THERE’S LIFE AFTER COLLEGE

PREVIEW: CORK CITY V BOHEMIANS (Friday March 15th, Turner’s Cross, KO 7.45pm)

Bohemians face a challenging trip to Cork City for their first away assignment in this season’s Airtricity League Premier Division, writes KEVIN FAGAN.

Having lost out after extra-time to UCD in the Leinster Senior Cup last month, the Gypsies came out on top in the two key games of an exhausting Dalymount trilogy against College – winning 2-1 in the league on Friday and 3-2 after extra-time in the EA Sports Cup on Monday.

And Bohs boss Aaron Callaghan is delighted to be preparing for a game against someone other than the Belfield outfit!

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“Three games in 15 days against UCD is a bit much – but we came out on top in two of them, which is the main thing.

“I wasn’t overly pleased with the performance in the league game but the second-half performance in the cup game was probably our best performance to date, culminating in us getting a last-minute goal and bringing it to extra-time.”

Callaghan was also pleased with the fact that he could afford to change nine players from the starting line-up for the league victory and still progress in the EA Sports Cup with that thrilling extra-time winner from Chris Lyons.

He said: “For the squad, I was trying to get two players to compete for every position, and I think we’ve done that. When you can change eight or nine players and still get the result, it’s definitely pleasing for me.”

What will also please the Gypsies’ boss is the form of his attacking players. Out of the six goals scored against UCD over the three ties, five were from strikers and the other from the attack-minded Karl Moore (pictured). Firepower up front is a big priority for Callaghan this term. He said: “It’s an area that we’ve tried to improve on and hopefully that can continue”.

This weekend’s opponents Cork City have one of the most-changed squads in the league this term and Callaghan is expecting a tough fixture, adding: “They’ve spent wisely, brought in a lot of players. They have quite a decent budget down there by all accounts and we’re expecting nothing but a tough game. I watched their draw against Limerick and I think it was pretty even. We’re looking forward to it now.”

On the injury front, Bohemians have a few doubts for the trip. As well as a few players carrying knocks from Monday, Stephen Paisley has been ill over the past few days, Kevin Devaney is nursing a knock on his ankle and Dave Scully has a back strain. Those three will be assessed at training tonight before Callaghan decides who to bring on the trip down South.

AARON: YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE A GOOD START CAN TAKE YOU

Bohemians kick off their league campaign with the second of three early-season meetings with UCD – and boss Aaron Callaghan wants the Gypsies to start as they mean to go on.

Callaghan is keen to make a winning start on Friday (Dalymount, kick-off 7.45pm) and is confident that his squad is much better prepared than at the same time last year.

“We have been able to put a bit of shape and structure on the team but we will see better when we have played a few league games,” Callaghan said.

“A good start can give you momentum, as Drogheda demonstrated last year. It can help the confidence of both the players and the fans and you never know where it can take you.”

Callaghan firmly believes his squad can improve on last season.

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“The lads are hungry. Their attitude in training has been fantastic and we hope that will manifest itself in match performances. There’s a desire there to do well and I believe we can win a trophy.”

The manager is not fazed by last month’s extra-time defeat to UCD in the Leinster Senior Cup.

“There was nothing between the teams. They play a similar game to us and their fitness levels are high. But the line-up of both sides will look very different on Friday from what it was.”

Callaghan expects his counterpart Martin Russell to make “five or six” changes for Friday and he himself could be making as many EIGHT changes.

The manager is delighted to have retained 15 of last year’s squad, as the slow start in 2012 was at least partly down to players learning new approaches.

“The fact that we kept so many, and who can help new players coming in, is very good from our point of view.”

Callaghan also believes he has a squad with cover for all positions, and thus competition for starting places. However, he already has a fairly clear idea what his best 11 might look like but “nobody can rest on their laurels, they need to keep their standards high”.

The pre-season schedule has taken a small toll on the players. Shane Fitzgerald (ankle), Kevin Devaney (ankle) and Kevin O’Leary (illness) are not available for Friday.

On Monday 11th March, Bohemians again host UCD at Dalymount Park in the EA Sports Cup (kick-off 7.45pm).

(Pic: UCD’s Michael Leahy and Bohs winger Keith Buckley at last week’s Airtricity League launch at the Aviva Stadium)

Let’s Talk About It: Westport v Bohemians

A Bohemians XI heads west this Sunday to take on Westport United in a fundraising game to raise money for Talk About It, a national voluntary organisation based in Mayo, which promotes the prevention of suicide in Ireland.

The challenge match, which kicks off at 2.30pm, is a renewal of an old friendship dating back to the early 20th century.

Frank Gill, a native of the Quays area of Westport, was involved with the Gypsies in the 1900s and it was through this connection that the Connacht club adopted their red and black colours.

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On one occasion, Harold Sloan, who scored in Bohs’ only IFA Cup final victory in 1908, planted a tree in recognition of the clubs’ friendship.

To further raise awareness for the work of Talk About It, Sunday’s game will be broadcast live on Setanta Sports Ireland.

Setanta Sports commercial director Trevor Twamley said: “To demonstrate our support for this important charity event, which we will broadcast live to 1.2million homes, Setanta Sports has shifted AC Milan from Setanta Ireland to Setanta Sports 1 to make way for Westport United and Bohemians.”

Tickets (adults €10, children €5) for the match are available locally in Wesport from Downtown Records, Henry McGlade Music Store and the Mill Times Hotel.

As part of its fundraising drive Talk About It is also running a monster memorabilia at the Westport Woods Hotel on Sunday November 4.

The charity’s founder Joe McGuire said: “We have already started on this mammoth task and among those we have received are fully signed jerseys from the Irish national rugby squad and the Dublin Gaelic football team to whom we send out thanks.”

Preview: Bohemians v Drogheda United

Bohemians host Drogheda United in a game that can confirm Drogheda’s standing as runners-up or Bohemians’ qualification for the Setanta Sports Cup.

Bohemian manager Aaron Callaghan is delighted that there is something to play for.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way. You don’t really want a meaningless game with nothing at stake,” he said.

“This situation puts a bit of an edge on the game which is always good. I believe there’s a twist in this somewhere and I just hope the twist goes our way.”

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Both teams come to Friday’s clash from very good results last weekend. While Drogheda beat newly crowned champions Sligo Rovers 2-1, Bohemians put four past Bray Wanderers.

“We were on top even before they [Bray] had a man sent off. It was one of those games where you feel comfortable and you always feel you’re on top.

“Once we got the first goal I knew we were going to get a few more. Every player rose above their normal level.”

There has been very little between Bohemians and Drogheda in their three matches this season. An EA Sports Cup tie was decided on penalties after two hours of play produced a 1-1 draw.

It was 1-1 again in the league at Dalymount in May and a single Drogheda goal from a penalty settled a feisty encounter at Hunky Dorys Park in August.

Callaghan says his players appreciate the importance of a win on Friday. “Securing a place in the Setanta Cup will be no mean achievement. It’s fantastic to be playing for this, for the staff who put in such an effort, and for the players.”

Callaghan gave a debut last Friday to under-19 player Dylan Connolly who came on as substitute after 75 minutes. The manager may do something similar on Friday, as Bohemians look to a future based on a core of younger players.

But the manager’s options are also limited by injuries among the more experienced players. Injuries rule out Owen Heary (hamstring), Derek Pender (back) and Adam Martin (ankle), as well as Andy Mulligan (ankle), Luke Byrne (ankle) and Michael Barker (illness).

Bohemian fans have been urged to attend this season finale in large numbers to show their appreciation for the players’, managers’ and coaches’ efforts, while Callaghan acknowledged the “tremendous support from everyone involved.”

“We’ve had some highs and some lows but I think, in general, the fans understand the project and that we don’t have a lot of finance to compete with other clubs,” he said.

“They understand that we have had to play a lot of young players and that’s the way it is going to be for the foreseeable future.”

Preview: Dundalk v Bohemians

Bohemians go into their final three games of the season knowing that maximum points will almost certainly guarantee a top-half finish, bringing Setanta Sports Cup football to Dalymount Park next season, against all the odds.

Starting off this end-of-season run is a trip to bottom side Dundalk (Saturday, Oriel Park, 7pm).

The Lilywhites are doomed to a relegation play-off against either Longford or Waterford at the end of the season.

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But Bohs boss Aaron Callaghan doesn’t believe that means this will an easy game for his young side.

“I know they’ve had a few bad beatings in recent games, but I don’t think they’ll be resting players (for the playoff) to be honest,” Callaghan said.

“I think they’ll be trying to win as many games as they can. There’s a pretty big gap until the play-off, so I think they’ll be trying to get a bit of confidence back into their group.”

Callaghan dismissed notions that revenge would be on the minds of the Bohs players, following Dundalk’s victory in Dalymount in the FAI Cup Quarter Final last month.

Victory over Dundalk would be the Gypsies’ only clean sweep of wins against another Airtricity League team this season.“What’s gone is gone. We cant change the past. The cup game was just one of those nights, it took a special free kick to win it. From my point of view, it’s just about getting the three points”

“We’ve done well against them this season, won home and away. I didn’t think either side played well in the cup game to be honest. From our side, it’s about getting as many points as we can and trying to finish in that fifth spot.”

And what an achievement that would be. Considering the position the club were in in February, Callaghan believes a top-half finish would be a massive coup for his resurgent Bohemians.

“To cement a Setanta Cup place, having been where we were at the start of the season – not knowing if we even had a club – I think it would be an unbelievable achievement for everyone involved.”“I think it would be a massive achievement. Not only for the players – with the effort and the application they’ve put in this year, but also for the club.

Kevin Feely is suspended for the game against Dundalk following his red card against UCD, while Adam Martin is out with an ankle injury.

Otherwise, Callaghan expects to have a full squad at his disposal for the trip to Oriel.

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