“We do not want our season to be over tonight”

Preview: BOHEMIANS v DUNDALK
Extra.ie FAI Cup quarter-final
Friday November 20 2020, Dalymount, 7.45pm
RTÉ 2 and WatchLOI
Audio Described Commentary: access4all.bohemians.ie

Keith Long wants to repay the dedication of Bohemians supporters when Dundalk are the visitors to Dalymount Park for our final home game of 2020 tonight.

A place in the last four of the Extra.ie FAI Cup away to Athlone Town is the prize on offer to the winners of this evening’s game.

Long said: “The club and supporters have been immense this year. With all the uncertainty that surrounds us, the club has stood strong beside the team and supported its people.

“We also know fans are watching the games from home and are behind the team. We would love nothing more to be playing tonight in front of a packed Dalymount.

“Having no supporters has been a real challenge but I hope wherever you are tonight watching the game that we can make you proud to be a Bohemian.

“We do not want our season to be over tonight and the players I can assure you we will do everything to win and progress to a semi-final.”

That is easier said than done. While Dundalk have faltered this season, they are still a side oozing trophy winners.

But Bohs can take confidence by their second-place finish this season – their highest in a decade and one ahead of the Lilywhites, as well as the fact they have taken four points from the sides’ two meetings this year.

Long added: “Dundalk are a high quality side and they provide a big obstacle in our bid to get to a semi-final.

“I have great admiration for the consistency of Dundalk over the last six or seven seasons and despite not quite performing to the standards of recent seasons this year, they are still a very good side with many top quality players.

“All form as we know goes out the window in the cup and there is no doubt we will have to be at our very best tonight in order to progress.”

TEAM NEWS

Bohemians are without Anto Breslin (suspended) and Andy Lyons (arm). Keith Ward (Achilles) is a doubt.

Danny Grant and Danny Mandroiu are available having been away with the Ireland U21 squad last week.

“We want to finish the league campaign on a high”

St Patrick’s Athletic v Bohemians
SSE Airtricity League
Monday November 9 2020, Richmond Park, 7.30pm
Live on WatchLOI

Bohemians head into their final league game of the season tonight with second place and European football long secured.

It has been 16 days since the team’s last game, but that time has allowed one of the club’s key performers this season recover from injury.

Rob Cornwall is expected to wear the captain’s armband this evening in the absence of the suspended Keith Buckley.

The centre-back, who has recovered from an ankle injury sustained in the 3-0 win over Cork City a month ago, said: “I’ve been training for the last few weeks, so I am looking forward to hopefully getting back out on to the pitch tonight.

“It was the same injury that I got out in the game in Hungary. On both occasions they were impact injuries so there is not a lot you can do to prevent that.”

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With other first-team regulars unavailable, the 26-year-old’s experience could prove invaluable to what is the youngest team in the league and 21st youngest top-flight team in Europe.

Cornwall joined four years ago as a 22-year-old but the retirements of the likes of Shane Supple, Ian Morris and Derek Pender in recent seasons have seen him become one of the more senior members of the squad sooner than he anticipated.

He said: “It feels weird being considered one of the older lads in the team now – some of them probably think I’m older than I am because of all my grey hair!

“With Bucko out tonight, it’s a chance for us to step up – not just me but other players too. There are leaders across the team.”

With five players ruled out through injury or suspension, it is also a chance for others perhaps frustrated by their lack of game-time to make their case for a starting place in Friday week’s FAI Cup quarter-final against Dundalk, but Cornwall said nobody is looking that far ahead.

He said: “We are not looking ahead to the Dundalk game yet.

“It’s very much all about tonight. Inchicore is a hard place to go at the best of times and St Pat’s are a good team. We’re fully focused on that and trying to get three points – we want to finish the league campaign on a high.”

Just over a year ago, Bohs headed to the same venue against the same opposition needing a point to guarantee European football for the first time in eight years.

Under the cosh for much of the game, Keith Long’s men held out for a 0-0 draw. In the era of games being played behind closed doors, the post-match scenes that followed are a distant memory but Cornwall insists fans still motivate the side every time they take to the pitch.

He added: “We all remember the scenes out there last season – James Talbot’s save, the ball being cleared off the line, and what it meant to the fans when the final whistle went.

“It’s been a strange year not being able to celebrate games with fans, but we are still spurred on in the knowledge that they are cheering us on from home, and we live in hope that next season we’ll be able to have fans back with us again sooner rather than later.”

TEAM NEWS

Bohemians are without captain Keith Buckley and Anto Breslin (both suspended) as well as Andy Lyons (arm), Danny Mandroiu (groin) and Keith Ward (Achilles).

Vice captain Rob Cornwall (ankle) and Dan Casey (head) both return, while Evan Ferguson and Gavin O’Brien have been promoted from the Bohs-SKB U17s.

“Character is massive in sport and the boys are made of the right stuff”

Preview: Bohemians v Finn Harps
SSE Airtricity League
Saturday October 24 2020, Dalymount, 7.30pm

Bohemians go into their final home league game of the season in fine form and up against a club who have not won at Dalymount Park in 21 years.

But manager Keith Long has warned his second-placed side to expect a battle against Ollie Horgan’s Finn Harps, who are currently battling for every point at the opposite end of the table.

Long said: “Ollie and his backroom team have been in this position several times over recent years and they are past masters in the art of avoiding the drop.

“Harps are always well organised and have some very good players in their ranks that can cause any team problems. Games between us have by and large been close affairs and tonight we expect a tough challenge as we always do against a committed and motivated team.”

Bohs’ run of three wins on the trot came to a halt with a 0-0 draw away to Dundalk last week. The Gypsies had good chances to score and the fact they left the home of last year’s champions feeling a little disappointed with a draw indicates how far the team has come.

Long said: “I felt we had the better of the chances in the first half most notably Andre Ward’s chance after four minutes when the ball came to him too quick to sort out his feet in the box.

“We also played some good attacking football particularly on the break and looked dangerous going forward. We came close to scoring through Keith Ward in the second half also.

“But we had to be content with an away draw which is saying something as our trips to Oriel in recent years have always proved difficult and getting anything up there is a real achievement.

“It was an achievement also for our squad and the mentality of the players to have the belief despite the disruptions we faced during the week and on the day of the game.

“I have to single out Michael Barker and Paddy Kirk for special mention. Both players were outstanding in Dundalk despite playing out of position at centre-back.

“They have had to be patient watching the team do well from the sides. Their attitude to training has never wained and they showed that hard work pays off with two brilliant displays.

“Character is massive in sport and the boys are made of the right stuff coming into the team and leading from the back. It speaks volumes for them as individuals and the type of men they are.”

TEAM NEWS

Bohemians are without Rob Cornwall (ankle) but Dan Casey (head) returns as does one player previously ruled out as a result of testing positive for Covid-19 and another who was self-isolating having been deemed a close contact.

“We want to finish the season on a high with as many points as we can”

Preview: Dundalk v Bohemians
SSE Airtricity League
Friday October 16 2020, Oriel Park, 5.45pm
Live on WatchLOI

Bohemians head to Oriel Park with European football secured but looking to go one further by confirming second place.

For Michael Barker, it is also another opportunity to show what he is capable of having had to wait nearly eight months to see any action in the SSE Airtricity League.

Like many others, the 27-year-old has had to bide his time as a combination of the truncated season with fewer games and Bohemians’ fine form has limited opportunities.

Having featured in Bohs’ opening four league games of the season, Barker’s only action since February came in last month’s FAI Cup win over Cabinteely.

But with just over ten minutes remaining in Bohs’ 3-0 win over Cork City last week, an ankle injury suffered by Rob Cornwall provided Barker with his chance.

He is likely to deputise this evening once more in place of Cornwall, who is ruled out on his 26th birthday.

Barker said: “It was a long time coming! It’s been a tough season for those of us who have had to bide our time. So it was nice to get back on the pitch, even if it was only for a few minutes.

“That’s the nature of the reduced season with there being no midweek games or EA Sports Cup games this year. The team has been doing so well and the performances have been so good, that it would be hard for the manager to change the team.

“We just have to keep pushing ourselves. Training is very intense and you don’t want to take your foot off the pedal and be ready when called upon.”

Barker played a big role in the club qualifying for Europe last season, with manager Keith Long recently highlighting that his injury-time winner in Waterford last June and the jubilant scenes that followed as the point that the team really believed they could do it.

The defender says that is a moment he will never forget, but is delighted the team has repeated the feat again this year with three games left to play.

Covid-19 has robbed fans the opportunity to celebrate that achievement in the way they did last time around, but having gone eight years without European football, nobody is taking it for granted.

Barker said: “It was a lot different to last season! It was on the cards for a few weeks now, which is a testament to how well the team has done.

“The fact that anything less would have been seen as a disappointment tells you how far the club, team and management have come in recent years. There are quality players at the club and they deserve to be playing in European competitions.

“Everyone in the squad has contributed. It has been a very enjoyable season despite all the disruption. It bodes well for next year.

“It’s huge for the club and the area and most importantly the fans. That was the one downside of Europe this season was not having them over with us in Hungary. Hopefully that might change next year.”

Bohs have won three on the trot but face a Dundalk team who have regrouped and improved under Filippo Giovagnoli.

Barker added: “We know Dundalk are one of the best teams in the country, if not the best. They had that dip earlier in the season but since the new manager came in they have turned a corner.

“They have been brilliant of late and have reminded us of how good they can be with their run in Europe.

“But regardless of who we are playing, we want to win.

“Finishing second would represent an improvement on last season so we want to finish the season on a high with as many points as we can.”

TEAM NEWS

Bohemians are without Rob Cornwall (ankle) while one player is ruled out as a result of testing positive for Covid-19 and another is self-isolating having been deemed a close contact.

“The players are hungry to improve, to learn and develop”

Preview: Bohemians v Cork City
SSE Airtricity League
Friday October 9 2020, Dalymount Park, 5.45pm

Keith Long has challenged Bohemians to build upon back-to-back victories as they go in search of their highest league position in a decade.

Victories at home to Derry City a fortnight ago and away to Shelbourne last Saturday have consolidated Bohs’ position in second place.

A win this evening and victory against Dundalk next week would secure second, but Long is never one to get ahead of himself.

Cork City are the visitors to Dalymount and arrive after the departure of manager Neale Fenn, with Colin Healy taking the reins.

The Leesiders came to Dublin 7 in similar circumstances last season following John Caulfield’s exit from the club – and left with all three points.

Long said: “Tonight’s game will be very difficult despite their current league position. They are fighting for every point and are dangerous opponents with some quick, clever natural footballers so we are very aware of the threats they possess.

“What is important for us is to continue to grow as a group, to focus on improving every week. We have a very young squad which needs reminding from time to time.

“The players are hungry to improve, to learn and develop and they are essential ingredients as we try to finish the season strongly.

“We have recorded back to back victories in the league. We conducted our own version of the great escape against Derry City a fortnight ago – a dramatic conclusion to a game we scarcely deserved anything from. It did however highlight the perseverance of the players who kept going until the very end.

“We had a better team performance in Tolka Park. Danny Grant took his goals really well and it was great for him to get his first hat-trick in senior football.”

While Grant stole the headlines, Long was keen to praise another man whose efforts while the game was in the balance gave Bohs momentum.

Long said: “A crucial penalty save from James Talbot at a critical point in the game kept us ahead and allowed us to get ahead even further with two more goals from Danny.

“James has had a tough spell since his injury sustained on the opening day of the season. He has had to be patient with the form of Stephen McGuinness in his absence and upon our return but his attitude to training and around the group has been first class and he is getting his rewards at the moment for that.

“James is an outstanding goalkeeper and we are lucky to have two players of that calibre in that position pushing each other hard in training for the number one jersey.

“The derby and football in general is not the same without supporters. I can only imagine the scenes with our supporters in the ground. We miss you all not being there and it’s something I don’t think any of us can or will get used to as we continue to live with Covid.”

Bohs go into the final four league games of the season with a trimmed squad.

Kris Twardek and Luke Wade-Slater have left the club for Jagiellonia Białystok and Larne respectively, while Ciarán Kelly has joined Ballymena United on loan until January.

Long added: “Sadly last Saturday was the last time we saw Kris in a Bohs jersey. Kris has been such a tremendous addition to our squad this season and it is with great regret that we lose him. He gave everything in his short time here and we wish him well for the future with his new club in Poland.

“Also leaving the club on loan is Ciaran Kelly. Ciaran is under contract with us next year and is a lad that we have high hopes for. The shortened season has meant there are not as many opportunities for players to play every week.

“Our squad was built for games on Friday/Monday/Friday over the first quarter of the season and for Europe but obviously Covid put paid to that with the result being fewer games.

“It is extremely frustrating for players not to play every week and I have huge empathy for them. We also have to manage the potential of the team and our form since the return has been very good, so that means limited change.

“It can be difficult for players and it is not ideal but it’s the situation we currently find ourselves in and we have to adapt accordingly.”

TEAM NEWS

Danny Mandroiu is away with the Ireland U21s.

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