PREVIEW: BOHEMIANS v SHAMROCK ROVERS

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SSE Airtricity League
Monday June 21 2021
Dalymount Park, 7.45pm
Exclusively live on LOITV

The return of supporters to Dalymount Park on Friday night meant so much to Bohemians manager Keith Long and his players.

But having had a reminder of what it is like to be roared on from the Jodi Stand, Long shares the frustration that only 100 more will be able to attend the Dublin derby against league leaders Shamrock Rovers.

The Gypsies turned on the style in Friday’s emphatic 5-0 win over fourth-placed Drogheda United to send the 100 Bohs fans in attendance home happy.

Frustratingly, the gradual return of crowds to games has been a long time coming – the last time fans, other than a small number of essential club staff, officials and volunteers, attended a game at Dalymount Park was the March 6 2020 win against Shelbourne.

100 more – 90 members and 10 season ticket holders – will be in attendance for the first Bohemians v Shamrock Rovers Dublin derby to be held at Dalymount since the onset of the pandemic 15 months ago.

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The two meetings between the sides at Tallaght Stadium since then were both very close affairs from which Bohs emerged empty-handed.

Daniel Lafferty’s fourth-minute goal in September was enough to give the home side all three points.

And back in April, a bewildering refereeing decision at 1-1 when Bohs were in the ascendancy saw Rovers awarded a penalty from which they scored the winner, while James Finnerty was shown a red card for the same incident.

Dougie Bolger was the first fan in on Friday – Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Home fans in attendance in Dalymount will be hoping their vocal support can help their side over the line this time around.

Those lucky 100 aside, all other Bohemians will have to contend themselves from supporting the team from home on a stream once more.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder and Long, his staff and players, have been all too aware of those fans every time they have taken to the pitch since football returned behind closed doors last August.

Long said: “It’s such a pity we won’t have more of a crowd in behind us for this considering the atmosphere the derby creates in Dalymount.

“But it was brilliant to have some fans back in the ground, even if it’s only 100 or so.

“They got right behind the lads on Friday, even during the warm-ups. It makes a huge difference having that support during the game and after it as well.

“The boys put on a bit of a display for them as well with a 5-0 win so we are pleased with that.

“Even though it is a limited number for now, it means a lot having them back in the stadium. We have really missed them.

“Dalymount is a special place to play football but what makes it even more special is when you have fans there; when the Jodi Stand is rammed with supporters right behind the team.

Georgie Kelly jumped top of the league’s goalscoring charts – Luke O’Riordan

“We have a team now that can excite supporters. We have a team with real talent and I think supporters will have enjoyed some of the performances we have put in here at home recently, so hopefully it won’t be too long before we can have more inside the ground.”

Long is right to say his side put on a display – Georgie Kelly grabbed the headlines with his stunning and deserved four-goal haul putting him top of the league’s goalscoring charts with 10.

But Bohs were purring in the middle of the park too, particularly in the second half after a more testing opening 45 despite going in at the break with a firm two-goal lead.

Ross Tierney was only on the pitch 69 minutes but in that time helped himself to four assists, propelling him to joint-top of the division assists chart with seven.

Still only 20, Tierney has been a standout performer this season having come through St Kevin’s, the Bohs-SKB U17s and the Bohemians U19s.

His replacement on Friday, 16-year-old debutant Jamie Mullins, will hope to follow a similar development path having started with St Kevin’s with their U9s and having won the league with the Bohs-SKB U17s last season under Derek Pender. He certainly did not look out of place on Friday.


Skipper Keith Buckley welcomes Jamie Mullins on for his debut – Stephen Burke

Long said: “Georgie got four goals on Friday and he was full value for them. His second goal was particularly important for us because Drogheda are a good side, they’ve been playing really well, and we needed that second goal.

“We certainly didn’t have it all our own way in the first half – Drogheda created chances. But we got ourselves 2-0 in front at half-time.

“We addressed a few things at half-time and we went out determined that we would get the next goal as that would be really important – and we went out and got it in 20 or 30 seconds.

“It was a brilliant goal by Liam Burt after some great work by Ross, who was immense in the build-up.

“Ross was fantastic throughout. He’s a great kid with incredible energy. He’s only 20 and still improving too, so he can only get better.”

 


Ross Tierney slips the ball through for Georgie Kelly’s opener – Stephen Burke

While the attacking players got all of the attention, Long was happy too with the side’s performance at the back.

Much has been talked about Bohs’ habit of conceding late goals – turning wins into draws and draws into defeats – too often at times this season, including the previous game against Derry City where Bohs conceded in the 93rd minute having taken the lead nine minutes previously through a wonder strike from Ali Coote.

Those lapses in concentration are at the back of everyone’s mind, so keeping a clean sheet was perhaps as pleasing as the goals scored at the other end.

One man central to that defensive display was Ciarán Kelly, who really has had to bide his time to break into the team since his arrival ahead of the 2020 season.

Last year he was a victim of the truncated football schedule necessitated by Covid-19 that cut the number of league games in half, and abandoned other opportunities for players to stake their claim, such as the EA Sports Cup and Leinster Senior Cup.

In all, he managed just 93 minutes of league football for Bohs in 2020 and an appearance in the FAI Cup against First Division Cabinteely.

Rather than take that disappointing return to heart, the former St Pat’s man seized the opportunity of a three-month loan spell with Ballymena United. He became a key man for David Jeffrey’s side in that time, featuring in 12 games and scoring once.

Since returning to Dalymount Park in January, injuries to Rob Cornwall and James Finnerty have seen the 22-year-old afforded his first extended run in the team. He has featured in 11 of Bohs’ 16 league games this season, starting nine of those, including the last five in a row.

Ciarán Kelly battles for possession with Chris Lyons - Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Long added: “It is important that we build a platform from the back where we don’t concede. We have dropped too many points late in games this year.

“We feel we should have more points than we have and there’s no doubt that the key to that changing is keeping clean sheets.

“Ciarán can play his part in that. It’s a good news story when you persevere and that when you get setbacks, you don’t roll over.

“Ciarán has come into the team and he has been really good. He hasn’t had it all his own way here at all – he has had to be very patient.

“It’s been tough for Ciarán at times but he’s come through it, he’s been resilient and he’s learning. He’s constantly improving and he’s getting the rewards for his performances now.

“He’s been quite consistent for us since coming into the team. He has shown that work ethic and tenacity to get his rewards when a chance to play came his way.”

TEAM NEWS

James Finnerty, who pulled out of the squad late on Friday due to tonsillitis, is available again as is Promise Omochere (quad).

Stephen McGuinness (arm) is rated 50/50, while Stephen Mallon, who shipped a heavy knock late on Friday night, will be assessed again ahead of the game.

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