EXCITEMENT AND NERVES AHEAD OF NEW TERM

UCD v BOHEMIANS
(Friday March 7, SSE Airtricity League, Belfield Bowl, 7.45pm
& Monday March 10, EA Sports Cup, Belfield Bowl, 7.45pm)

Bohemians start their league campaign against UCD with manager Owen Heary feeling both “excitement” and “nerves” about his team’s prospects for the season.

“There’s excitement at having got the players in that I was looking for,” Heary said. “But as we come to the start of the season there’s also nerves and there’s pressure on me as manager.

“Expectations are rising because of the players we’ve signed and sometimes you have to curb those expectations not to put too much pressure on the players.”

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HEARY GO AGAIN

BOHEMIANS v BRAY WANDERERS (Tonight, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm)

Bohemians finally get their competitive season up and running when they host Bray Wanderers in tonight’s rescheduled Leinster Senior Cup tie and manager Owen Heary wants his side to start the campaign as they mean to go on.

Handed the reins by then boss Pat Fenlon for the Gypsies’ Leinster Senior Cup games in 2011, Heary led Bohs – made up almost entirely of players from his Under-19 side – to victories against a Shamrock Rovers team laden down by league winners and Shelbourne before falling short in the final against St Pat’s.

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He is determined to go one better this year, starting with victory against Bray. He said: “People might say, ‘ah it’s the Leinster Senior Cup, it’s only a Mickey Mouse trophy,’ but a trophy is a trophy. We want to go through tonight and we want to go on and win the competition.”

The game was originally due to take place on Saturday February 15 but was postponed to protect the Dalymount pitch from heavy rain. Heary was keen to get the game rescheduled before next week’s league opener away to UCD and said: “We wanted a game on grass. Our last two games were on synthetic surfaces, so we really needed to get the lads a game on a proper surface before the league starts.”

Despite pre-season being hampered by bad weather earlier this month, Heary reckons his players are back up to speed after games against Tolka Rovers and Shelbourne last week.

Bohs beat Tolka 2-1 at IT Blanchardstown 10 days ago but Shels frustrated the Gypsies to earn a deserved 1-1 draw at Scribblestown last Friday.

Heary said: “The Shels game in particular was a very good test for us. For the first 10 or 15 minutes, we barely got near the ball. Shels played at a high tempo and it’s good for our players at this stage of the season to be able to get back into the habit of knowing how to react to that kind of situation. It makes them stronger and makes them increase their own tempo. Hopefully we’ll have more of the same tonight.”

Anto Murphy (hamstring) is the only absentee for tonight’s game, with Heary adding: “It’s not a tear or anything, it’s just a strain but we don’t want to risk him.”

General admission: €10. Members: €5. Students/children/senior citizens: €5.

 

LEINSTER SENIOR CUP TIE POSTPONED

Saturday’s Leinster Senior Cup tie against Bray Wanderers has been called off.

WE NEED A GAME ON OUR OWEN PITCH

BOHEMIANS v BRAY WANDERERS (Saturday February 15th, Dalymount Park, 5pm)

Bohemian boss Owen Heary is hoping weather conditions do not further disrupt his team’s pre-season schedule as the Gypsies look to victory in their first competitive game of the year, writes LUKE O’RIORDAN.

Continuing heavy rainfall and strong winds have resulted in widespread disruptions to the sporting calendar, but Heary is keen to get the green light to host Saturday’s Leinster Senior Cup tie at Dalymount Park.

His side have played just one full game – a 4-0 win against Swords Celtic at Scribblestown on February 2 – in pre-season so far as last Friday’s friendly against Waterford United was abandoned at half-time due to rapidly-deteriorating conditions at the RSC with the sides drawing 1-1.

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Heary said: “I won’t be pushing for Saturday’s game to be called off, that’s for sure. I want to us to play in Dalymount. We’ve barely played. We need games and we need games in Dalymount before the season starts.

“Weather hasn’t disrupted training too much. One day last week, it was pretty hectic so we only trained for an hour. It was the same on Wednesday – the cones were blowing all over the place – but we still managed to get a good 70 to 80 minutes out of it.

“But in terms of match practice, it has affected us. We played Swords and hoped to progress into the Waterford game but we went down and got 45 minutes where the pitch was flooded and the ball wasn’t moving. We didn’t get much match practice out of it but it was a good pre-season workout for the lads who played as it dragged the legs out of them.

“Fitness-wise, we’re where we want to be. There’s a few of them playing college games too, the likes of Roberto Lopes and Andy Mulligan. But as a team, we’re not there yet. We should be there before the start of the league season, which is the most important thing.”

With Sunday’s friendly against Sandyhill/Shangan also falling foul of the weather, Heary moved quickly to bolster his side’s preparations for the league season with a friendly against Tolka Rovers now scheduled  - subject to FAI approval – for Monday evening (IT Blanchardstown, 7pm).

“As soon as we heard Sandyhill’s pitch was unplayable, we started trying to organise a game for Monday,” he said. “If we get that and then play Shelbourne on Thursday, we’ll have three games in the space of a week, so we’ll have a good idea of where we’re at by the end of it.”

While the priority is getting his players primed for the league kick-off against UCD on March 7, Heary is still treating the Leinster Senior Cup – a competition Bohs have won a record 31 times – seriously.

He said: “It’s a challenge for us at this stage of the year. It’s a cup game, a one-off and we want to progress. But we’ll have to use it as part of our pre-season too and as a guide to where we’re at in terms of preparations for the league.”

Heary’s opposite number in the visitors’ dugout on Saturday is Alan Mathews and he is backing him to bounce back from his turbulent tenure at Shelbourne and rise above the controversy surrounding his appointment as successor to “Mr Bray”, Pat Devlin.

Heary, captain at Shels during Mathews’ spell there as assistant manager to Dermot Keely from 1998 to 2002, said: “Knowing Alan, he’ll get the team right and get the team prepared.

“Alan’s brought in some good players and kept some good ones too. Losing Jason Byrne to us and Kieran Marty Waters to Rovers is a blow but Alan’s proved himself before, winning cups at Longford and Cork. What happened at Shels happened but if you look at most managers, sometimes it doesn’t happen for them at one club but they move on and they do extremely well elsewhere.”

When these sides met in October, Bohs needed just a point with a game to go to avoid a relegation play-off but lost 1-0 at Dalymount Park before stumbling to safety as both clubs lost a week later. Heary said: “Dave Mulcahy was out, Anto Murphy was out and it was clear we struggled for experience in such an important game. Derek Pender and Dean Delany were the only experienced players out there.

“Games like that were the reason we added in the likes of Jay, Paddy Kavanagh and Aidan Price to give us a bit more balance between youth and experience. Hopefully the younger players learn from them and we won’t be fighting down the bottom of the table again.”

Heary has no injury concerns to report ahead of Saturday’s game, adding: “Training has been intense but the lads are looking after themselves. Nobody has taken any knocks but, then again, you can’t take too many knocks when you’re not playing matches!”

RIGHT AS RAIN

WATERFORD UNITED v BOHEMIANS (Friday February 7th, The RSC, 7.30pm)

Despite regular downpours disrupting training this week, Bohemians boss Owen Heary says tonight’s trip to face Waterford United will go ahead as planned and provide the perfect opportunity to further assess his team’s pre-season progress.

The Gypsies kicked off their pre-season schedule with a 4-0 win against Leinster Senior League intermediate side Swords Celtic at Scribblestown on Sunday and Heary is looking forward to a tougher test against Airtricity League First Division opposition.

He said: “The weather down there hasn’t been too bad in the last couple of days. I’ve been talking to Rennie (Alan Reynolds) and he says the pitch is in good nick.

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“The lads have been working extremely hard in pre-season. Their fitness levels are very good for this stage of the year and tonight is another test to see where they’re at in a match environment.”

Bohs step up their pre-season schedule next weekend with a double-header on Saturday and Sunday. First, the Gypsies host Bray Wanderers in the Leinster Senior Cup before a Bohs XI makes the short trip to Ballymun to face Sandyhill Shangan in another friendly.

Heary said: “Last week was all about getting players some game-time and getting them used to the speed of a match again. We’re stepping that up again now with stronger opposition tonight and against Bray next week. Between tonight and the two games next weekend, we’ll give everyone a run-out and get them really into shape.

“They’re looking good in training but it’s always different playing your first few games. It’s an adjustment at this stage of pre-season for players to get their match sharpness back – their timing, their reading of the game and all of that.”

The standout performance in the win against Swords Celtic was that of 24-year-old trialist Steven Beattie. The Skerries-born striker, who has spent the last few years with clubs in the USA, Canada and Iceland, netted a hat-trick having been introduced as a half-time substitute.

Heary conceded that he is looking to further strengthen up front, but insists he is happy with his options in other areas. He said: “Steven’s trained with us all week. Obviously that’s been hampered a little bit by the weather but he’s done well. We’ve only three strikers at the moment. Others can push up but it’s the one area where we would like to strengthen.

“We’ve spoken to a couple of people who have opted to go elsewhere for money reasons so if we do sign another striker, it’s going to have to be someone who really wants to be at Bohs and wants to play.

“We’ll have another look at Steven tonight – we need to see what he’s like against better opposition than Swords – and if he does well, we’ll sit down with him and his agent. If it’s right for us and right for him, we’ll try and sort something out.

“We’re not looking at any other positions. If we sign another striker, that’ll bring our squad up to 23, including the two under-19s – Jake Hyland and Lee Whelan – who are training with the first team and we’re happy with that.”

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