“It’s fantastic to have something at stake coming into the last game. Hopefully we’ll have a packed Dalymount Park getting behind the lads. It will be a great occasion and one the players’ efforts richly deserve.”
This occasion will also be reward for the fans, Long said. “The supporters have been magnificent for us all year. They appreciate the virtues the players have brought to the jersey. We expect a partisan atmosphere in Dalymount and I’m sure the fans will come out in big numbers and lift us to greater heights.”
But Cork City will not be mere spectators in a Bohemian spectacle. “They will be looking to cement second place,” Long insisted. “Their players will also be looking to get into the starting line-up for the FAI Cup final. So, they have everything to play for.”
Bohs have not forgotten that their heaviest defeat of the season was a 4-0 drubbing in Turner’s Cross at the end of July.
Recent three-pointers have been hard-won, at home against St Patrick’s Athletic and on the road in Sligo and Derry. At the Brandywell, after an open first-half, with five goals shared, Bohemians “had to be gritty in the second half and we defended better as a unit. Dean [Delany] again pulled off some vital saves”.
A first-half pair of goals from Ismahil Akinade was crucial in the victory. The 21-year-old striker brought his tally in the league to ten goals from 17 games, since he joined Bohemians in June. Last week, he was short-listed for the PFAI Young Player of the Year award, having played only part of the season.
“Izzy has been exceptional for us. He works extremely hard. He’s got pace and power. He’s got that pure physicality that defenders do not like and he’s been adding the finishing touch to his game,” Long said.
”He has been improving with us, playing with better players and getting better service. He has repaid the faith the club has shown in him. He is a big part of why we are in the position we are in now.”
Bohemians have defenders Lorcan Fitzgerald and Stephen Best back from injury, and captain Roberto Lopes returns from suspension. Only long-term injuries Derek Pender and Marc Griffin are missing for this final game.
“The lads are chomping at the bit. They realise we have a great opportunity,” said Long. “Hopefully we’ll be able to grasp it and secure the three points and Lady Luck smiles on us in Galway.”