“There’s no doubt in our minds as to what we have to do over here”

Bohs U19s in Greece - Aaron Fitzsimons

PAOK (1) v BOHEMIANS U19s (1)
UEFA YOUTH LEAGUE
Champions Path 1st Round, 2nd Leg
Wednesday October 23 2019
Toumba Stadium, 6pm Greek time/4pm Irish time

Craig Sexton says his Bohemians U19s are under no illusions as to their objectives against PAOK tomorrow.

Sexton’s Bohs U19s arrived in Thessalonica yesterday knowing they have to score at the Toumba Stadium to have any chance of progressing through to second round of the Uefa Youth League.

Barring a miracle, Ukrainians Dynamo Kyiv, who have an 8-0 first-leg lead over Shkëndija of North Macedonia, await the winners in the next round.

Bohs were by far the better team against PAOK at Dalymount Park three weeks ago and were frustrated not to be travelling to Greece ahead in the tie, instead drawing 1-1, giving PAOK the advantage with the away goal.

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Jack Moylan put Bohs ahead after just six minutes but Antonis Gaitanidis hit back four minutes later.

The Gypsies dominated possession and worked the opposition keeper throughout. But Christos Tallchmanidis was a man possessed in the PAOK goal.

As well as denying a Dawson Devoy spot kick, he pulled off a rake of stunning saves, particularly in the dying embers of the game as Bohs piled on the pressure.

Sexton said: “We played very well, but we hope to improve on our first-leg performance by being a little bit more clinical. With the chances we had in that game, we probably could and should be coming over here with a lead.

“But we’re not, so we there’s no doubt in our minds as to what we have to do over here.

“We can’t sit back. We have to score or we’re out. PAOK have the away goal so we know the objective here is to go out and play and try to score.”

Sexton’s travelling party has been bolstered by the inclusion for this leg of Andy Lyons, who has enjoyed a real breakthrough season in the first team, deputising with a maturity beyond his years when called upon to fill in for skipper Derek Pender at right-back.

He, along with skipper Alex Byrne, Seán Bohan, Ross Tierney, Thomas Considine and Mitchell Byrne, is one of six players to have been involved in last season’s Uefa Youth League ties against FC Midtjylland of Denmark, which Bohs lost 4-2 on aggregate.

It is an altogether new experience for the group of which Evan Ferguson, who turned 15 last week, is the youngest.

Sexton said: “Travelling abroad, staying in hotels, playing in big stadiums, this is new for a lot of them but they’ve settled in well.

“We got to see the stadium yesterday. It’s great venue. A big, old wraparound stadium, 30,000 all-seater, so it will something most of them will be experiencing for the very first time.

“But the mood in the camp is great. They’re relaxed, fully grasp the challenge that is ahead of them and are looking forward to it.”

While this is an altogether new experience for most of them, many of Sexton’s squad have of late been gaining much experience on other fronts.

Ross Tierney in action in the first leg - Sportsfile

Ross Tierney in action in the first leg - Sportsfile

Lyons, who starred at the U19 European Championships this summer, is by some stretch the most experienced of the group.

But the likes of Ross Tierney, Dawson Devoy and Ferguson have sampled first-team football in the league, while others like Seán Bohan, Alex Byrne and Mitchell Byrne have been involved with first-team matchdays squads as well.

Tierney, a St Kevin’s Boy since he was eight, in particular has caught the eye for the first team in recent months having shone throughout the Bohs-SKB partnerships teams and Bohs U19s previously.

He has taken the step-up his stride and has become something of a fans’ favourite in the process, while Devoy has had encouraging appearances in recent weeks also.

Both men have benefited from a freak run of injuries for Keith Long’s first team but have not looked out of place when called into action.

There has been international recognition too with Bohan, Tierney and Devoy all making their first appearances for Tom Mohan’s Ireland U19s in a friendly against Denmark last week.

Sexton said: “The likes of Ross and Dawson have been the lucky ones this year but they’ve rewarded the trust Keith Long has shown them. They’ve both made a huge impact, particularly Ross. I think Keith has probably found it hard to drop him!

“Ross is Ross. He’s an infectious character on and off the pitch. He’s not a bawler on the pitch, he lets his football do the talking. He leads by the way he plays.

“If there’s a mould of the kind of player we want to bring through, Ross is it.

“You’re hoping experiences like this year and last can stand to these players if and when they make the step-up to the first team.

“Ultimately that’s my job and the job of all the managers and coaches down through the Bohs-SKB U17s, U15s and U13s is to get the best out of players and get them ready to be funnelled into Keith’s first team or beyond.

“Keith drives all of that – throughout the set-ups. We’re lucky we have a first-team manager who will give youth a chance and isn’t afraid to back them.

“That’s yielded great results this season and hopefully we’ll have more given that opportunity next season. That’s what this is all about.”

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