“We have to dust ourselves down”

BOHEMIANS v DUNDALK
SSE Airtricity League, Dalymount Park, Friday 28 August, 7.45pm

Bohemians need to rediscover their courage and to enjoy their football again as they seek a strong finish to their league campaign, according to manager Keith Long.

Bohs face Dundalk 12 weeks after they became (and remain) the only side to beat the league champions and champions-elect. But since that 2-1 victory at Oriel Park, a highpoint of the season, Bohemians have lost six of their nine league games and been beaten in the FAI Cup.

Long admits it has been difficult to overcome the disappointment of last weekend’s exit from the cup in controversial circumstances.

“We have to put it behind us as best we can. But, to be fair to the players, we certainly didn’t deserve to lose the game. I still feel we should have had a replay this week, because that wasn’t a goal,” the manager said. “We were the better side but maybe we were a little bit one-dimensional in our play.”

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Seeing the draw for the quarter-finals was “salt in the wound”, said Long, as he considered the prospect of a home tie against Killester United.

“We just have to dust ourselves down and make sure we’re right for Friday. It’s another big game and we’ll try to give our supporters something to shout about and get behind the team.”

Long aims to have his team find again the approach that brought such good returns. “We have to try and enjoy the game again and play with the courage we showed in the early part of the season,” he said. “We need to get back to having a go at teams, and being defensively organised.”

After a first series of league games in which Bohemians were largely injury-free and suspension-free, they have had several major set-backs, notably the long-term sidelining of Derek Pender, Marc Griffin and Dan Byrne.

Now midfielders Eoin Wearen (head injury) and Robbie Creevy (knee), who missed the cup match last weekend, remain out. Jake Kelly was cup-tied for the Bray game and now he is out with a hamstring injury from the earlier league match against Bray, while Anto Murphy is sidelined with an abdomen injury.

Despite this, Long insists that Bohemians “want to finish the season as strongly as we possibly can”. The squad is focused on getting the maximum return from the remaining eight games.

“We have committed to each other that we will give everything to every game. That’s the least that the team and the club deserve and we’ll see where that takes us,” Long said.

“Some games we haven’t been good enough to break down the opposition even when we’ve dominated the possession. It’s a learning curve and we are already planning ahead. But we won’t dilute the team in the coming games and we’ll be giving it a right go to the end.”

“We know how important this game is”

BOHEMIANS v BRAY WANDERERS
Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup, Dalymount Park, Friday 21 August, 7.45pm

Bohemians meet Bray for the second time this week and the fifth time this season as they aim for a quarter-final place in the FAI Cup.

Manager Keith Long will have several regular starters back, who were rested for Monday’s league game. “We had one eye on Friday but, as it turned out, we didn’t get the result or the performance that I would have liked. It gives us a sharp reminder that Bray are in a good run of form,” Long said.

“We have as many points now as the team accumulated over the whole of last season. The logic of what we did on Monday was to make sure we were right for Friday. Only going through to the next round will justify that and, hopefully, we will be proven correct.”

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However, Monday’s defeat cost Bohemians not only potential points, but also injuries to two midfielders, Robbie Creevy (knee) and Eoin Wearen (head). Their injuries unsettled Bohemians’ approach to Monday’s game and both will be out for Friday. So too will recent recruit Jake Kelly, who is cup-tied.

Long paid tribute to the Bray players for battling hard through two changes of management. Bray have won six of their eight league games since the summer break, gaining nine points on Bohemians. However, it would take extraordinary circumstances to change Bohs’ league position as there are still 11 points separating them in fifth place from Bray in sixth.

“You’ve got to give the Bray players huge credit. They work extremely hard and we won’t take them lightly. We didn’t do soon Monday. I wasn’t surprised at Bray’s performance, but I was disappointed with our own.

“I would expect our players to give a good account of themselves because they know how important this game is to us as a group and to the club in general.

“The players will need no extra motivation and that’s going to be a big factor on Friday. I feel it will come down to which team that shows greater desire and I hope that will be us.”

Karl Moore missed the last league game through sickness, but he returns for Friday. Derek Prendergast, Anto Murphy and Keith Buckley, who were rested on Monday, are also available. Derek Pender, Marc Griffin and Dan Byrne remain out with long-term injuries.

Bohemians and Bray have already met four times this season, as they did in 2014 and 2013. In these 12 matches in three competitions, Bohemians have won eight. Bray’s last win in Dalymount Park was in October 2013.

“We’ve got to make sure we leave nothing on the pitch”

BOHEMIANS v GALWAY UTD
SSE Airtricity League, Dalymount Park, Friday 14 August, 7.45pm

Bohemians are aiming to become hard to beat again as they look to stop a sudden decline in form.

“Scoring three goals away should be good enough to win any game on the road,” said manager Keith Long as he and his squad worked on regaining the tight organisation that secured so many clean sheets.

Having had a strong defensive record for much of the season, Bohemians have conceded ten goals in three matches.

“To concede four goals in two consecutive away games just isn’t good enough and we have worked hard this week to make sure we tighten things up defensively,” said Long.

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“The players recognise where we have to improve. We’ve got to get back to being difficult to beat. The last couple of games we’ve been very open to play against, and that’s something we’ll try to solve.”

Long had always anticipated there would be “low moments as well as high moments” and he is looking to “hard work” and “a strong performance” from the players to secure a win on Friday and ensure more high moments.

The Bohemian manager saluted the fans who continue to “believe in the honesty of this group”, and particularly those who made the journeys to Cork and Limerick.

“We didn’t give them value for money and we’ve got to build back that trust with them on Friday night. We’ve got to make sure we leave nothing on the pitch.”

Long insisted that Bohemians still have a lot to play for in the league despite their position between the groups above and below them, with a six-point margin on one side and nine-point gap on the other.

“We’ve got to win every match we possibly can. We owe that to the supporters, to the club and to ourselves,” he said. “The club is moving forward on and off the pitch and we’re not going to carry anyone who doesn’t buy into what we’re trying to do.”

Bohs’ 4-3 defeat in Limerick last weekend had a strange echo of a result last May against Friday’s opponents, Galway United.

Having started the league campaign conceding only seven goals in 12 games, Bohemians scored three but let in five in Galway.

That night, Derek Pender was missing and, last Friday, he and Lorcan Fitzgerald were both out. “We’re making no excuses but we have really missed our full-backs. These are two of the best full-backs in the country,” said Long.

He has had to shuffle his back line repeatedly due to Pender’s absence since June, then Anto Murphy’s injury and his later suspension and, more recently, Fitzgerald’s hamstring injury.
For this Friday, Fitzgerald returns, as does Eoin Wearen, who was out last weekend with an ankle injury from the Cork game two weeks ago.

Goalkeeper Lee Steacy returns to the squad having missed last weekend due to a training injury on his hand.

“WE’LL BE HOPING FOR A REACTION”

Limerick FC v Bohemians
SSE Airtricity League, Markets Field, Saturday 8 August, 6.30pm

Bohemians go south again, aiming to wipe the memory of last week’s defeat in Cork. Having gone down 4-0 to title-chasers Cork City, Bohemians face bottom-of-the-table Limerick, fresh from their first win of the season.

Manager Keith Long was deeply disappointed with Bohemians’ display in Turner’s Cross, describing it as “our worst performance this season”.

“We had a discussion among ourselves and some home truths were told, and we’ll be hoping for a reaction on Saturday,” Long said.

“We let ourselves down last Friday. When you don’t turn up and you don’t play your normal game, you’re going to be punished. We carried too many players, we didn’t play with tempo and intensity, and it was unlike us.

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“It confirmed what we knew already: individually and collectively, we have to be right on top of our game to get results.”

With a depleted squad going to Cork, Long put Jake Kelly into the line-up just over 24 hours after the 25-year-old forward completed his signing from Dundalk.

The manager knew what he could expect of his recruit, having worked with him at Bray, and entrusted him with corners and free-kicks despite Kelly not having trained with the squad.

One of Kelly’s efforts on goal, early in the second half, hit the cross-bar. “If that had gone in, the dynamic of the game changes, and we are back in it. But overall we have no complaints. We got what we deserved from the game, which was nothing,” said Long.

“Jake’s got good quality and he’ll benefit from those 80 minutes. He hasn’t played from the start too often this season. When he integrates with the group fully and gets up to match fitness, you’ll see what he can contribute.”

Twenty-eight points behind Bohemians in the league table, Limerick will battle for anything they can get from the game. “Martin [Russell] has made changes and brought in new faces and, with the win over Sligo, the mood in their camp has got to be good. We’re wary of the threat that Limerick pose,” said Long.

Bohemians began the present campaign in March with a 3-0 win at Limerick’s temporary home, Jackman Park, but two months later needed a late goal from Jason Byrne to clinch a 2-1 win over Limerick at Dalymount.

For Saturday, Anto Murphy and Paddy Kavanagh make a “welcome” return to the squad following suspension. Lorcan Fitzgerald’s recovery from hamstring injury has been slower than anticipated and he is likely to miss this game. Derek Pender, Dan Byrne and Marc Griffin are out for the longer term.

“WE HAVE TO TEST OURSELVES”

CORK CITY v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League, Turner’s Cross, Friday 31 July, 8pm

Bohemians face a “tough challenge” in Cork following two home victories in the league. The record of recent games between the two sides is strongly in Bohemians’ favour but manager Keith Long insists the form is reset when each game is started.

He regards Cork City as serious contenders for the league title, especially following a 1-1 draw last weekend against leaders Dundalk. “In my view Cork marginally shaded that game,” Long said.

“They have good players, experienced players, international players.They are a top side and it’s a tough challenge, but we have to go down there and test ourselves against them. If we’re organised and disciplined we have a chance of picking up points.”

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Despite the flurry of first-half goals and eventual 4-2 victory over Derry last weekend, Long expects more of his players.

“It was a chance to put a team to the sword, which we haven’t done. Derry were frail at the back and we exposed them ruthlessly in a 10-minute spell, but we went out of the game for long periods.

“It was a chance to improve our goal difference and we didn’t capitalise on that. But ultimately we are judged on the three points. It was a win and we can’t be too disappointed.”

Long was pleased with the success, yet again, of a Bohemians set-piece, which led to the first goal, and with how his team dealt with the loss of Ismahil Akinade at the end of the first half and later playing for 12 minutes with ten men, while Paddy Kavanagh was being treated for a facial injury.

For Friday Bohemians must prepare without Anto Murphy and Kavanagh, both suspended. Murphy completes his two-game ban for a red card, and Kavanagh misses one game for accumulated yellow cards.

Lorcan Fitzgerald (hamstring), is rated a 50/50 chance to be available. So too is Akinade (shoulder), who took a heavy fall in last week’s defeat of Derry City. Dan Byrne and Marc Griffin are out with long-term injuries.

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