“WE ARE STILL GELLING”

Republic of Ireland U21 Staff & Player Features

BOHEMIANS v DERRY CITY
Friday March 8 2019, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm

MATCH SPONSOR: The Phibsborough House
MATCHBALL SPONSOR: Sports Field Maintenance

Darragh Leahy believes Bohemians have found the right blend of youth and experience at the back this season.

Doubts were raised as to how Keith Long’s new-look side would cope with the loss of some key men.

With goalkeeper Shane Supple retiring and defensive trio Ian Morris, Dan Casey and Dan Byrne moving to pastures new, Long had to rebuild his back-line.

Finglas man James Talbot, 21, has got the nod between the sticks ahead of fellow new signing Niall Corbet so far and the former Sunderland youth keeper has rewarded Long’s faith in him by keeping four consecutive clean sheets – the first time a Bohs keeper has done so since Brian Murphy in 2009.

His performances thus far have seen him nominated for the February SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers’ Association Player of the Month Award alongside team-mate Dinny Corcoran.

In front of Talbot, 35-year-old captain Derek Pender, who made his 200th appearance for the club against Waterford last week, is as usual leading by example at right-back but is being pushed all the way by the Bohs U19 captain Andy Lyons.

Beside Pender, Rob Cornwall looks to have rediscovered his form of 2017 alongside 20-year-old centre-back James Finnerty, formerly of Aston Villa, who joined during the closed season from Rochdale.

Leahy himself had a stop-start closed season due to the persistence of a hip injury that disrupted his involvement towards the end of last season. He has had a battle on his hands to keep his place at left-back ahead of fellow 20-year-old Paddy Kirk, a product of the Bohs U19s, who has shone when called upon to deputise in his place.

Leahy said: “The manager asked for patience at the start of the season and we are still gelling. But we’re four games unbeaten and long may it continue.

“It’s still very early days. We are only four games in so you have to be realistic. But we’re happy we’re still unbeaten and it was important to get points on the board.

“People are always going to ask questions when you lose players. But we’ve a good mix of youth and experience at the back with Detser (Pender) and Rob in there too.

“I was carrying an injury from last season and Paddy has come in and done well as well so we’ve competition for places there across defence and throughout the team, which is what you want.”

Leahy is a good example of what is required from a young player trying to adapt to the rigours of first-team football for the first time.

A product of Bohs’ partners at St Kevin’s, Leahy joined from Coventry City at the start of last season. He was thrown in at the deep end for his first-team debut against Shamrock Rovers on the opening night of the 2018 campaign aged just 19.

He went on to have a starring role for the Gypsies last term and made the PFAI Team of the Year as well as being included in Stephen Kenny’s first squad as Ireland U21 manager.

Many of Long’s first team are of similar age and inexperience this term with the likes of Talbot, Finnerty, Conor Levingston, Danny Madroiu and Luke Wade-Slater all players returning home after spells in England and experiencing League of Ireland football for the first time.

Leahy said: “It did take me a while to settle in. You can’t take this league for granted and that’s important for younger players coming into the league to realise.

“It’s a tough league and different to playing U23s in England but thankfully the new lads have come in and done well so far.”

Another packed-out home stand is expected when Derry City are welcomed to Dalymount Park tomorrow.

The Jodi Stand sold out for the previous two home games against Finn Harps and Shamrock Rovers and fans are being advised to buy tickets online – www.tickets.bohemians.ie - in advance or risk missing out.

Leahy added:  “The fans were right behind us last year and hopefully we can keep our form up and the crowds will stick with us.

“Derry are always a tough team to play against. We beat them twice last season but like us they have a lot of new players so the challenge will be a different one.

“We’re looking forward to it. The Jodi has been packed for our two home games we’ve had so far. The atmosphere around the place has been buzzing and we want that to continue.”

TEAM NEWS

The squad is likely to remain unchanged meaning Michael Barker (hamstring), Promise Omochere (ankle) and Cristian Magerusan (cruciate) remain out, while Kevin Devaney (knee) remains a doubt.

Website by Simon Alcock