LIVIN’ LA VIDA LOPES

Roberto Lopes is relishing the opportunity that manager Aaron Callaghan has given him this season, writes FRANKIE LALLY.

The defender will be looking to cement his place in the heart of the Bohemians defence after the closed-season departures of last season’s twin towers Kevin Feely and Evan McMillan, who joined Charlton and Sligo Rovers respectively.

But Lopes – whose father Carlos hails from Cape Verde – insists he is not feeling any added pressure this year.

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Speaking at Thursday’s launch of Karmann Volkswagen’s sponsorship of Bohemians, Lopes explained: “I wouldn’t say I’m feeling the pressure but they are definitely big boots to fill.

“Personally I see it as a big opportunity so it’s up to me now to step up and take it. I’m happy to see the two lads who left doing well because we’re still good mates.”

Lopes signed for the Gypsies four years ago under Pat Fenlon after a successful schoolboy career with Dublin side Belvedere. He then made his debut in the FAI Cup semi-final defeat against Sligo Rovers in 2010.

The 20-year-old has come on leaps and bounds since and this season he is ready to announce himself as a first-team regular at Dalymount Park – and mark it with a trophy too.

“We’re very ambitious this year,”  added Lopes. “We want to try and win a cup and I think we have every right to be ambitious this year – we’re aiming to finish in the top four too.

“The label of being a young squad can’t hang around forever so we need to be ambitious and go out and try to win something.

“We’re looking really sharp and we’ve had a good pre-season under us. Last year the preparation wasn’t the best at the start of the season. We had too many players and the squad wasn’t settled, but this year we have a good squad together.”

One man who has been vital in Lopes’ career so far is veteran defender and Gypsies captain Owen Heary.

And Lopes reckons he is learning a lot from the 36-year-old seven-time League of Ireland winner.

“Owen is fantastic. He really helps me out, especially being a defender. He has so much information he can give me and we’re good mates too on and off the pitch.

“If I could do half as well as him in my career I’d be doing well.”

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A BOHEMIAN OF MANY PARTS

Former Bohemian player and club president Major General Emmet Dalton will be commemorated next Monday (4th March, 12 noon) at Glasnevin Cemetery, writes BRIAN TRENCH.

Monday marks the anniversary of both Dalton’s birth in 1898 and his death in 1978.

Dalton (pictured with Michael Collins) joined the Gypsies in 1919, after his demobilisation from the British Army, which he joined in 1915.

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He played with Bohemians for a season, while he also became active in the IRA. He was strongly associated with Michael Collins and joined the pro-Treaty forces, becoming a major-general in the National Army at the age of 24.

In 1924, while Dalton was Clerk of the Seanad, he was elected president of Bohemian FC. He later became a film producer.

Dalton lived in Drumcondra and Phibsboro and he will be the subject of a talk by Des Gunning during Phizzfest on 5th May.

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WITHOUT CHRIS, WE WOULDN’T HAVE A CLUB

Newly-elected Bohemian President Matt Devaney has paid tribute to the efforts of his predecessor Chris Brien in securing the club’s medium-term future.

At last week’s 124th Annual General Meeting of Bohemian FC, Brien (pictured with President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins) stepped aside after two seasons at the helm, having previously served a two-year stint as finance director.

While much work, fundraising and goodwill is still required to safeguard the club in the long-term, Brien played an enormous part in ensuring that we have the breathing space needed to face those challenges together.

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The devastating effect Ireland’s property crash had on the club’s finances is well-documented and Devaney acknowledges that if it wasn’t for Brien’s determination to tackle spending, negotiate with creditors and rally troops when the future looked ominous, a 123-year-old institution could have been lost.

Devaney said: “As I mentioned at last week’s AGM, all members and fans owe a huge debt to Chris Brien for his selfless, thankless work over the past few years.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to state that without him, we wouldn’t have a club – or at least the club as we know it.

“He mightn’t always get the recognition he deserves but the sacrifices he made over the recent past to ensure the club survived have been incredible.

“They have not gone unnoticed by those of us who have worked closely with him during this time and I know it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the membership in general, who I hope are extremely appreciative of his efforts.

“He has epitomised the true meaning of a members-owned club and its volunteer ethos by listening to everyone’s opinion, rallying the fans when needed and at all times carrying himself with great dignity.

“I hope to carry on in much the same vein and while we still face great difficulties, the pathway has been cleared somewhat by Chris’ sterling work.”

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RYAN MIGHTY

Ryan McEvoy believes Bohemians can end the year with a trophy, writes FRANKIE LALLY.

The midfielder’s only silverware at the club came in the shape of an EA Sports Cup in 2009 and he feels it is now time to add another medal to his collection.

McEvoy explained: “We want to win something and it doesn’t matter what it is. We genuinely feel we have a great chance of winning something this year.”

Bohs will be aiming to take a step in the right direction with a victory in the Leinster Senior Cup on on Sunday as they take to the field at Dalymount Park for the first time since October.

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In the first of three early-season meetings with UCD, the Gypsies hope to lay down a marker with McEvoy determined to make an impression in the league and improve on last season’s seventh-place finish.

He said: “We’re going to have a go at the league and we have no fear after last season.

“It’s an overall better squad this year and if we could beat Shamrock Rovers and the like last season I don’t see why we can’t have a good go this year.

“I’d be massively disappointed if we don’t improve on last season. The lads that have come in are hungry and they know what it’s about.

“Everybody is fighting for positions, so you have to be on your toes all the time. It’s good that we’re all pulling in the same direction.”

The 22-year-old has had a bright start to pre-season and while he insists the fans should not get too carried away, he reckons this squad is better than last year’s.

McEvoy added: “We’re back six weeks now and we’re flying. It’s good to be scoring goals considering the slow start we had last season.

“We have a good base and it’s not thrown together like last year and I think we’ll be really disappointed if we’re not doing well right from the start.

“We feel capable of doing a hell of a lot better this year and we felt last year we didn’t do ourselves justice in the end.

“Personally I’m fit and happy enough with how I’m doing. I’m in a lot better shape than last year and I’m buzzing to be back – it’s going to be a big year.”

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CALLAGHAN: IT’S STARTING TO TAKE SHAPE

Aaron Callaghan says Bohemians’ pre-season training could not be going any better, writes FRANKIE LALLY.

The Bohs boss watched his side follow up Saturday’s 5-1 thumping of Longford Town with a 5-2 win over Dublin side Hardwicke at IT Blanchardstown on Monday evening.

Unperturbed by the ongoing upheaval in the club’s pre-season fixture list, Callaghan is delighted with what he has seen so far and insists he is unlikely to make any late additions to his squad before the league season gets under way next month.

He explained: “We have 26 in the squad at the moment and that is us closed now…”

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“That was a very good game against Hardwicke. We were very lively and I’m happy with what I saw.

“It was the first game for a lot of those players, Dave Mulcahy being one, and at this stage it’s about giving game time to everyone in the squad.

“It’s all starting to take shape now. We’ve had a really good pre-season so far and the fitness levels are good. It’s about fine-tuning our tactical organisation now.”

With the loss of key centre-backs Kevin Feely and Evan McMillan to Charlton and Sligo Rovers respectively, Callaghan has had plenty of tinkering to do to find the right balance at the back.

Dave Scully has been tested at centre-back in recent weeks and Callaghan reckons the 28-year-old could be an option in the heart of defence alongside the experience of Stephen Paisley, a closed-season capture from Shelbourne.

Callaghan said: “Dave has played centre-back before – he was playing there when he went to Carlisle United. He’s a threat from set-pieces too and I think he is quite capable of playing in both positions.

Early-season illness and injuries are a concern for the Gypsies boss, however, as both Karl Moore and Shane Murray were forced to sit out Monday’s game.

He said: “Injury-wise, Shane has a viral infection and Kevin Devaney has an ankle problem.

“Karl Moore,who started pre-season well, has an infection too so he has been off for the last 10 days.”

Callaghan saw new signing Paisley net twice in Wednesday’s emphathic win and reckons the 29-year-old’s experience could prove vital at Dalymount Park this year.

He added: “Stephen makes a difference. He’s scored goals from centre-back all through his career.

“When we lost Kevin and Evan, we lost a bit of height. We needed to get a bit of that back – as well as some experience – so we waited and got Stephen. I’m delighted he has signed.”

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