“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.

“We need to start games fast and come out flying”

Shelbourne v Bohemians
SSE Airtricity League
Saturday October 3 2020, 7.30pm
Live on WatchLOI

Bohemians are aiming to turn luck into momentum when they make the short trip to Tolka Park tonight.

Anto Breslin was perhaps Bohs’ best performer in the smash-and-grab win against Derry City last week.

Keith Long’s men trailed for a 92 minutes at Dalymount Park, creating little, before first a Keith Ward penalty and then a last-gasp winner from Andre Wright from Breslin’s cross sealed all three points in the most unlikeliest of circumstances.

Breslin, who joined from Longford at the start of the season having previously been with Wolves, said: “Luck was very much on our side. We didn’t play anywhere near as well as we are capable of.

“But we showed what we are made of. There is great character in the team at the best of times but we had it in abundances last week.

“I don’t know of many teams who can say they’ve been 1-0 down for 92 minutes and have gone on to win the game.

“It was nice to have a bit of luck go our way for once. There have been plenty of occasions this season where we should have had penalties but they haven’t been given.

“When luck goes your way you have to enjoy it. Another week it might go the other way.”

Breslin knows Bohs won’t get away with it like that every week and will need to improve in Drumcondra tonight against a Shelbourne side that contains several former Bohemians who are battling to stay away from a relegation scrap.

3,560 were in attendance at Dalymount Park when these sides last met back in March – the final game before Covid-19 restrictions kicked in – and Breslin admits the team have had to try and create their own atmosphere of togetherness in the continued absence of fans in stadiums since.

He said: “Shelbourne are a very organised team, hard to break down and good at set-pieces.

“It’s going to be strange to have another Dublin derby without fans and without an atmosphere, but we know they are behind us from home.

“It’s up to us as a group to create our own atmosphere. We’ve five games left and we want to qualify for Europe and finish as high up the table as possible.

“The performance was disappointing last week. We want to improve on that. The previous week against Sligo, we were really good. We could have been out of sight at half-time. We need to find that consistency every week.

“But against Derry, we didn’t start well and conceded early. We need to learn from that. We need to start games fast and come out flying.”

Despite very able competition from Paddy Kirk, Breslin has been a mainstay at left-back this season having had big boots to fill following the departure of his fellow former St Kevin’s prodigy Darragh Leahy to Dundalk.

Breslin added: “I’ve been delighted with how it’s gone. Darragh was a great player here but I was confident in my own ability and knew what I was capable of.

“I certainly found it difficult at the start. The intensity in training is far greater to what I was used to at Longford. I had maybe lost that little bit of sharpness since coming back from England, so there was a period of having to adapt.

“There’s a great bunch of lads here who keep pushing each other. It’s not just one player, it’s the whole team. You can’t have a night off!

“Everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. It’s unfortunate that because of the shortened season that some of the lads haven’t got as much game-time as they would have hoped for.

“But it’s a credit to them that you wouldn’t know they are out of the team if you watch us train. Everyone just keeps pushing each other so that they are ready to play if called upon.”

TEAM NEWS

Kris Twardek (suspension) and James Finnerty (illness) are available once more.

Ciarán Kelly has joined Ballymena United on loan. He will return to the club in January.

“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.

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