proved dogged opponents against the Gypsies this season.

Only a Dan Byrne header from a set-piece separated the sides at the same venue in March, while nobody could break the deadlock when they met at Dalymount in June.

Long said: “It’s a big game for both teams.

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“We had to work really hard for the points in United Park the last time, so we know we will have to produce a resilient performance again if we are to come away with the right result.”

An early exit from the FAI Cup saw Bohs go last weekend without a fixture and Long says his players are keen to get back on the pitch.

He said: “It’s been stop-start with the way the cup has been scheduled this year. But we’ve had plenty of tough training sessions instead and we’re ready to go.”

Long has also challenged his side to show more of a killer instinct in front of goal.

Last time out a fortnight ago, his side dominated Galway United in the first half but were disappointed to go in at the break leading by just one goal.

Bohs failed to carry the first-half tempo into the second period as Galway fought back to earn a 1-1 draw.

Long added: “The Galway first and second-half performances were like night and day. It was a reflection of our season in some ways.

“We were excellent in the first half but we need that for the full 90 minutes and we need to be more clinical in front of goal when chances present themselves.

TEAM NEWS

Lorcan Fitzgerald, whose free-kick set up Byrne’s winner at United Park last time out, misses out with a knee injury picked up in training.

Dylan Hayes (groin) and Ian Morris (suspension) return to the squad but Eoin Wearen (cruciate) remains out.

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