IRISH PRIDE: DERBY TRIO ON THE RISE

BOHEMIANS v DERBY COUNTY (Saturday July 13th, Dalymount Park, 3pm)

Bohemians welcome Nigel Clough’s Derby County to Dalymount next month and included in the travelling party from Pride Park will be three current members of the Ireland international team – Conor Sammon, Richard Keogh and Jeff Hendrick.

Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni handed senior international debuts to a total of eight players in the past year, and among them were the Derby County trio, all of whom made their bows in a 2-0 friendly win against Poland in January.

Sammon will be familiar to many Dalymount regulars having lined out for UCD (2005-2007) and Derry City (2008) in the past.

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Club boss Clough is a keen admirer. After the striker made his international debut, Clough said: “To leave Conor on all game is the biggest compliment the manager could pay him. On your debut, you usually get about 60 or 70 minutes and then a pat on the back.

“To leave Conor on and against good opposition shows how well he did. He gave the ball away late on and chased back 60 yards and won a throw-in. That sums up Conor. We have seen that honesty and appetite for hard work all season. It is the main thing that attracted us to him.”

Although Sammon has yet to get on the scoresheet in his seven caps to date, the Malahide man played an important role in getting Ireland’s World Cup qualifying campaign back on track.

Most notably he won a penalty, converted by Jon Walters, in the 2-2 draw against Austria in March. He then unselfishly teed up Robbie Keane to seal his hat-trick in the 3-0 win over the Faroe Islands earlier this month, having also provided the assist for his skipper in the 4-0 friendly win against Georgia five days previously.

Keane said:  “Conor came on against the Faroes and set up another goal for me, so that was two from two games. He’s very effective. He’s so big but he’s also quick. Against the Faroes, a player had 10 yards on him out on the right wing but he caught him. I didn’t realise how fast he was until then.

“Height-wise, he is like Niall Quinn but they are completely different. Because he’s tall, people look at Conor as a target-man but he has pace as well. With the two goals he set up for me, he showed that he’s got that in his locker as well.”

But perhaps the highlight of the 26-year-old’s brief international career to date came in Ireland’s last outing, the New York friendly defeat against Spain earlier this month. Although the World and European champions ran out 2-0 winners, Ireland’s performance provided some encouragement for the future with Sammon’s physical presence proving a nuisance for the Spanish defence.

In one break, he muscled unsuspecting Barcelona star Gerard Pique off the ball to create a chance out of nothing. Although Sammon’s subsequent shot let him down, Keane was once again impressed with his efforts and said:  ”Conor was a handful. I don’t think Pique knew what hit him when the two of them went down the line. It was a good experience for Conor coming in against these players.”

Another man to have gained vital experience last season is Sammon’s Pride Park team-mate Keogh. Having signed from Coventry City last summer, he was immediately handed the captain’s armband by Clough and went on to make 49 first-team appearances for his new club over the course of the season.

Like Sammon, Keogh is also 26 and a also a late bloomer on the international stage. His first taste of football at that level was his brief cameo role against Poland, having come on as a late substitute for Ciaran Clark. The Essex-born centre-half had to wait until June to add to his international appearances but in doing so, he capped off his first Ireland start with a goal in the win over Georgia.

After the game, Keogh beamed:  “It couldn’t have gone any better really. Great to get a first start and show the manager what I can do. To top it off with a goal, I’m over the moon. Every since I’ve been involved I’ve been made to feel very welcome. I’m buzzing.”

But one of the brightest prospects for both Derby County and for Ireland is undoubtedly Hendrick. Still just 21, the Dubliner now has four caps to his name and has already made 91 first-team appearances for the Rams.

Having established himself as a first-team regular at club level, the former St Kevin’s Boys starlet it tipped to do likewise for Ireland in the future, but he is keeping his feet on the ground.

He explained: “International football is different to the Championship. You are playing against better players and if you do give the ball away, you are more likely to be punished. So you have to maintain possession all the time really and there are times you can get away with it in the Championship but that is less the case in international football.

“I thought I’d be staying with the Ireland Under-21s so I’m just happy Trapattoni gave me the chance. I just want to keep trying to get into the squad and keep trying to improve my game.

“Everyone dreams of doing that when you are younger, that is what you always want to do but I didn’t think it would come this quickly. Hopefully, I can get a few more games and keep improving my game and see where that takes me.”

TRAVELLING FROM DERBY FOR THE GAME?

Our good friends at the Temple Bar Hotel have joined us in welcoming Derby County supporters to Dublin.

The hotel, with an unrivaled location in the very heart of Dublin city centre, is providing special weekend bed and breakfast rates for the travelling Rams of €95 per single room and €125 per double room.

To make a reservation, please contact the Temple Bar Hotel at reservations@tbh.ie or call +353 1 677 3333 – and make sure to mention you’re coming to Dublin for the Bohs game!

Nestled in the most vibrant area of city centre bars, restaurants and nightclubs, and close to all major bus and rail links in the city, this hotel offers every possible amenity on its doorstep.

Dublin’s most popular shopping streets – Grafton St and Henry St – are both within short walking distance, while the city’s most popular tourist attractions are accessible by foot and by bus/Luas.

And that’s not all… The Temple Bar Hotel not only has a great location, but offers guests full entertainment facilities all under one roof! Check out www.buskersbar.com & www.alchemyclub.ie for more details.

 

“IT’S A CUP FINAL FOR BOTH CLUBS”

BOHEMIANS v SHELBOURNE (Friday June 14th, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm)

Bohemians boss Aaron Callaghan has described this Friday’s crunch North Dublin Derby with Shelbourne as a “cup final for both sides”, writes KEVIN FAGAN. Following last weekend’s heroic draw with champions Sligo Rovers, Bohs will be looking to get a valuable three points against their nearest rivals heading into the Airtricity Premier Division’s mid-season break.

Referring back to the Sligo game, Callaghan felt it was one of the Gypsies’ best performances of the season. “It was a fantastic performance. Not many teams go up there and come away with a result, especially in the last year. I thought the character of the team, the application and the work-rate was fantastic. But I think the key was Owen Heary coming back into the team.”

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Bohs’ veteran captain made a long awaited return to the starting line-up against Sligo, and there was surely no coincidence that the Gypsies kept their first clean sheet in 14 games with the former Shelbourne man in the side. “He just gives us that extra bit of experience”, said Callaghan.

“It obviously improves the communication amongst the defenders, and allows us to push Dave Mulcahy into midfield. When you have that type of experience, and work rate to come in, it rubs off on the young players. Owen is a winner, and it just shows you how important it is to have that experience in key positions.”

Looking ahead to this Friday’s clash, Bohs can stretch their lead over bottom-side Shelbourne to 11 points at the mid-season break. While Callaghan knows the importance of the game, he isn’t too concerned about the visitors’ place in the table.

“It’s a cup final for both clubs. Shels have improved under Johnny (McDonnell, new Shelbourne boss), he has them more organized. Both clubs know the importance of the game. Realistically, we have to look at the chasing pack around us. We know that Shels are within touching distance, but we can’t control what others are going to do.”

Callaghan acknowledges a mixed set of performances as we move past the half-way mark in the Airtricity League Premier Division.

“We’ve had some poor performances, we’ve had some mediocre performances, and we’ve had some very good performances. One of the key areas we need to address is our home form. We seem to be picking up some good points on our travels – we’ve got some good draws away to Drogheda, Pats, Shamrock Rovers, and obviously last week against Sligo. We know we have to improve our home form in the second half of the season”.

With the mid-season break approaching, Callaghan says that he will be looking to strenghthen the Bohs squad during the transfer window. “Budgets dictate what we can and can’t do, but we’ll definintely be looking to bring 2 or 3 in and maybe move two or three on who havent been playing much. I think at this stage of the season most clubs will be looking to do something.”

No players are definitively ruled out through injury for the Shelbourne game, but doubts include Owen Heary (hip), and Luke Byrne (dead leg). Keith Buckley is also nursing a hamstring strain, but Callaghan is hopeful all three will make the game.

“it’s my job to pick the guys up”

SLIGO ROVERS v BOHEMIANS (Saturday June 8th, The Showgrownds, 7.45pm)

Bohemians face a “David-and-Goliath match” as they return to league action but they are “going there to try and get points”, according to manager Aaron Callaghan, writes BRIAN TRENCH.

“If we can replicate the intensity shown in training on the pitch and get Owen [Heary] back with his experience, I can see things turning around for us, no problem,” said Callaghan, following defeats in league and cup in the past two weeks.

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“Lack of experience has at times gone against us and that can affect confidence but it’s my job to pick the guys up, ” Callaghan added.

“I think sometimes they don’t realise they can become good players, if they can get that bit of self-belief.  They’ve been working their hearts out since the start of the season and I believe the confidence they need at the moment will come back.”

Bohemians’ defeat to Drogheda in the FAI Cup last weekend “was not a three-goal game”, Callaghan insisted. “When we make a mistake we get punished for it. The other side of that coin is, when you get a rub of the green, it can change things for us. Against Drogheda, we hit the bar twice and we had a one-on-one.”

The manager is committed to giving his young players an opportunity to prove themselves and to develop. “It’s a positive for us that Adam Kelly made his début for us at 17 years of age [against Drogheda]. Most of the other squads are settled, with just one or two young lads, while we have a plethora of younger players with one or two more experienced ones.”

Striker Kelly had a break after the under-19 campaign and is working towards the fitness levels required for league action. Callaghan expects him to feature again in the remainder of this season, but is mainly looking to him as a prospect for next season.

At the other end of the age scale, Bohemians have “definitely missed Owen’s presence and influence”, the manager said. With Heary back, Dave Mulcahy can be moved into the centre of the park to help provide the kind of leadership that comes from “these guys who have gone through the mill”.

Heary (hip injury) faces a late fitness test for the Sligo trip but, as he possibly returns to action, another experienced player, Derek Pender (illness) is likely to be out.

There will also be late fitness tests for Luke Byrne, injured in training, and Keith Buckley, who came off in the last match with a hamstring strain. Andy Mulligan will be missing this weekend due to a family commitment.

Sligo Rovers, who have Anthony Elding and Evan McMillan suspended, have had a dip in form, Callaghan noted. “But it’s not over from their point of view. The gap at the top could be closed with a couple of results going against Pat’s. And it’s certainly not over for us.”

“YOU HAVE TO BE MORE GUNG-HO IN A CUP MATCH”

BOHEMIANS v DROGHEDA UTD (Friday May 31st, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm)

Bohemians will have to be assertive against Drogheda, as they look to take advantage of the “one-off” nature of the cup tie, according to manager Aaron Callaghan.

Playing in their third competition in three matches Bohemians will seek to confirm the battling form shown in their 4-2 league cup win last week.

“You have to be a bit more gung-ho in your tactics for a cup match, because if you lose you’re out,” said Callaghan.

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“Sometimes in a league game you’re happy enough to get a single point out of it. But we want to win this one, particularly as it’s on our home turf.”

The Bohemian manager admitted he would prefer to be playing a league game following last week’s defeat. “It leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and we’re waiting two weeks to put things right. But this is another competition we’re hoping to do well in.

“It’s a tough ask as this is one of only two all-Premier Division ties in the round. The cup draw hasn’t been kind to either Drogheda or ourselves and it’s going to be difficult for both of us.”

Despite his team slipping down the league table, Callaghan insists they go into the cup tie confident. “I’m always confident going into a match, even when performances may not have matched the standards we set for ourselves,” he said.

“We had a good result against them up in Drogheda [2-2, four weeks ago]. They have had some problems with consistency themselves. They had a heavy defeat in the Setanta Cup final and they seem to be conceding more goals than they did last year.

“It’s probably going to be an open game and you’ll see goals. We just hope we get more than they do.”

The most recent cup encounter between the sides was in the EA Sports Cup last season (10 April 2012). That game was level, 1-1, after extra time and went to penalties, Drogheda winning the shoot-out.

For Friday, Bohs are without Dave Scully, suspended for one match with four yellow cards. Owen Heary remains out with a hip injury, though he has returned to training and may be fit for Bohemians’ next league match.

The absence of Scully and Heary, following the recent departure of Stephen Paisley, means Bohemians are short on bigger, stronger players.

“Drogheda are a strong, physical side and we may be a bit lightweight. To be missing Dave’s height and his battling qualities is disappointing,” said Callaghan.

Roberto Lopes, Luke Byrne and Chris Lyons have returned to the squad after training with the Ireland under-21s. Callaghan is delighted with the opportunity these young players have had, “and it shows we must be doing something right when we supplied three of the 22 players in the squad”.

“Those results give us confidence and self-belief”

BOHEMIANS v ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC (Friday May 24th, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm)

Bohemians host in-form St Patrick’s Athletic boosted by an injury-time draw in their last league game and an extra-time win on Monday in the EA Sports Cup, writes BRIAN TRENCH.

But manager Aaron Callaghan insists his team will have to be at its best to get a result from Friday’s clash with second-in-the-table Pat’s.

“Those last two results give us added confidence and self-belief,” said Callaghan. “But the mood in the squad was always good, even when we had to deal with difficult defeats, games that we felt we deserved a lot more from.”

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Last Friday’s late equaliser against Shamrock Rovers represented just reward for the players’ efforts, added Callaghan. “That was probably our best performance of the season. We passed the ball well and we had a great confidence and energy about us.”

Ryan McEvoy’s equaliser also cancelled out a deficit due to “as bad a referee’s decision as I’ve seen anywhere in the game”, according to the Bohemian manager.

“To come back from that and get a goal in injury time was brilliant. But it would have been one hell of an injustice if we hadn’t got something from that game.”

Friday’s match will be Bohemians’ second league game against St Patrick’s Athletic in less than a month. “We went over to them a few weeks back and we had a good performance. They’re a very good side and it will be a difficult game in Dalymount. We will have to be at our best to get a result,” said Callaghan.

Nine of the last ten league games between Bohemians and Pats have been drawn or decided by a single goal either way.

Captain Owen Heary (hip) and Conor O’Brien (illness) are out, as is Keith Buckley who serves out the second game of his two-match suspension.

Callaghan made eight changes from last Friday to Monday. “You take a big risk when you do that but you’ve got to give these guys game-time because you will need them before the end of the season.”

Against Shamrock Rovers he put on 19-year-old defender Michael Scott for his first league appearance, placing him up-front in the hope of taking advantage of his height and he was on the field when the equaliser was scored.

Callaghan’s faith in the other less-tested players was rewarded on Monday, as was his entrusting of the captaincy to Luke Byrne, the third 19-year-old to lead Bohemians’ senior team in the last three years.

“I saw leadership qualities in Luke the first week I trained with him. Asking him to skipper the side is just reward for Luke’s attitude, effort and dedication.”

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