“People are talking us up and we can’t shy away from that”

BOHEMIANS v CORK CITY
Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup semi-final
Sunday September 30, Dalymount Park, 5.45pm

Keith Long says Bohemians are hungry, measured and determined to build on the recent feelgood factor at Dalymount Park and reach the promised land of an FAI Cup final.

Bohs welcome 2017 league and cup double winners Cork City to Dalymount this evening with the Gypsies looking to reach a cup final for the first time in ten years.

Getting there will be easier said than done. But after winning nine games in a row, Long admits there is a measured confidence about his team.

Nobody is getting ahead of themselves, but the optimism is shared on the terraces too – the home stand for this game sold out in less than two days and will be bouncing this evening.

Long said: “It’s a really important game. We’re looking forward to it. We’re on a good run of form.

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“We will be up against it against a strong Cork side. But we feel that we are ready. The boys are hungry to do well.

“If we play well we know we have a chance. We’ll have a big crowd behind us. The feelgood factor is good around the club. People are talking us up and we can’t shy away from that.

“We’ve had barren spells earlier in the season, so we have to enjoy the moment and do all we can to keep it going.”

These sides met two weeks ago in the league at the same venue with Bohs pulling off a 4-2 victory to derail City’s bid to retain their league title.

John Caulfield’s side will be eyeing revenge and Long said: “Our last game against Cork is immaterial. They’ll have players back – Alan Bennett, Kieran Sadlier.

“Cork will be stronger than they were in the league game. That will have no bearing on this. Obviously it was important that we won that game and it kept up the good run of form we’ve been on.

“But we’ve been beaten three times by them this season prior to that so we know we have to be at our very best against them.

“We’re in a good run of form and people will rightly point to that as we’re coming into the game with confidence but when you look at where Cork are in the table, I don’t consider ourselves favourites.”

Bohs come into this game refreshed after Long started an entirely different starting XI at last Saturday’s 3-1 derby win away to St Patrick’s Athletic.

Given the experimental nature of the team, it was perhaps one of the most notable of the Gypsies’ nine wins in a row.

Long said: “It would have been foolhardy to play players 68 hours after running themselves into the ground in Derry so we felt we had to make 11 changes last week.

“It was a really rewarding display for everyone at the club and for everyone associated with bringing those players through.

“You could see the potential of the boys we have here, which has been strengthened further with our partnership with St Kevin’s.

“The players came in and showed what they’re capable of. We went a goal down very early in the game and the manner in which they responded to that made it an even more pleasing performance.

“It took 15/20 minutes for the team to find their feet but once they settled down and played their stuff, they grew into the game.

“They’ve given me food for thought, not just for next season but for this game too. Fellas have come in, they’ve put their hand up, they’ve done well and are in the reckoning to feature.”

TEAM NEWS

Bohs are at full strength bar long-term absentee Ryan Swan (cruciate) and Ryan Masterson (thigh).

“Motivation is high across the squad”

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League
Saturday September 22, Richmond Park, 5.30pm

Keith Long believes a Dublin derby is ‘the perfect game’ to refocus Bohemians after the highs of their FAI Cup quarter-final win away to Derry City on Wednesday night.

A clinical performance from the Gypsies made it eight wins in a row – the club’s best run in 10 years – with a memorable 3-1 victory in the Brandywell in front of 300 travelling Bohs fans.

Long said: “It’s a quick turnaround having played Wednesday. But we’re not complaining, it’s a great problem to have. We’re delighted to be in the semi-finals of the Cup.

“Wednesday was an excellent performance and a memorable night for the players, staff and supporters. It’s something we hope we can build on.

“Even though it was a midweek fixture, we had incredible support behind us from the off.

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“The players were spurred on by that from the moment they stepped out on to the pitch. It was special.

“Derry threw caution to the wind in the second half to a certain extent so we are delighted to be sitting here with a semi-final to look forward to.”

The high tempo and energy-sapping manner of Bohs’ performance on Wednesday mean Long will need to freshen up his side for the short trip to face his former club at Richmond Park.

He said: “We have to listen to players and their bodies. Wednesday took a lot out of the players both physically and emotionally.

“We’ll have at least one change forced upon us with Derek Pender ruled out after suffering a head injury.

“We’ve other players who have niggles who we need to manage too. But we have a squad we believe in and players who can come in and step up to the mark when called upon.

“It’s an important game, it’s a Dublin derby, so it’s the perfect game to come back into after Wednesday as there’s a lot at stake again.

“Motivation is high across the squad. Everyone is pushing each other for game-time.”

And the manager is expecting another close game as his side look to make it nine wins in a row.

He added: “There’s only three points between the sides and there’s been very little between the teams over the past number of seasons.

“That’s been the case again this season – we’ve lost one, drawn one and won one against them so we expect it to be close.”

TEAM NEWS

Derek Pender (head injury), Cristian Magerusan (hamstring), Ryan Masterson (thigh) and Ryan Swan (cruciate) are all ruled out. Darragh Leahy (quad) is a doubt.

Danny Grant (bug) returns to the squad where he will be joined by U19 team-mates Andy Lyons, Jamie Hamilton, Ryan Graydon, Promise Omochere and Ali Reghba.

“SOMETHING WILL HAVE TO GIVE”

DERRY CITY v BOHEMIANS
IRISH DAILY MAIL QUARTER-FINAL
Wednesday September 19, The Brandywell, 7.45pm

Two teams full of confidence come face to face when Derry City host Bohemians in the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup quarter-final tomorrow.

On Friday, Bohs made it seven wins in all competitions for the first time in ten years with the most impressive result of the lot – a comprehensive 4-2 victory at Dalymount Park derailing Cork City’s bid to retain their league title.

On Sunday, tomorrow’s hosts collected the first major silverware of the domestic season when they dispatched Cobh Ramblers 3-1 at The Brandywell to lift the EA Sports Cup.

Bohs’ recent run of form included a confident 2-0 win when these sides last met at the Brandywell on August 31, which ended a run of 10 defeats in a row against Kenny Shiels’ side.

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But Bohs manager Keith Long is not one to look back or allow his side to pat themselves on the back for recent results.

He said: ”Our league win up there a few weeks ago will have no bearing on this game. We’re obviously on a good run but Derry will be on a high after winning the EA Sports Cup on Sunday too.

“There is a lot at stake for both clubs, it’s a huge game. But we are looking forward to it.

“We’re going into the game focused and having prepared professionally. It’s two teams coming into the game feeling they can win it. Something will have to give.”

This is the third round running where Bohs have had to travel away from home.

They enjoyed bumper support in the previous rounds when they got the better of First Division sides Wexford and Galway United 7-0 and 2-0 respectively.

With the Gypsies faithful lapping up recent results, Long is hoping for another strong presence in The Brandywell’s away section, despite the inconvenient scheduling of this fixture.

Long added: “It’s unfortunate it’s on a Wednesday but we think we’ll have good support behind us going up there.

“We’ve always had good support but even more so in recent months.

“The lads got a standing ovation against Cork at half-time on Friday, never mind full-time. That means a lot to them and it’s fantastic for their confidence.

“Derry are at home and will have a huge crowd behind them but we know we can count on our travelling support to be behind us all the way.”

TEAM NEWS

Ryan Masterson (quad), Danny Grant (bug) and Darragh Leahy (groin) remain doubts. Cristian Magerusan (hamstring) and Ryan Swan (cruciate) are ruled out once more.

“The most impressive aspect has been the players’ focus, determination and attitude towards every game”

BOHEMIANS v CORK CITY
Friday September 14, Dalymount Park, 7.35pm (please note earlier kick-off time)

Match sponsor: AM Estate Management. Matchball sponsor: In Memory of Alan Bambrick

Bohemians take to the Dalymount Park pitch for the first time in six weeks tomorrow looking to make it seven wins in a row in all competitions for the first time in ten years.

An upturn in form in the last eight weeks has seen Keith Long’s Gypsies climb to seventh in the league table and put a healthy distance of 13 points between them and the play-off spot.

In that same period they have progressed two rounds in the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup, beating Wexford and Galway Utd away from home 7-0 and 2-0 respectively.

Most recently, an experimental line-up containing 10 changes travelled to Scotland to beat Peterhead 1-0 on Saturday, becoming the first Irish club to win a round in the Irn Bru Cup to set up a last-16 tie at home to Sutton Utd next month.

That run of form has seen Long’s men win seven of their last eight games, keeping seven clean sheets – six in their last six – while scoring 24 goals in the process.

Their one defeat in that period was to league leaders Dundalk and Long’s team face a similar challenge tomorrow against a Cork City side scrapping to retain their league title.

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It is the last time the sides will meet in the league this season but the home crowd will be hoping the fixture will repeat itself in two weeks’ time, with the winners of Wednesday’s FAI Cup quarter-final between Derry City and Bohs drawn to host John Caulfield’s side on Sunday September 30 in the last four of the competition.

Long said: “We desperately hope that this is not our final game against them this season. But we’re not thinking any further ahead than tomorrow’s game.”

Long and his team have every right to be confident. But it is not in the manager’s make-up to allow himself or his team get ahead of themselves despite their recent form.

He said: “They are champions, we are the underdogs. Cork are a strong, well-organised, talented team with some outstanding players. We will have to play to our maximum to get a result but if we can manage to do that, we know that they are capable.

“It feels like forever since our last home game against Limerick on August 3 but we have had the considerable consolation of winning the five games we have played away from home in the intervening period.

“We have been on a great run of form recently, losing only once way to Dundalk. This run has provided the players with great confidence and belief. Our performances have been really pleasing and we have played some good attacking football.

“But the most impressive aspect has been the players’ focus, determination and attitude towards every game. Being able to pick a settled team has also been very helpful and obviously results have meant changes have been kept to a minimum.”

That was the case until the Gypsies travelled to Scotland last weekend.

The trip to Peterhead, less than an hour outside Aberdeen, brought back memories of Bohs’ breakthrough season 18 years ago when they became the first Irish side to knock a Scottish club out of Europe. That provided the springboard for the club’s first league and cup double in 73 years that season and kicked off the most successful decade – on the field that is – in our history.

Like Roddy Collins’ trailblazers in 2000, Bohs trained on the eve of the game at Cove Rangers’ ground. And there was another link in the opposition dugout too – Peterhead gaffer Jim McInally, briefly manager of Sligo Rovers in 1999, was Collins’ opposition scout ahead of that famous victory against Aberdeen in Pittodrie.

The club is in a different place, the stakes were considerably lower and the victory in Scotland’s north-east less memorable this time around, but it was an enjoyable new experience and an important game in its own right nonetheless.

With such a settled side in recent weeks, it afforded Long the opportunity to reward players who have shone for the club’s U19s and who came from behind to win the Enda McGuill Cup against St Patrick’s Athletic in Richmond Park nine days ago as well as allowing him give others in need of game-time a runout as well.

But it was the only survivor from the starting line-up a week previously, Kevin Devaney, who proved the matchwinner at Balmoor Stadium in a positive performance in which Bohs were never under serious threat and could have won by a greater margin.

Long said: “Modern football is very much a squad game and those who have not been playing regularly recently are as important as those who have been. The motivation within the group is high. The lads have been pushing extremely hard in training, showing great hunger to get back into the team.

“That was demonstrated in Peterhead. We made 10 changes to the team that beat Derry the week previously and the boys who came in put in a terrific shift against unfamiliar opposition who adopted a very direct and abrasive approach to the game.

“We very much deserved to win the game and with a little more composure with our final pass and finishing, we could have won by more.

“It was a good experience for the players and we were able to offer a debut to Robbie McCourt in central midfield along with more valuable first-team experience for Ryan Graydon, Ali Reghba and Andy Lyons, both of whom went directly from Scotland to join the Ireland U19s for Tuesday’s win against Wales.”

That trio will be honoured alongside their Bohs U19 team-mates tomorrow when Craig Sexton’s Enda McGuill champions are paraded on the pitch at half-time.

Long said: “Our 19s team received confirmation of our participation in Europe on the back of winning the league last season and they were at it again last Tuesday in the McGuill Cup.

“For me, they are up there in terms of one of the best underage teams this club has seen. Brilliantly coached by Craig Sexton and his backroom staff, they are a credit to the club.”

Team news

Ryan Masterson (quad) and Danny Grant (bug) will sit this one out. Darragh Leahy (groin) is a doubt. Ryan Swan (cruciate) remains out.

“It’s important we try bring players through and we’ve shown we will give them an opportunity when it’s right for the player and the team”

IRN BRU CUP
Saturday September 8 2018
Balmoor Stadium, 3pm

Keith Long is putting faith in his blend of youth and experience to see Bohemians advance in the Irn Bru Cup against Peterhead tomorrow.

Bohs travelled to Belfast this morning to catch a 12.05pm flight to Aberdeen ahead of tomorrow’s game.

They did so minus goalkeeper Shane Supple, who is being rested, as well as fellow first-team regulars Dan Casey and Dan Kelly, who have both been excused as they sit exams this week.

Long said: “Shane has played every league game for us this season and we feel he’s long overdue a rest. But we have approached the game professionally and we are looking forward to it.

“We’re putting out a team we believe capable of going there and getting the result.

“It’s a new experience for us in this competition and it will be interesting playing a game against different opposition with a different style of play in different surroundings.

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“We’re not overly familiar with the opposition obviously but we’ve done as much homework on them as we can.”

The absence of Supple, Casey and Kelly has created openings in Long’s squad and, buoyed by the club’s U19 team lifting the Enda McGuill Cup on Tuesday, he had no qualms adding further members of Craig Sexton’s side to his travelling party.

Members of the U19 panel have already tasted first-team action in the league this season, most notably Danny Grant, who has chipped in with important goals and assists since being handed his first-team debut off the bench against Dundalk in March.

Similarly, 18-year-old Andy Lyons displayed maturity beyond his years when thrown in at the deep end at right-back in place of the suspended skipper Derek Pender in recent league games against Bray Wanderers and Dundalk.

Both travel with the first team today and they will be joined by U19 team-mates Seán Bohan and, for the first time in the senior squad, Ali Reghba and Ryan Graydon.

Reghba was the man of the match in the Enda McGuill Cup final as his two goals in two minutes in the second half turned the game on its head and claimed a 2-1 win for Bohs away to St Patrick’s Athletic in Richmond Park.

They move up to a senior team in form too. Last Friday’s 2-0 win against Derry City in the Brandywell made it six wins from their last seven games – losing only to league leaders Dundalk – and having kept six clean sheets while scoring 26 goals in the process.

Long said: “It’s important we try bring players through and we’ve shown we will give them an opportunity when it’s right for the player and the team.

“The U19s have been, in my view, the best team in the country at this level for two seasons. They are a credit to the club.

“They are a very tight group who have gone and won the cup having come from behind, are competing strongly in the league having won it last year and are on course to reach the semi-finals of the league again.

“The U19 league has only been around for the past six years but between the old reserve and U21 leagues, this U19 team over the past two seasons probably rank as the best underage team the club has ever had.

“They train alongside the first team, which creates an inclusive environment, and the know exactly what it means to play for Bohemians.

“But I think people at the club realise how good they’ve been too. Bohs members and fans know the contribution to the club that’s being made by those working at underage level.

“That was shown on Tuesday. There was a good crowd at the final in Richmond and a significant number were Bohemians people there to support the team.”

While all that hard work has not gone unnoticed within the club, the U19s qualifying for the UEFA Youth League in addition to the silverware won this year and last brings deserved recognition from further afield.

Tuesday’s UEFA Youth League draw will see the Gypsies travelling to Denmark to face FC Midtjylland on Wednesday October 3 before hosting them three weeks later in the return leg at Dalymount Park.

Long said: “We’re delighted we are in Europe. It’s a great opportunity for Craig and the players.

“Without screaming it from the rooftops, the work that goes on with our underage teams has been excellent so it’s pleasing to see that rewarded.

“It’s a new challenge, European football will be a massive step up in terms of quality and it will be different level to what the lads experience domestically.

“It’s huge for the club too and something we all want to build on. Between the U19s’ success and the players coming through, we hope that more players will see Bohs as a club where they can fulfill their ambitions.

“But first and foremost it’s a reward for Craig, his backroom team, his players and for everyone who’s been working hard behind the scenes at youth level and also a credit to the work that’s been done by Jimmy Mowlds and his team with the U17s – feeding players up to the U19s.

“The partnership with St Kevin’s and working closely with them will only improve that.

“St Kevin’s have been producing players for years with many ex-Kevin’s players in our U19s and first team so that link is already there from before.

“It is also important to recognise the part other schoolboy clubs and coaches have played in helping our lads reach this point in their careers.”

TEAM NEWS

Dan Kelly and Dan Casey (exams) have been excused from the travelling party as has Shane Supple (rest).

U19s players included in the squad are Danny Grant, Seán Bohan, Andy Lyons and, for the first time, Ali Reghba and Ryan Graydon.

Cristian Magerusan (hamstring), Ryan Masterson (leg) and Ryan Swan (cruciate) are ruled out.

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