“I want to kick on from last year”

Preview: Bohemians v Derry City
SSE Airtricity League
September 25 2020, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm
Live on WatchLOI and
audio described commentary is available (link live from 7.20pm)

James Talbot is a team player but can be forgiven for looking out for No 1 having had to wait seven months to win back his place in the Bohemians starting XI.

The 23-year-old suffered a foot injury in the opening day of the season defeat to Shamrock Rovers in February and had to bide his time thanks to the combination of Stephen McGuinness’ form and the disruption caused to the football calendar by Covid-19.

With six clean sheets from 10 league games to his name, McGuinness impressed, but Talbot will be hoping to retain his place against Derry City having kept Sligo Rovers scoreless last Friday.

Talbot, whose only game-time this term came in an FAI Cup win against Cabinteely, said: “On a personal level, I was over the moon to get back into the team. It was a long time coming and was made even longer because of the Covid break.

“But that break gave me time to recover properly from my injury too and I’ve worked very hard in training to get back into the team.

“The whole squad has been working hard, we keep pushing each other.”

An ever-present in the team last year with 17 clean sheets from 36 league games, Talbot’s 2019 form saw him earn an Ireland call-up and an SSE Airtricity Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Player of the Month Award.

Having had big gloves to fill following the retirement of Shane Supple at the end of 2018, it was mission accomplished for Finglas man Talbot in his debut season at Dalymount Park.

To go from that to playing second fiddle for much of this term was testing. But Talbot is a team player – as evident from his vocal words of encouragement from the stands during last month’s Europa League game away to Fehervar, and his determined efforts to console his team-mates after the devastation of the subsequent penalty shootout defeat.

Talbot embraces McGuinness after Europe League penalty shootout heartache - Sportsfile

Now, though, Talbot wants to keep hold of his starting berth. Competition for places across the team is fierce, and it is no different between the sticks.

McGuinness was not part of the squad away to Sligo last week as a precaution because he was a close contact of a Covid case. In his absence, Talbot saw Bohs keep a clean sheet for the first time in three games and he hopes to build on that now once more.

His reinstatement coincided with Bohs returning to winning ways too as Andre Wright’s second-half goal, after skilful work from Dawson Devoy, banished the disappointment of defeats to Waterford and Shamrock Rovers in their previous two games.

Talbot said: “I want to kick on from last year, so I was glad to get a chance to impress and keep a clean sheet.

“We were disappointed with the previous two games, not just the results but the performances too. But we were a lot better against Sligo. We felt we could have been 2-0 up at half-time but thankfully we got the goal in the end. Dawson was unbelievable for the goal.”

Now attention turns to the visit of Declan Devine’s Derry City to Dalymount Park, with Talbot hoping he has done enough to retain his place in the team.

He added: “We are looking forward to it. Everyone is buzzing in training, but we are very focused and we want to go out, give a good performance and win the game.”

For manager Keith Long, the game presents another fresh challenge.

He said: “Derry are unbeaten in their last five games and have added to their squad since they beat us in March. Games between the teams have been very close over the last couple of seasons.

“With six league games remaining, it is vital we try to continue to pick up points and build on a positive result in Sligo last week.

“I was very pleased with how we played in Sligo. They were in good form prior to the game and we were coming off the back of two disappointing results, so it was really positive to see the lads put in such an assured performance.”

Talbot was just one of four changes to the team for the trip to the Showgrounds, with Rob Cornwall, Conor Levingston and Devoy making the starting XI in place of James Finnerty, JJ Lunney and Danny Mandroiu respectively.

Long added: “All players are desperate to play football and in a condensed season it is even more frustrating for them when they do not.

“The squad ethos is very important for any successful team. The changes made to the starting XI in Sligo underlines that and I was very happy with the boys who came into the team and performed well.”

TEAM NEWS

Kris Twardek, suspended due to accumulated yellow cards, is Bohs’ only absentee.

“Last week we fell short of what we expect from ourselves”

Preview: Sligo Rovers v Bohemians
SSE Airtricity League
September 18 2020, The Showgrounds, 7.45pm

Keith Long has challenged Bohemians to return to the level of consistency that saw them surge up the table when the season resumed at the start of August.

Four wins from four last month saw the Gypsies move up to second in the table, something few would have predicted at the start of the season.

But it has been a different story in September so far as Bohs lost the Dublin derby away to Shamrock Rovers a fortnight ago before succumbing to a disappointing 2-0 defeat at home to Waterford last week.

Long said: “We want to reach a consistent performance level week on week. Last week we fell short of what we expect from ourselves.”

Goals from Danny Mandroiu and Kris Twardek gave Bohemians all three points when these sides met at Dalymount Park in February.

But Long knows it will be more difficult this time around against Liam Buckley’s side, who are unbeaten in five league games now.

He added: “We will need to be better than we did last week against an inform Sligo.

“We want to put in a positive display and bounce back from the disappointment of last week.”

TEAM NEWS

Everyone trained this week, including Rob Cornwall (ankle).

“Youth can help, they will play with no fear”

EUROPA LEAGUE First Qualifying Round
Fehérvár FC v Bohemian FC
Thursday August 27, 2020
MOL Aréna Sóstó, 6.30pm local time/5.30pm Irish time
Live on stream.bohemians.ie

Bohemians make our long-awaited return to European football tonight as clear underdogs but manager Keith Long said his side have confidence, are eager to prove themselves on the bigger stage and are not without hope.

Tonight, they face Hungarians Fehérvár, who have taken points off Chelsea and have beaten Bordeaux in this competition in recent seasons.

In contrast to that pedigree, Long has a talented but inexperienced squad with an average age of just 23, and just four of his players have played in a European qualifier before.

Long said: “We are very inexperienced at this level. Keith Buckley, Rob Cornwall, Keith Ward and Dinny Corcoran have played at this level but we are otherwise a very young squad – the seventh youngest squad in Europe’s top divisions.

“It is going to be a big step-up in class against Fehérvár. But our performances since the restart give us real hope and certainly the boys are full of confidence.

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“They have been absolutely brilliant. We can ask no more of them. Youth can help you in one sense in that they will play with no fear and some of these boys have been away at international tournaments so they do have a bit of a taste for it.

“We have a lot of young players who have been involved in Ireland U21 games, Ireland U19 games, and we have six who have played in the Uefa Youth League with our U19s over the past two seasons.

“It’s another step or two up in class again but that is what you want. We are looking forward to the game, the boys are excited about testing themselves against different opposition.

“We have set a target for the players to get through this round. We have asked that of them. We are up against it and we are clearly the underdogs. The opposition is the best-resourced club in Hungary with a lot of international players from many different countries. But we are not without hope.”

While his team lacks experience at this level, so too does Long himself as he takes charge of a European game for the first time in his sixth season at the helm. It is an opportunity he is relishing.

The 46-year-old took over ahead of the 2015 season with the Gypsies tipped by many for relegation, but now sees his side second in the table and back in Europe. It has been quite the journey.

He said: “It shows how far we have come together as a club. It was a brilliant season last year and it is great that we have been able to get to this point that we have European football. It’s why we are in the game as we want to test ourselves at the highest level that we possibly can.

“Really what we want is a good level of performance. We have tried to analyse the opposition as best we can. It’s a different level of opposition to what we are used to and I am no different to the players, I am really looking forward to it as are the rest of the staff.”

While Long and his players look forward to a game on European soil, there is a huge sense of regret that they will not be joined in Székesfehérvár by the fans who helped get them there.

Long said: “Football hasn’t been the same without the supporters. The fans were pivotal in getting us over the line last year, there is no doubt about it, in games when we were hanging on or trying to get over the line.

“We started to believe we could get Europe last year when Michael Barker scored a last-minute winner down in Waterford. That’s when we first heard the chant of ‘we’re going abroad’ that night. That spurred us on. We lived in hope since that moment.

“To go away without those supporters – there’s a whole generation who haven’t experienced European football – is a bitter pill to swallow.

“They certainly would have turned out in possibly unprecedented numbers to support the team in Europe. We just hope they can get behind the team by watching the stream.

“We want to represent the club and do those fans proud. Progressing in Europe would obviously be of great financial benefit to the club.

“But uppermost in our thoughts since we returned from the lockdown has been our supporters and the way they have got behind us at every turn.

“The players are extremely conscious of who they represent and who they play for. Without the supporters’ help and financial backing, we wouldn’t be in the position we are in today.

“The players bring that in their minds onto the pitch tonight and hopefully we can do the club and fans proud.”

Derek Pender celebrates qualifying for Europe in Richmond Park last October – he is co-commentator tonight (Stephen Burke)

That sense of togetherness and progress at the club between the first team and its supporters is echoed in other sections of the club too.

Qualifying for Europe with such a young squad was in itself a remarkable achievement, but the age profile of Long’s first team is no coincidence.

As Long mentioned, Bohs have the seventh youngest squad across all top divisions.

Even more encouraging is that 12 of Bohs’ squad of 26 have either come through the Bohs-SKB U17s or Bohemians U19s, or were previously developed by our partners at St Kevin’s.

The player pathway is reaping dividends, and the experience of playing in the Uefa Youth League in 2018 and 2019 should stand to some of his young guns too.

Long added: “We were even younger last year when we qualified. Some of the players came into the team at a crucial point to get us over the line at a crucial point – the likes of Ross Tierney and Dawson Devoy were exceptional and belied their years in terms of their performances.

“It’s great for the club that we have 46% of our players have come through either the Bohs-SKB U17s, our U19s, or were developed at St Kevin’s previously.

“We have a clear pathway for players now through the age groups. We have young players coming behind through our U19s now too like Jack Moylan and Gavin Molloy, who have been in and around the first team.

“Then you’ve got Evan Ferguson, Robbie Mahon, Jamie Mullins for the Bohs-SKB U17s who are doing really well. It’s great that we have that class of player coming through our system.

“You can see from the make-up of our first team squad the benefits of this pathway, and it bodes well for the future too.”

“We need to keep challenging ourselves”

BOHEMIANS v ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC
SSE Airtricity League
Saturday August 22 2020
Dalymount Park, 2pm

Keith Long looks ahead to today’s game and back at last week’s win away to Finn Harps:

“A Dublin derby against St Pat’s are always games to look forward to and today’s is no different despite not having supporters in the ground to generate the atmosphere normally associated with this fixture.

“Games between the two sides are always very competitive and today we expect nothing less.

“Pat’s have quality within their squad with a good mix of experience and talented young players, so we hope we can continue to make progress in every single game by challenging ourselves to reach a level of performance and hopefully picking up points.

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“Last week away to Harps we dug out an important win. Ballybofey is an extremely tough place to go and get a result on many different levels and I thought our first half performance was really good.

“In the second half, the game turned into a scrap. We lived dangerously at times particularly late in the game when it felt like we were in the land of the giants with Harps having several 6ft 4in plus players on the pitch.

“Set pieces and long throw-ins were defended well but ideally we would have liked to have gone on to score a second goal to make life a bit easier but the boys deserve great credit for dealing with the challenge to come away with the points.”

TEAM NEWS

Bohemians will be without Cristian Magerusan (knee).

Paddy Kirk (ankle) and Ross Tierney (ankle) both returned to training this week but the latter is still some weeks off.

“We’re doing well so far but we’re not yet where we want to be”

FINN HARPS v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League
Saturday August 15 2020
Finn Park, Ballybofey, 2pm

Dan Casey says Bohemians’ strength in depth in this season is keeping everyone on their toes.

With the season halved, there will be fewer chances for players to stake their claim for a first-team place in the coming months.

But that has only served to make training even more competitive with every man chomping at the bit to make Keith Long’s starting XI.

Casey, who returned to Dalymount Park this year after a season-long stint with Cork City, said: “There is great strength and depth in the squad now. Any player in the squad is capable of coming into the team.

“The lads who aren’t in the team at the moment are raring to go and want to play so that’s pushing us all on in training.

“Keith and Trevor Croly keep pushing us. We’re doing well so far but we’re not yet where we want to be.”

Two wins from two since the restart of the league a fortnight ago sees the Gypsies up to second place.

First, an early Andre Wright strike was enough to claim victory on Leeside against Casey’s former club, before first-half goals from Danny Grant and Keith Buckley gave Bohs a 2-1 win over champions Dundalk.

The margin of both victories probably flattered the opposition, with the Gypsies playing some attractive stuff and creating plenty of opportunities.

Casey, 22, said: “It’s been great. Everyone is enjoying every minute of it but we’re not getting carried away.

“We’ve got a good style of play, which we are always working on and have good pace in the team with Danny Grant and Kris Twardek capable of hurting teams. I wouldn’t fancy playing against them!

“We’ve leaders in the team too, Keith Buckley is a captain very similar to Derek Pender who helps us through the bad patches.

“Dundalk have been one of the best teams in the league for several years now, so we were pleased with the result and how we played. We could have got a couple more.

“But that was last week and we can’t dwell on it. We’ve a huge game today that we are all fully focused on.”

With an unfamiliar early Saturday afternoon kick-off time, the Gypsies stayed overnight, travelling to Donegal yesterday evening.

Harps have had three defeats from three since the resumption of the league season and Cork City’s 3-0 win over Sligo Rovers yesterday saw Ollie Horgan’s side slip to the bottom of the table.

But Bohs have been burned in Ballybofey enough times over the years to take anything for granted, and Harps’ 1-0 win at home to St Patrick’s Athletic on Monday in the FAI Cup served as a reminder that they are capable of causing an upset.

Casey added: “Ballybofey is always one of the toughest places to go in the country. Harps really know how to make the most of home advantage. So we’re up here confident and with a game-plan, but we’re certainly not cocky. Harps are a capable side.”

TEAM NEWS

Bohemians will be without Cristian Magerusan (knee), Ross Tierney (ankle) and Paddy Kirk (ankle).
Danny Mandroiu (hip) is a doubt.

Website by Simon Alcock