“It’s important we try bring players through and we’ve shown we will give them an opportunity when it’s right for the player and the team”

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IRN BRU CUP
Saturday September 8 2018
Balmoor Stadium, 3pm

Keith Long is putting faith in his blend of youth and experience to see Bohemians advance in the Irn Bru Cup against Peterhead tomorrow.

Bohs travelled to Belfast this morning to catch a 12.05pm flight to Aberdeen ahead of tomorrow’s game.

They did so minus goalkeeper Shane Supple, who is being rested, as well as fellow first-team regulars Dan Casey and Dan Kelly, who have both been excused as they sit exams this week.

Long said: “Shane has played every league game for us this season and we feel he’s long overdue a rest. But we have approached the game professionally and we are looking forward to it.

“We’re putting out a team we believe capable of going there and getting the result.

“It’s a new experience for us in this competition and it will be interesting playing a game against different opposition with a different style of play in different surroundings.

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“We’re not overly familiar with the opposition obviously but we’ve done as much homework on them as we can.”

The absence of Supple, Casey and Kelly has created openings in Long’s squad and, buoyed by the club’s U19 team lifting the Enda McGuill Cup on Tuesday, he had no qualms adding further members of Craig Sexton’s side to his travelling party.

Members of the U19 panel have already tasted first-team action in the league this season, most notably Danny Grant, who has chipped in with important goals and assists since being handed his first-team debut off the bench against Dundalk in March.

Similarly, 18-year-old Andy Lyons displayed maturity beyond his years when thrown in at the deep end at right-back in place of the suspended skipper Derek Pender in recent league games against Bray Wanderers and Dundalk.

Both travel with the first team today and they will be joined by U19 team-mates Seán Bohan and, for the first time in the senior squad, Ali Reghba and Ryan Graydon.

Reghba was the man of the match in the Enda McGuill Cup final as his two goals in two minutes in the second half turned the game on its head and claimed a 2-1 win for Bohs away to St Patrick’s Athletic in Richmond Park.

They move up to a senior team in form too. Last Friday’s 2-0 win against Derry City in the Brandywell made it six wins from their last seven games – losing only to league leaders Dundalk – and having kept six clean sheets while scoring 26 goals in the process.

Long said: “It’s important we try bring players through and we’ve shown we will give them an opportunity when it’s right for the player and the team.

“The U19s have been, in my view, the best team in the country at this level for two seasons. They are a credit to the club.

“They are a very tight group who have gone and won the cup having come from behind, are competing strongly in the league having won it last year and are on course to reach the semi-finals of the league again.

“The U19 league has only been around for the past six years but between the old reserve and U21 leagues, this U19 team over the past two seasons probably rank as the best underage team the club has ever had.

“They train alongside the first team, which creates an inclusive environment, and the know exactly what it means to play for Bohemians.

“But I think people at the club realise how good they’ve been too. Bohs members and fans know the contribution to the club that’s being made by those working at underage level.

“That was shown on Tuesday. There was a good crowd at the final in Richmond and a significant number were Bohemians people there to support the team.”

While all that hard work has not gone unnoticed within the club, the U19s qualifying for the UEFA Youth League in addition to the silverware won this year and last brings deserved recognition from further afield.

Tuesday’s UEFA Youth League draw will see the Gypsies travelling to Denmark to face FC Midtjylland on Wednesday October 3 before hosting them three weeks later in the return leg at Dalymount Park.

Long said: “We’re delighted we are in Europe. It’s a great opportunity for Craig and the players.

“Without screaming it from the rooftops, the work that goes on with our underage teams has been excellent so it’s pleasing to see that rewarded.

“It’s a new challenge, European football will be a massive step up in terms of quality and it will be different level to what the lads experience domestically.

“It’s huge for the club too and something we all want to build on. Between the U19s’ success and the players coming through, we hope that more players will see Bohs as a club where they can fulfill their ambitions.

“But first and foremost it’s a reward for Craig, his backroom team, his players and for everyone who’s been working hard behind the scenes at youth level and also a credit to the work that’s been done by Jimmy Mowlds and his team with the U17s – feeding players up to the U19s.

“The partnership with St Kevin’s and working closely with them will only improve that.

“St Kevin’s have been producing players for years with many ex-Kevin’s players in our U19s and first team so that link is already there from before.

“It is also important to recognise the part other schoolboy clubs and coaches have played in helping our lads reach this point in their careers.”

TEAM NEWS

Dan Kelly and Dan Casey (exams) have been excused from the travelling party as has Shane Supple (rest).

U19s players included in the squad are Danny Grant, Seán Bohan, Andy Lyons and, for the first time, Ali Reghba and Ryan Graydon.

Cristian Magerusan (hamstring), Ryan Masterson (leg) and Ryan Swan (cruciate) are ruled out.

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