“IT’S A GREAT WAY TO START”

BOHEMIANS v SHAMROCK ROVERS
Friday February 16 2018, Dalymount Park

Please note earlier kick-off time of 7.30pm

Bohemians host old rivals Shamrock Rovers at Dalymount Park in tomorrow’s SSE Airtricity League opener with both sides looking to ignore the hype and do their talking on the pitch.

Unprecedented demand saw the home fans’ allocation to this fixture sell out two weeks in advance, while the away end followed suit shortly afterwards.

It’s the first time since 2005 that the opening night fixtures have thrown up the Dublin Derby. On that occasion, Bohs and Rovers played out a 1-1 draw at Dalymount.

The build-up in recent weeks has been dominated by a sense of anticipation among both sets of supporters and Bohs manager Keith Long acknowledged: “This fixture is a great way to start the league campaign.

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“The sell-out signs have been up in Dalymount Lane for two weeks, which is great to see. It’s just a pity Dalymount no longer has the capacity of years gone – there has been massive interest.

“It’s a big occasion for the supporters and everyone involved with both clubs. But for both sets of players, it’s about getting it right on the pitch.

“Our players have worked hard in pre-season and we believe they will be focused and disciplined in their approach.”

As well as putting the hard yards in on the training ground, Long and his backroom team have worked tirelessly over the closed season to strengthen a squad that had to contend with some high-profile departures such as Ismahil Akinade to Waterford as well as the sales of rising stars Fuad Sule and Warren O’Hora to Barnet and Brighton respectively.

​Even today, Long, despite strong competition, was busy finalising a deal to bolster his attacking options with the arrival of 21-year-old striker Eoghan Stokes (above) from Leeds.

Subject to international clearance, he will go straight into tomorrow’s matchday squad.

The former St Kevin’s Boys frontman joins Darragh Leahy (Coventry City), JJ Lunney (St Pat’s), Rob Manley (UCD), Ryan Swan (Cabinteely), Dylan Watts (Leicester, loan) among the new faces at the club.

But there are some familiar faces making a welcome return too with Keith Buckley (Bray Wanderers), Kevin Devaney (Galway United) and Karl Moore (Bray Wanderers) all rejoining a squad that retained most of its key men from last season.

Looking forward to his fourth season at the helm, Long said: “It’s opening night, with new arrivals at both clubs, so there is change and it will take time for new players to settle.”

These old foes met three times in the league last season with Rovers winning the first two before Bohs claimed the spoils in the sides’ final meeting in Tallaght Stadium.

The bookies once again have Rovers as favourites, but Long remains undeterred.

He added: “It’s no secret that we don’t have the resources that they have, we have tended to go into games against Rovers as underdogs.

“But we can enjoy that tag a little bit too and try use it to our advantage and have our supporters behind us.

“That bond between players and fans is something I’ve preached about since coming in, that was key for us last year.

“There was a definite connection there. Even when we were under pressure, fans didn’t waver.

“That helps players grow in stature and we’ll need that for this game as well as every other one this year.

“It’s an even more competitive league now. We’re not fazed by that but we will need that support again every step of the way.”

TEAM NEWS

Long’s pre-season preparations were rocked by a double blow to his attacking options.

First, Ryan Swan suffered a torn cruciate, which could rule him out for the majority of the season.

Then that loss was compounded with Cristian Magerusan fracturing his metatarsal.

But Long has acted quickly to bolster his front line with the additions of Rob Manley (UCD) and Eoghan Stokes (Leeds).

Dublin derby in U19 final tonight

(Please note earlier kick-off time of 7.30pm)

Tonight is your final chance to see a competitive game at Dalymount in 2017 as Bohemians host St Patrick’s Athletic in the SSE Airtricity U19 League final.

Graham Lawlor’s U19s topped the Northern Division this season and have beaten Limerick in the quarter-finals and Sligo Rovers in the last four to bring them to tonight’s decider.

Graham, Craig Sexton and their team of players have put an enormous amount of effort into this season, so we hope we can rely on the support of as many of you as possible at tonight’s game as they look to give it one final push.

As it is an official FAI cup final, there is an admission charge of €5 which also applies to members.

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Lawlor said: “The players have had another fantastic season and to finish top of our division is a great achievement in itself.

“We’ve then come through two tough teams to reach the final and it would be great if they could cap off a great season with a win.

“It obviously adds a little something extra when you are playing a derby and I’m sure St Pat’s will bring a few fans to Dalymount with them.

“Pat’s have had a really good season themselves, coming through a difficult semi-final against UCD only a few days ago.

“We’ve had a number of players go up to the first-team throughout the year, so I think it shows how well the entire squad has done as the first-team manager Keith Long is great for promoting the youth.

“We had several players involved in the final game of the season which was great but now we need to focus and hopefully end the season with some silverware.”

Jimmy Mowlds’ U17s also had an excellent season and Cork City needed a penalty shootout to beat them after a 0-0 draw in their SSE Airtricity U17 League final at Turner’s Cross on Monday.

While Mowlds’ young guns were bitterly disappointed to lose the shootout 4-2, they can reflect fondly on a campaign which saw them win away ties against Shamrock Rovers and Waterford in their difficult route to the final.

“WE WANT TO GIVE FANS A SEND-OFF”

Bohemians go into their final league game of the season buoyed by some of their key men agreeing to remain at Dalymount Park next year.

Five players – Dan Byrne, Rob Cornwall, Paddy Kavanagh, Derek Pender and Shane Supple – extended their stay at the club this week.

It brings to eight the number of players under contract for next season after rising stars Oscar Brennan, Warren O’Hora and Fuad Sule inked new deals at the start of August.

This time last year, Bohs had nobody under contract for 2017 so manager Keith Long is relieved to have some of his business done early.

He said: “We are in a stronger position now than we are last year. It’s important to have key players committed as we want to improve next season if we can.

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“Derek Pender as captain and Shane Supple as vice-captain, they were two players I wanted to tie down as they drive the culture we’re trying to create at this club.

“They lead by example and we hope that by tying them down already, others will follow suit.

“We re-signed some of our younger players in August too. The fans’ player fund mid-season allowed us to do that and bring in the likes of Dan Casey who has a very bright future.

“For that, we are extremely grateful. It is a testament to the backing we’ve had from our supporters this season and we really want to give them a send-off tomorrow.”

Last week’s stunning 1-0 victory away to Dundalk secured a top-half finish for a team bookies at the start of the season had tipped to be relegated.

And a win against Finn Harps tomorrow coupled with a Bray Wanderers defeat away to Cork City would see Bohs finish as high as fifth.

Long said: “It hasn’t always been plain sailing. We’ve had our ups and downs but overall it’s been a rewarding season.

“We were looking over our shoulders at various stages but we always felt that we had enough in the dressing room to be safe.

“There are three full-time teams below us fighting for survival on the last day – they would all love to be in our position right now.

“Players and staff have worked extremely hard and put in extra hours and extra training to make sure we could first of all survive and then finish as high up the table as possible.

“The backroom staff have been excellent – from Trevor Croly right down. It’s been a collective effort from everyone at the club.

“Pound for pound, the players have done extremely well. They deserve an enormous amount of credit for their efforts.”

Against already-relegated Harps, Bohs are facing one of their bogey teams in recent seasons.

Long added: “We’ve found them difficult opponents. They are a very well-organised team.

“I commiserate with Ollie Horgan on their relegation, but I feel their absence from the division will be a short-term one.”

TEAM NEWS

Goalkeeper Supple (knee) is set to miss a league game for the first time this season. Colin McCabe, signed as back-up in August following his release from Celtic, is likely to make debut in his place.

Dylan Hayes (foot) is also set to sit this one out, while Dan Byrne, Rob Cornwall and Keith Ward are all suspended.

Warren O’Hora (hamstring) will return, while Eoin Wearen (cruciate) is likely to get first run-out of the year having returned to matchday squad v Dundalk last week.

“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.

Website by Simon Alcock