“WE HAVE STRONG CHARACTERS”

BOHEMIANS v DUNDALK
SSE Airtricity League, Dalymount Park, Friday 29 April 2016, 7.45pm

Keith Long believes Bohemians have the strength in character to upset the odds against champions Dundalk at Dalymount Park on Friday.

The Gypsies come into the game on the back of a frustrating fortnight but Long says his players’ hard work can once again see them rise to the occasion against the league leaders.

Bohs were the only team to defeat the Lilywhites in the league last season and also beat them in the Leinster Senior Cup earlier this month.

Long said: “Dundalk are back-to-back champions for a reason. They are the benchmark in standards we all have to strive to match.

“These kind of games are the ones you want to play in, albeit we would like to be in better form coming into it.

“There are maybe some players who are suffering in confidence a little bit as they haven’t yet hit the same heights as last season.

“But there is nobody you can point the finger at for not giving their all. We have a dressing room of strong characters – the harder and smarter we work, the more our luck will change.”

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Luck has been in short supply in recent weeks. After Dublin derby defeats to Shamrock Rovers in the league and on penalties to Shelbourne in the EA Sports Cup, Bohs sought to get back to winning ways against high-flying Derry City last Friday.

But, despite a lively second-half performance, the Gypsies were left frustrated at The Brandywell when a strong defensive display saw the second-placed Candystripes eke out a 1-0 victory for their fifth home league win from five.

Long said: “Derry are flying at the moment, but we felt we should have got something out of it.

“Kurtis Byrne had the best chance of the game and we should have had a penalty in the second half when Paddy Kavanagh was fouled in the box.

“We didn’t play the referee or go looking for the penalty like some teams would – maybe we need to be cuter in those situations in future.

“We were disappointed with the goal we conceded too. We had spoken of the threat posed by Barry McNamee’s runs and it was an easy finish for Rory Patterson.”

Eoin Wearen (hip), Ismahil Akinade (hamstring), Jason Caffrey (hamstring) and Adam Evans (virus) will sit out Friday’s game.

But Long’s defensive options are boosted by the return of captain Derek Pender, Anto Murphy and Dylan Hayes, who all sat out the Derry game with a virus that has hampered team selections over the last month.

The unavailability of Bohs’ three most prominent options at right-back saw Dan Byrne deputise in that position in Derry.

Long added: “Kenny Shiels talked about his players being fatigued. On top of everything, we had played over 120 minutes in the EA Sports Cup on the Monday and had a 3½-hour trip up to Derry four days later!

“We had to play the hand we were dealt and switch things around, but I think we are in a much better place this week.”

“We cannot feel sorry for ourselves”

DERRY CITY v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League, The Brandywell, Friday 22 April 2016, 7.45pm

Keith Long has challenged his Bohemians side to “go out and restore some pride” at The Brandywell on Friday.

The Gypsies are licking their wounds after successive defeats against the club’s two oldest Dublin rivals.

Last Friday’s 4-0 league loss to Shamrock Rovers at Dalymount was compounded three days later when, having been frustrated 0-0 after extra time, Bohs were dumped out of the EA Sports Cup on penalties against Shelbourne at Tolka Park.

Long said: “It’s been a bad week. We were obviously particularly disappointed with the result against Rovers. We know that the result and scoreline weren’t acceptable.

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“Everyone is hurting, but we cannot feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to pick ourselves up, go to Derry and put in a fighting performance and show some character.”

Although Friday’s scoreline suggested Rovers dominance, Bohs can be forgiven for wondering what might have been.

The better team for much of opening half, the home side were dismantled by some clinical Rovers finishing a minute either side of half-time.

Long said: “The timing of the goals killed us. For the opener, it was a needless free-kick to give away in a dangerous position and we got punished.

“We came back out after the break in a positive mind and straight away hit the crossbar. Then Rovers go down the other end, hit us with a sucker-punch and we are left chasing the game.”

Trailing in the same fixture at the same venue last season, Bohs changed from a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 formation, substituting a midfielder, Jake Hyland, for a striker, Dean Kelly. The move saw the home side score three goals in the final 15 minutes to clinch a 3-1 win.

Losing 2-0 down last Friday, Bohs made similar tactical switch, with midfielder Keith Buckley making way for striker Kurtis Byrne on 56 minutes.

Long said: “We brought on a second striker and sacrificed a midfielder to try get a goal back and get back into the game.

“We did something similar in the same fixture last season and it worked for us. We tried it last week and it didn’t work. Chasing the game, we left ourselves exposed and were punished.”

A determined performance saw Bohs look to make amends against Shels on Monday. But after large spells of dominance and countless goal-scoring opportunities, the Gypsies failed to find the net and came unstuck in a penalty shootout.

Long said: “The week went from bad to worse. Anything can happen in a penalty shootout but it was very frustrating as we created more than enough chances – both in normal time and in extra time – to win comfortably.”

The Gypsies won’t have it any easier when they travel to face high-flying Derry City. Long’s side won all three fixtures against the Candystripes last season, including two victories at The Brandywell.

But under new manager Kenny Shiels, Derry are a different animal this year, occupying second place and just two points off defending champions Dundalk.

Long said: “It’s going to be a very difficult game for us. Derry are in really good form, have some really good players and have made The Brandywell a fortress again.”

Once again, Bohs’ options have been disrupted by both illness and injury. Ismahil Akinade and Jason Caffrey are both ruled out with hamstring injuries.

There was, however, some good news with Dylan Hayes, whose injury against Shels held the game up for 12 minutes, discharged quickly from hospital on Monday night. Hayes said: “It was nothing too serious – just an elbow to the head and all precautions had to be taken.”

Of more concern is the flu-like virus which has affected several members of the squad over the past month, including Hayes.

Hayes and Jake Kelly played through the symptoms on Monday, but the former is not considered well enough for tomorrow.

Ayman Ben Mohamed and captain Derek Pender, both now suffering with the bug, are also regarded as doubtful for the trip.

Eoin Wearen, Dave Mulcahy and Jake Kelly have all sat out games at various stages with the same virus, while Roberto Lopes was also affected.

BOHS HIT BY FLU

SHELBOURNE v BOHEMIANS
EA Sports Cup Rd 2, Monday April 18th, Tolka Park, 7.45pm

A flu bug has hit Bohemians’ preparations for the short trip to face our oldest rivals Shelbourne on Monday night, with Jake Kelly, Dylan Hayes and Dave Mulcahy are all considered doubtful as a result.

Mark Quigley (quad) has returned to training but will not be risked, while Jason Caffrey (hamstring) remains out.

Admission prices: Adults €10, students/children/OAP €5.

 

 

“This is the game fans and players all look forward to”

BOHEMIANS v SHAMROCK ROVERS
SSE Airtricity League, Dalymount Park, Friday 15 April 2016, 7.45pm

Keith Long says Bohemians will not be deterred by the sense of occasion when they host arch-rivals Shamrock Rovers in the Dublin derby on Friday.

Long said: “When the fixtures come out, this is the game that fans and players all look forward to.

“We all understand that. We all want to be involved in and win these kind of games.

“Ultimately though it’s the same three points up for grabs as last week against Bray Wanderers and the same three points up for grabs against Derry City next week.”

Having lost just once in the last 11 league meetings (W4 D6 L1) between the sides, Bohs’ derby form in recent seasons has belied the clubs’ league positions.

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Once again, Bohs come into this fixture chasing the Hoops in the table.

Currently in seventh place on ten points, victory tomorrow would see the Gypsies leapfrog Rovers, who sit fifth on 12 points.

Long said: “Our record in previous games against Rovers doesn’t come into it and the clubs’ positions in the table counts for nothing coming into a derby either.

“These games are tight, tense and have often been decided on a mistake or sometimes on who wants it more. I’ve no doubt it will be a keenly-contested affair as always.”

Bohs are in form after two successive 2-0 league victories against Longford Town and Bray Wanderers respectively, with an entertaining 4-3 Leinster Senior Cup win over Dundalk in between.

Long said: “Our results have improved. It was important that we settled as we had an indifferent start to the season.

“Bray was always going to be a tough game and it took us a while to get into it. But when we got going, I thought we put in a very solid and professional performance.

“We’ve back-to-back victories in the league now – including our first away from home – and kept a clean sheet in both, so our confidence is good.”

Rovers’ last outing was a 3-0 loss away to Derry City last Friday and Long added: “Rovers will be hurting from that defeat. Pat Fenlon will have his players ready for this game and demanding an improvement.”

Dave Mulcahy comes back into contention for Bohs after missing the Bray game with a virus. But Mark Quigley (quad) and Jake Kelly (virus) are doubtful. Jason Caffrey (hamstring) remains out.

“We’ve got to show we want it more”

BRAY WANDERERS v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League, Carlisle Grounds, Saturday 9 April 2016, 7.30pm

Keith Long has told Bohemians to show they “want it more” when they travel to take on Bray Wanderers on Saturday.

The Gypsies continued their encouraging home form with victories against Longford Town and Dundalk over the last eight days in the SSE Airtricity League and Leinster Senior Cup respectively.

Those wins made it five games unbeaten at Dalymount Park in all competitions this season and now Long wants to replicate that form on the road.

Long said: “It’s still early days. We’ve had two good wins but Bray will be tough opponents. They’ll be disappointed at being beaten by Wexford Youths on the back of a fantastic result against Sligo Rovers.

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“It’s not going to be easy and we’ve got to show we want it more.”

Goals from Keith Buckley and Aymen Ben Mohamed just before half-time gave a reinvigorated Bohs side a 2-0 victory against Longford last Friday.

Long said: “It wasn’t perfect. But we showed more of what we’re capable of.

“We were delighted to keep a clean sheet but we got away with some errors that might have been punished against other teams.

“But with that two-goal cushion, you could see that the players were really playing with confidence in the second half.”

Bohs’ defence has come in for criticism in the early stages of this season but having scored six goals in two games, now the side’s flair up front is receiving some deserved plaudits.

Long said: “We still need to tighten up defensively and that has to start from the front. But between Kurtis Byrne, Mark Quigley, Izzy Akinade, Jake Kelly and Adam Evans, we have really good attacking options.”

The competition for places up front was highlighted by Kurtis Byrne – reduced to a substitute’s role against Longford – netting a stunning hat-trick in the 4-3 Leinster Senior Cup win against his former club Dundalk on Monday.

Long said: “Obviously the Leinster Senior Cup is down our list of priorities but it meant that, bar the injured players, we were able to give everyone in the squad a game over the two matches.

“Kurtis was disappointed not to start against Longford but he really showed his quality against Dundalk.”

And, for once, a manager was happy to see his touchline instructions fall on deaf ears.

Long added: “Kurtis was about five yards offside for his first goal! I was screaming at him to leave it alone as Adam Evans was onside.

“But it was a lovely finish – the hat-trick really was fantastic. The free-kick for the second was excellent and the third was something special too.

“It’s great to see a player have the confidence to try something like that. It reflects the hard work he puts into his own game and I think there is more to come from Kurtis as he settles in at the club.”

Mark Quigley (quad) is once again considered doubtful, while Jason Caffrey (hamstring) remains out.

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