“OUR PLAYERS KNOW A WIN WILL ENSURE WE STAY UP”

BOHEMIANS v DUNDALK (Dalymount Park, Saturday October 12th, 7.45pm)

Bohemians face Dundalk on a weekend that could settle the battle for survival in the Premier Division.

Following Shelbourne’s defeat on Thursday, Bohemians no longer face possible automatic relegation. If their result on Saturday equals or betters Bray’s on Sunday they avoid having to play-off.

For assistant manager Owen Heary, confirmation of his team’s position in the top flight would represent a notable success. “Maybe there should be stay-up medals,” he joked.

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“When we went to the bottom of the table and we were playing Rovers, Pat’s and Sligo, people said we wouldn’t get a point from those games. But we got four points from nine. That gave the players the belief they needed.”

Saturday’s match will test their mettle once again. “Dundalk are a tough team and, after what’s happened in the past week, they’ll want to get a good result,” said Heary.

“People say they have over-achieved but I don’t think they have. They have a good manager, and good players and they have lads who have won medals or played over in England or Scotland, and with experience. But our players know that a win on Saturday will ensure we stay up.”

Dundalk have provided stiff opposition this season, winning both league games against Bohemians and keeping a clean sheet home and away.

Already, Heary is looking to what this squad can do next season if it can be kept together. With the addition of “a couple more experienced players and a couple more in certain positions”, Bohemians could next year be “fighting at the better end of the table, for European places”, Heary believes. “We need to let lads know they’re wanted and do our business early,” he added.

The contribution of the re-signed Anto Murphy – along with those of Delany, Pender, Mulcahy and four-season ‘veteran’ Ryan McEvoy – has shown the value of mixing experience with youth.

But Bohemians must prepare for Friday without Murphy. Having recovered from a hamstring injury, he is being treated for an ulcer.

Heary is pleased with how Neil Yadolahi has stepped up to take Murphy’s place. “He was thrown in at the deep end and he has done very well. He was unlucky in Limerick, when he had a good header and the keeper pulled off a great save.”

Shane Murray’s knee injury from last week’s match against Limerick has turned out not to be as serious as first thought but he remains out for Friday. However, Stephen Traynor, who missed the Limerick game with a quad injury, is back.

TEAM NEWS v LIMERICK

LIMERICK v BOHEMIANS (Monday September 30th, Thomond Park, 7.45pm)

Bohemians face Limerick FC tonight (Thomond Park, 7.45pm) with Anto Murphy (hamstring) and Stephen Traynor (quad) out injured.

Assistant manager Owen Heary saluted his players’ performance on Friday and said: “We’re going down there to get a result. The lads are full of confidence.”

“THE LADS ARE ON A HIGH BUT THIS WEEKEND IS EVEN BIGGER”

BOHEMIANS v DERRY CITY (Dalymount Park, Friday September 27th, 7.45pm)

Bohemians “have nothing to fear” as they face “two hard-working, decent sides” in three days, according to assistant manager Owen Heary.

Bohs face Derry City at home on Friday determined to secure points and to build on last weekend’s win over Shelbourne.

“The lads have been on a high all week. But they know that the result last week is not good enough if we don’t get something from this weekend,” said Heary.

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“Last week we played very well and got our just reward. But this weekend is even bigger, because if we match the results of the clubs around us, or even better them, it would take us out of the bottom three.

“If we win the two games, effectively we’re safe. I don’t want to be waiting until the last two games. I’d like to put this issue to bed this weekend.”

Bohemians are approaching these games with confidence. “When we can go to Pat’s and get a draw, why wouldn’t we be confident?” Heary asks.

“We expect to win every game we approach. The players are starting to enjoy their football. They have been working hard for a long time, but now they really have the bit between their teeth, knowing they’re a good team.”

Derry have proven a hard nut to crack for Bohs this season. In three matches in two competitions Bohemians are still without a win. But Derry’s form since the sides last met in the league, with three wins and six defeats, has been marginally poorer than Bohemians’, with three wins, two draws and five defeats.

Bohemian manager Bobby Browne and assistant Heary have been working with a full squad, and competition for places right through the line-up.

Stephen Traynor’s performances since coming on as a sub against St Patrick’s Athletic four weeks ago demonstrate the effect of this competition. Starting since then against Sligo and Shels, Traynor has contributed strongly to the more numerous goal-scoring opportunities.

“He got his chance when he came on against Pat’s and, in fairness to him, he has grabbed that chance. Bucko [Keith Buckley] is the same. He came on against Pat’s and did exceptionally well,” said Heary.

“There are other players there, who are maybe not getting on to the bench and they’re disappointed. But they’re not letting it get to them. They’re pushing the team on and waiting for their chance, and it might come sooner than they think.”

For Friday, defender Anto Murphy faces a late fitness test with a hamstring strain, with Neil Yadolahi or Daniel Byrne available to replace him. Murphy has been a linchpin of Bohemians’ improved defence and the assistant manager would prefer to give him the additional days to recover rather than risk aggravating the injury by playing him too soon.

Limerick, like Derry, have proven to be stern opposition for Bohemians this season, though Heary considers his team was particularly unlucky against them. “Down there [last April], we were 1-0 up with a half-hour to go and two free kicks cost us the game. We played very well against them up here [in July] and then they hit a long ball, get a good touch on it, and they score,” he said.

“Limerick are a hard-working team, they have a good squad, with good attackers and Stuart [Taylor] has done a great job there. But they may be a bit tired with three games in six days. We’ll go down full of confidence.”

“THE FANS CAN GIVE US THAT EXTRA LIFT”

SHELBOURNE v BOHEMIANS (Tolka Park, Friday September 20th, 8pm)

Bohemians meet nearest-neighbours Shelbourne in a match that could have a big bearing on both clubs’ efforts to avoid relegation.

But Bohemian assistant manager Owen Heary is keen to play down notions that Friday’s game is the ultimate decider.

“There are still 18 points to play for. This is a big game but it’s no different from the games of last week, the week before or next week,” he said. “It’s not the be-all and end-all for either team, win, lose or draw. But we’ll certainly be closer to our goal of staying up if we win.”

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Heary sees it as his responsibility to keep his players “doing what they have done for the last few weeks” when the team kept their composure in big games and performed well.

He expects Shelbourne to come to Friday’s match very determined to recover the winning form of July and to put last week’s cup defeat against Dundalk behind them. “You can’t read too much into that cup result. They have good players and a good manager. We’re expecting them to be looking to bounce back,” said Heary.

Bohemians have found many positives to take from their loss two weeks ago to Sligo Rovers when they created as many scoring opportunities as in any game this season and earned the praise of Sligo’s management team.

The fans also saluted Bohemians’ efforts that night and Heary expects the fans to be a big factor in Friday’s clash with Shelbourne.

“The relationship between the clubs is friendly rivalry, with a good deal of banter, and no aggression,” he said. “If our fans do as they did in Inchicore and in Tallaght and really get behind the lads they can give them a lift. There is no better feeling for a player than when the fans are roaring you on. That can help you produce that extra couple of per cent.”

Heary has strong affiliations still with Shelbourne, where he played for nine years before joining Bohemians. “I am very fond of the people there, who work very hard behind the scenes. I’d be gutted if either club went down. This is not being disrespectful to any other club but this league definitely needs both Bohs and Shels.”

Heary’s illustrious spell at Shelbourne might not have happened if Bohemians had moved more quickly to sign him 16 years ago. He was “always a Bohs man” but had committed to Shels by the time his preferred club made an offer.

The honours are even between the sides in this year’s league encounters: Bohemians won in Tolka Park in April but lost at home in June.

For Friday Bohemians have a full squad to choose from. The two-week break since the last league match has helped some players with “niggling injuries” to recover fully. The most recent signing Neil Yadolahi has trained to full match fitness and is available for selection.

Bohemians go into the last six games of the season with a new management team. Bobby Browne has joined the club as first-team manager on a short-term arrangement. Browne managed Monaghan United and Drogheda United in the past, and most recently was with Drumcondra FC.

“WE’RE NOT OUT OF THE WOODS, WE HAVE TO KEEP WORKING”

BOHEMIANS v SLIGO ROVERS (Saturday September 7th, 7.45pm)

Bohemians face the league champions on Saturday looking to match their season-best run of three matches unbeaten.

Depending on results elsewhere, a draw or win on Saturday could widen the gap between Bohs and the two teams below them in the league table.

“We need to focus on what we’re doing and not worry about other results. We’ve done that in the last couple of weeks and it will be no different when we face Sligo,” said manager Owen Heary.

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During a lean spell for Bohemians in the league they drew 0-0 in the Showgrounds in June, making up at least in part for the 3-0 defeat at home to the same opponents in March.

“Sligo are still the champions and they will be coming here with the bit between their teeth. They know they have to win to maintain their challenge,” said Heary.

“If the lads give as good an account of themselves as they did in the last two matches I can see us coming away with something.

“It’s another tough game for us, and then we have another even bigger one in two weeks’ time against Shelbourne.”

Approaching the end of his permitted tenure as caretaker manager, Heary has guided Bohemians to two wins and two draws in six league games.

“I’m happy with the way things have gone. Before I took over we had gone 11 league games without a win,” he said. “To get points against some of the teams we have got them against is very pleasing. But we’re not out of the woods yet. We’ve got to keep working hard at what we’re doing.”

Heary admits his players struggled to get to terms with the St Patrick’s midfield in the first half of last weekend’s match. Daniel Byrne who had impressed on his full debut in the previous game was missing the guidance of suspended Dave Mulcahy, Heary felt.

“We decided we had to try and match them [St Patrick’s] man-for-man and stop them getting forward. We talked to [Keith] Buckley and [Stephen] Traynor at half-time and they did the business. They’re not much older than the lads they replaced but they have been playing in the league for four years,” said Heary.

“Not many teams have gone over there and got a point off them and we’ve done it twice this year. Pat’s could have been out of sight in the first half but in the second half we got to grips with them and we deserved the point.”

With those contributions Buckley and Traynor put themselves in the reckoning for the starting line-up. Also in midfield, Dave Mulcahy is available, back from suspension. David Scully (ankle injury) remains out.

Heary has strengthened his defensive resources with the signing on professional terms of tall centre-half Neil Yadolahi (20), a youth Irish international who was on the books of Burnley for over two years until last year. More recently, he had a short spell with Turkish side Bucaspor and a trial with Swansea City. He has been training with Bohemians for the past month.

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