“We expect a partisan atmosphere”

BOHEMIANS v CORK CITY
SSE Airtricity League, Dalymount Park, Friday 30 October, 7.45pm

Bohemians have beaten the odds to bring the battle for Europa League qualification down to the last game of the season.

With a run of four draws, then three wins, Bohemians’ players “have shown exceptional character and I’m immensely proud of them,” said manager Keith Long. “With a fighting chance of European qualification they will leave nothing behind to ensure we get the right result.”

But they know the final outcome is partly out of their hands. “We have no control over what happens in Galway,” said Long. St Patrick’s Athletic go there in need of just one point to secure that European place.

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“It’s fantastic to have something at stake coming into the last game. Hopefully we’ll have a packed Dalymount Park getting behind the lads. It will be a great occasion and one the players’ efforts richly deserve.”

This occasion will also be reward for the fans, Long said. “The supporters have been magnificent for us all year. They appreciate the virtues the players have brought to the jersey. We expect a partisan atmosphere in Dalymount and I’m sure the fans will come out in big numbers and lift us to greater heights.”

But Cork City will not be mere spectators in a Bohemian spectacle. “They will be looking to cement second place,” Long insisted. “Their players will also be looking to get into the starting line-up for the FAI Cup final. So, they have everything to play for.”

Bohs have not forgotten that their heaviest defeat of the season was a 4-0 drubbing in Turner’s Cross at the end of July.

Recent three-pointers have been hard-won, at home against St Patrick’s Athletic and on the road in Sligo and Derry. At the Brandywell, after an open first-half, with five goals shared, Bohemians “had to be gritty in the second half and we defended better as a unit. Dean [Delany] again pulled off some vital saves”.

A first-half pair of goals from Ismahil Akinade was crucial in the victory. The 21-year-old striker brought his tally in the league to ten goals from 17 games, since he joined Bohemians in June. Last week, he was short-listed for the PFAI Young Player of the Year award, having played only part of the season.

“Izzy has been exceptional for us. He works extremely hard. He’s got pace and power. He’s got that pure physicality that defenders do not like and he’s been adding the finishing touch to his game,” Long said.

”He has been improving with us, playing with better players and getting better service. He has repaid the faith the club has shown in him. He is a big part of why we are in the position we are in now.”

Bohemians have defenders Lorcan Fitzgerald and Stephen Best back from injury, and captain Roberto Lopes returns from suspension. Only long-term injuries Derek Pender and Marc Griffin are missing for this final game.

“The lads are chomping at the bit. They realise we have a great opportunity,” said Long. “Hopefully we’ll be able to grasp it and secure the three points and Lady Luck smiles on us in Galway.”

“Our job is to make them believe they can achieve”

DERRY CITY v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League, Brandywell, Friday 23 October, 7.45pm

Bohemians go the Brandywell where sixth host fifth who are in pursuit of fourth. The “outside chance” of qualifying for Europe is helping to drive on Bohemians, according to manager Keith Long.

But he gives “huge credit” to the players and compliments “good characters” in the dressing room for maintaining a strong team spirit right to the end of the season.

“We have tried to create an environment where there are no excuses and the players have bought into that,” said Long.

“They take ownership of their performances and of their training. It comes down to their application and attitude. Our job is to make them believe they can achieve, and we have done that for most of the season.”

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“We’re going into the game against Derry with an outside chance of getting into Europe, and most fair-minded people would have accepted that [for Bohemians] at the start of the season. Still, doing OK is not good enough for a club like Bohemians and we want to continue to improve. “

Derry are just one place, but 15 points, behind Bohemians in the league table. They have strengthened their side since the summer and are on a good run.

“Anyone who thinks we are going up to Derry for an easy game is mistaken,” said Long. “We beat them 4-2 in Dalymount in one of the strangest games of the year. After we scored four goals in ten minutes Derry dominated the game.

“They are in flying form and they have secured their Premier Division status. So, they will play with an element of freedom,” said Long.

“I expect a good game. I expect both teams to go for it, and the players to go out and express themselves. But it will be a difficult game. It’s never easy up in Derry.”

Bohemians go there unbeaten in six league games and having kept a clean sheet in the last two. “From a defensive point of view we can’t ask for more,” said Long. “Dean [Delany] has been consistent, as he has been throughout the season, and he has pulled off important saves at critical times.

“In the absence of Lorcan Fitzgerald, Derek Prendergast and Stephen Best in the back four, Dave Mulcahy has had to slot back in there alongside Anto Murphy and these guys have huge experience, and they have been excellent.”

For Friday, Derek Prendergast and James O’Brien return from injury but Lorcan Fitzgerald remains out and Roberto Lopes is suspended. Stephen Best is recovering but he is unlikely to be available this weekend, though he may return for the final game of the season.

“Our lads don’t need any extra motivation”

SLIGO ROVERS v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League, Showgrounds, Saturday 17 October, 7.45pm

Unbeaten in five league games, Bohemians go in search of maximum points in Sligo as they continue to chase down fourth-placed St Patrick’s Athletic.

Last week Bohemians closed the gap with a 2-0 win over St Pat’s in Dalymount, though manager Keith Long believes the winning margin could and should have been bigger.

“We butchered a number of chances, particularly late in the game when they were down to ten men. We were worth the win but with a bit more care with our final pass, we could have scored another couple of goals.”

Long is confident that his players will not suffer any late-season fatigue. “I don’t fear that with the group of players we have. They want to finish the season as strongly as they can.

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“Our lads don’t need any extra motivation at this point. They want to get a win on Saturday. We have to make sure we’re ready and our lads will embrace that challenge.”

Sligo Rovers are 19 points behind Bohemians but manager Mickey Adams has steadied the ship and in the ten league games since they were beaten 1-0 in Dalymount Park, Sligo have accumulated just one point less than Bohemians.

“Sligo is a tough place to go. They have a squad full of quality and they have three games to maintain their Premier Division status. They will set about doing that on Saturday,” said Long.

“They will see this home fixture as one they absolutely have to win and we have to go up there and make sure we are ready for everything they throw at us.”

Paddy Kavanagh and Jason Caffrey return for selection, having been ill last week, but defenders Stephen Best (thigh), Derek Prendergast (calf) and now Lorcan Fitzgerald (groin) are all likely to miss out. Midfielder James O’Brien (ankle) has returned to training and may be available.

The additional training session on Friday will be an opportunity to confirm the fitness of the players fighting to recover. But even with possibly three first-choice defenders missing, Long is unlikely to risk starting Dan Byrne, who returned to action last week.

Byrne came on as a late sub against St Patrick’s, making only his second appearance this season after a long lay-off and an interrupted recovery. “We hope to give Dan more game-time this season but we have to be careful and not overload him. He is dedicated to getting himself completely right for the next season,” said Long.
Up front, manager Long has widened his choices, giving 19-year-old Aaron Ashe a brief appearance off the bench last weekend. Ashe joined Bohemians at the start of the year and has been a regular goal-scorer for the under-19s, netting a hat-trick against Longford Town last month. He has been training with the first team for several months.

“He’s a young lad with a lot to learn but he works extremely hard at his game and we hope he can make the step up next season and continue to develop with us,” said Long.

“There are goals in this team”

BOHEMIANS v ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC
SSE Airtricity League, Dalymount Park, Friday 9 October, 7.45pm

Bohemians continue their search for that extra something to turn draws into wins as they host St Patrick’s Athletic, their nearest neighbours in the league table.

As St Pat’s in fourth place have faltered, with a run of four losses, fifth-place Bohemians have struggled to take advantage with a run of four draws.

“We’re not a million miles off but we need to take and create more chances in games, along with being difficult to beat,” said Long.

“We have conceded some poor goals recently that we did not do earlier in the season. This is an area where we need to tighten up if we’re going to move forward next season.

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“Since the summer break we have been a little bit easier to play against and we have to find again that steel and determination we had. If we do that, and play with a bit more fluidity there are goals in this team.”

Following last week’s Leinster Senior Cup semi-final, which Bohemians lost on penalties, they face “another tough game” against St Patrick’s.

As for displacing Pat’s from fourth place, “mathematically, it’s still possible, but they have a game in hand and it’s going to be very difficult,” said Long.

“All we can do is to try and win the game on Friday night, which won’t be easy, and take care of our own performances over the remaining four games.”

Long is again missing the injured James O’Brien (ankle), Derek Prendergast (calf), Stephen Best (thigh) and Jason Caffrey (illness). But Jake Kelly returns, having been cup-tied last weekend, and Anto Murphy, who was out for the last two league games, has done full training all week, and is available.

Stephen Best has publicly committed himself to Bohemians for next season, and manager Long is working on securing other key-pieces of the 2016 squad.

For the present, however, his main focus is on getting the most out of the rest of this year’s campaign. “We want to finish the season as strongly as we possibly can,” he said.

“We’ll be going all-out to try and win the game”

BOHEMIANS v SHAMROCK ROVERS
Leinster Senior Cup, Dalymount Park, Friday 2 October, 7.45pm

Bohemians host Shamrock Rovers on Friday in the Leinster Senior Cup four weeks after the sides drew in a league clash at Tallaght.

While the Leinster Senior Cup is not normally a high priority for Premier Division teams, it is Bohemians’ one remaining chance of silverware from the season.

Manager Keith Long is disappointed that Bohemians are not contesting an FAI Cup semi-final, but with their fifth position in the league safe, this other semi-final takes on more significance than it might otherwise have.

“Obviously the further you go in the competition, and with the draw at home against Shamrock Rovers, it becomes important. The players will certainly need no added incentive to give this their full commitment,” said Long.

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“In previous rounds we have been able to give younger players some game-time and that’s the way a lot of clubs would treat this competition. But it is a chance for silverware, and we’ll approach the game in the manner that we’ve done throughout the season and we’ll be going all-out to try and win the game.”

Bohemians have this season kept up their good record of recent years against Shamrock Rovers, with a win at home and a draw away in the league.

“But records and form count for nothing when the next game comes around. We will have to concentrate on getting our performance right on Friday. It’s a head-to-head and we’ll see who comes out on top,” said Long.

Dave Mulcahy returns from ankle injury and Keith Buckley from suspension. Jake Kelly is cup-tied and James O’Brien (ankle) is ruled out. Anto Murphy (groin) has been training but may not be fully fit. Stephen Best (quad strain) and Derek Prendergast (knock in training) are expected to be available.

Bohemians have won the Leinster Senior Cup 31 times, more than any other club. These wins stretch back to 1893-94, the second time the competition took place. Bohemians also won the cup in the five following years. They got to keep the trophy, which is displayed in Dalymount Park.

Bohs last won the Leinster Senior Cup in 1997-98. In this 125th anniversary year, a 32nd win would be especially welcome.

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