“It’s a good opportunity for players to show what they can do”

Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Scottish Challenge Cup
Saturday September 7, Excelsior Stadium, 1pm

The involvement of Irish clubs in the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Scottish Challenge Cup has come in for much criticism and derision.

Even the name of it seems to invite a sneer.

But for Robbie McCourt, the competition formerly known as the IRN-BRU Cup, already holds fond memories and represents an opportunity for him and many like him to stake their claim for first-team football.

Glasnevin man McCourt, a product of Bohs’ partners St Kevin’s Boys, returned home last summer after three years with West Brom.

And it was in this competition that McCourt made his first-team debut in a 1-0 win away to Peterhead this time 12 months ago.[t0ggle title="READ MORE"]

Ali Reghba, who signed for Premier League Leicester City in July, did likewise.

McCourt, 21, said: “I played 80 minutes and I enjoyed it. Ali made his debut in that game too and look at him now.”

Both were then thrust into league action a fortnight later in a Dublin derby against St Pat’s. McCourt bagged one and Reghba netted twice in a 3-1 win in Richmond Park.

McCourt said: “Yeah that was a good game, an enjoyable one for me and for Ali getting the goals. That’s where I kind of announced myself as a Bohs player and I want to be able to do that again.”

Players of similar inexperience could find themselves sampling first-team football for the first time tomorrow with the carrot of further opportunities dangling in front of them.

With bigger priorities ahead, several regular starters have been left at home.

Instead, this tournament is being used as a chance to give those on the fringes of the first team some game-time and to expose some of the U19s to first-team football.

Six of Craig Sexton’s current U19 squad – Seán Bohan, Mitchell Byrne, Alex Kelly, Ross Tierney, Brandon Bermingham and Dawson Devoy – are included in the travelling party who made the journey today from Dublin to Belfast to get a ferry to Cairnryan and coach onwards to Motherwell where they will stay overnight tonight.

McCourt said: “It’s a good opportunity for players to get a chance to show what they can do, to make a name for themselves. The lads coming up from the U19s tomorrow and who might get an opportunity know it’s a chance to play themselves into the reckoning.

“Everyone in the group want to win this competition. It’s something different but I think it’s a good tournament. There’s some good teams in it and we’re coming up against opposition we wouldn’t otherwise.”

While McCourt is a fan of the tournament, not everyone is so keen.

Scottish clubs and media alike have questioned the merit – and expense – in inviting League of Ireland, Irish League, Welsh League and English Conference teams to compete in it.

Last season Bohs were the first League of Ireland club to win a tie in the tournament and went one further to reach the quarter-finals by beating English side Sutton United in a dramatic penalty shootout.

The fact that the quarter-final tie was scheduled to take place after the League of Ireland season had finished invited further scrutiny as to the benefit of Irish clubs’ involvement.

Bohs’ offer to extend their season to accommodate the last-eight tie against East Fife being played in November was ignored by many of the detractors in the Scottish media, however.

The Gypsies instead agreed to a date in February, despite it being in pre-season and thus weakening their chances of progression. But much to the dismay of supporters who travelled over from Scotland, the tie was called off due to a frozen pitch minutes before it was due to kick off.

Running out of available dates to fulfill the tie and with the League of Ireland kicking off a week later, the decision was made to withdraw from that season’s tournament.

None of that has served to endear Irish clubs’ involvement to a skeptical Scottish football family.

In Ireland, similar doubts exist.

The fact the FAI Cup quarter-finals are scheduled the same week as when Irish clubs are supposed to compete in the Scottish Challenge Cup is a source of much frustration.

Many argue – convincingly – that Irish clubs’ participation in the Scottish Challenge Cup taking precedence over the last-eight of the FAI Cup is an insult to the country’s premier cup competition.

It is particularly frustrating considering the same scheduling clash occurred last season. Once was perhaps understandable, but for it to happen a second time is hard to fathom.

Ultimately international call-ups to Derry City players last season meant that FAI Cup tie would not proceed on the scheduled date anyway.

Similarly, Ireland U21 call-ups for Danny Mandroiu and Darragh Leahy this time around mean Bohs’ FAI Cup quarter-final against Crumlin United would not have proceeded this weekend either.

But if Irish clubs are to continue in this tournament, the scheduling of the FAI Cup ought to be addressed and given the respect it deserves.

None of those concerns will come into the players’ thinking when they line out tomorrow. It is a chance to play their way into Keith Long’s first-team plans.

McCourt added: “I haven’t played much but when I do play, I like to give my all for the team. It’s a chance to show what we can do. Hopefully I can get in and play as many game as I can.

“We’ve important games coming up in the league and cup between now and the end of the season and you want to play in those.

“Obviously it can be frustrating not playing but the lads who have been there have playing very well. The likes of Keith Buckley and Conor Levingston, they have a good partnership so it’s been hard for me and the likes of Scotty Allardice to get in.

“When we have got in, I think we’ve played well but with such good midfielders it’s a difficult task to stay in the team.

“But the best thing about this group is that everyone pushes each other. In training we’re all on to each other the whole time as we all want the best for the team.

“That’s why we’ve done well so far this season and we want to continue that and push ourselves even further.”[/toggle]

“Each game is a new one and you can’t be thinking about previous meetings”

SSE Airtricity League
Friday August 30 2019, Tallaght Stadium, 8pm

Derek Pender believes the best chance of continuing Bohemians’ recent record against Shamrock Rovers is forgetting it exists in the first place.

Bohs travel to Tallaght Stadium tomorrow looking to continue a remarkable run against their arch-rivals of seven wins and a draw in their last eight meetings.

The last time Rovers claimed the Dublin derby bragging rights was May 2017. But second in the table and unbeaten in 10 domestic games, there is more expectation than ever on Stephen Bradley’s Hoops going into this fixture.

For Bohs skipper ‘Detser’, that is not something he or his team-mates will dwell on. Their number one priority is making sure their own performance is the best it can be.

He said: “We’re looking forward to it. The Dublin derbies are great occasions to play in for both sets of players. It’s a game every player wants to be involved in.


“People go on about the record, but that’s not something we can think about. Each game is a new one and you can’t be thinking about previous meetings.

“Rovers are in great form at the moment, so it would be foolish to think about any previous games against them.

“We know how important these games are important to fans. But we’re under no illusions as to how tough a game it will be.

“Fans have been right behind us in recent years – not just in Rovers games. But in games like that they really get behind you which is hugely important and gives everyone a lift, particularly somewhere like Tallaght.”

While Rovers come into the game in good form, Bohs’ is a bit on the bumpy side.

In recent weeks they have had it all: The release of coming from 2-0 down at 85 minutes to beat Shelbourne 3-2 in the FAI Cup, the elation of notching the club’s record league victory in a 10-1 win against UCD, the humiliation of a 6-1 defeat to Dundalk in the EA Sports Cup and, most recently, the relief of scraping past Longford Town in the FAI Cup on penalties.

It has been a roller-coaster few games. But Pender admits the team’s performances during that period need to be improved upon if they are to get anything out of tomorrow’s game.

Pender, 34, said: “UCD game aside, we haven’t been playing as well as we are capable of. We know we can do better.

“The performance in Dundalk was probably the worst we’ve played in about three years.

“The most important thing was we got over the line against Longford last week. We started afresh this week in training and it’s been a good week.

“Training has been positive and now we want to go out and give a performance we are capable of.”

Pender has for several seasons been deservedly one of the first names on the teamsheet but over the past year, Andy Lyons has started to challenge him for that right-back berth.

Ireland U19 star Lyons has deputised ably when called upon and benefited from Pender’s recent lengthy suspension for the post-match melee away to UCD in July.

Manager Keith Long will have another welcome headache deciding between the two tomorrow.

In a recent preview, Lyons hailed the impact his captain has had on his development. He said: “Detser has been great to me as he has been to all the younger players and squad as a whole. He looks after all the younger players.

“You learn so much from him all the time both on the pitch and off the pitch but because we play the same position, he has taught me so much on top of that.

“He makes you a better player every time you train with him. He’s been marking some of the same players for 8/9/10 years and he will always help me by giving me little snippets of information on them if I’m playing and how to mark them.”

Despite battling for the same spot in the team, the respect Pender has for a player 15 years his junior is mutual.

Pender said: “Andy has been brilliant for us since he broke into the team last year. Because of how good he has been you forget how young he is. He only did his Leaving Cert this year, which he gets a bit of slagging about.

“But it doesn’t matter what age he is. He’s shown he’s good enough and it’s important that we have that competition throughout the team and it pushes us all on.”


Conor Levingston and Keith Ward are both rated 50/50 with groin strains. Ryan Graydon (ankle) also a doubt.

Cristian Magerusan (cruciate) and Dinny Corcoran (ankle) remain unavailable.


Friday August 23 2019, Dalymount Park, 7.45
Match sponsor: Tom Geraghty. Matchball sponsor: Trouble Brewing

A pat on the back is only six inches from a kick up the backside.

Last Friday night, Bohemians fans and players deservedly soaked up the achievement of the club’s greatest league win in 130 seasons of senior football as they beat UCD 10-1 at Dalymount Park.

On Monday night, they came crashing back down to earth as Dundalk swatted them aside with ease in the last four of the EA Sports Cup, winning 6-1, a scoreline which in truth could have been higher.

The contrast in emotions in the three-day turnaround couldn’t have been more extreme and manager Keith Long said: “It was a mixed few days to say the least.


“On Friday the goals came thick and fast. We started the game in fantastic fashion and played with a tempo that UCD didn’t adapt to. In the second half we opened up with good attacking play and quality finishes.

“We asked the boys to contribute in terms of goals and that was pleasing to see. It helped greatly with our goal differential also which could be very important come the end of the season.

“But Monday night was obviously a very different affair. We went to Oriel Park with more than just hope as we have played really well up there on two previous occasions in the league this year but the game was lost in the opening 15 minutes with the concession of three poor goals.

“Uncharacteristic mistakes and some poor organisation saw Dundalk run out comfortable winners. We changed the team as we have consistently done when faced with a quick turnaround from Friday-Monday games. But so did Dundalk. They brought back essentially the starting 11 which has performed in Europe this year and are operating on a different level to what we are used to domestically.

“Dundalk are a good side and took advantage of a poor performance. We are a team that needs preparation between games and are still very young in comparison.

“We all felt embarrassment regarding the result and it was a difficult night when you see the numbers that travelled. In previous Mondays in Oriel the crowd was vocal as we put it up to Dundalk but unfortunately we were unable to do the same and get to a final which the fans deserve.

“There were some positives to take away from the performance. Most notably Ross Tierney’s emergence as a player who will become very influential for the club in the coming years. He’s a young boy who has come through to us from St Kevin’s and our League of Ireland youth teams. He has a fearless attitude we believe he can have a very bright future with us.”

While on the field, it has been a topsy-turvy week, off it has been even more difficult on a personal note for Long.

Irish football lost a popular figure yesterday with the passing of Michael ‘Locker’ Davis, a kitman for several clubs and synonymous for his time working under Pat Devlin – Long’s father-in-law – with Bray Wanderers for the best part of two decades and most recently at Cabinteely.

A minute’s silence will be held at Dalymount Park tonight in his memory.

A testimonial Festival of Football in his honour was to be held this Sunday at Strabrook. That will go ahead as planned with all the proceeds going to Locker’s family.

Long hopes Bohs fans from that neck of the woods will consider attending and said: “It’s been a very sad time for anyone who knew Locker. He was a really good guy. I am devastated for his family, his children, his grandchildren.

“He has been a family friend for many years, my wife has known him her entire life. It’s tough at the moment as he was one of the game’s great characters.

“Our game in this country survive through people like him who are in it because they love the game and not self interest.

“There was a devious side to him too, he was always a messer and trying to see whose buttons he could push – and whose he couldn’t!

“I hope there is a good turnout for his game on Sunday, which would be a fitting send-off.”

On the field tonight, Bohs host a Longford Town team whose preparations have been dominated with speculation linking manager Neale Fenn to the managerial vacancy at Cork City where he was a popular figure as a player during a three-year spell in the mid-noughties before joining Bohemians.

None of that speculation will affect Bohs’ preparations. Having survived a scare against First Division Shelbourne in the previous round, Long’s team are fully aware they need to be right at it to progress through to the quarter-finals.

Long added: “Longford are an expansive side with some good technical players, who have been encouraged by manager Neale Fenn to get on the ball and express themselves.

“Longford will be well organised and difficult opponents. We will have to be at our very best to progress to the next round. We want to bounce back from Monday’s disappointment.”


James Talbot returns from suspension. James Finnerty (calf) is also available once more.

Danny Grant (hamstring) is Bohs’ biggest doubt, while Rob Cornwall who returned on Friday from a three-month lay-off with an Achilles injury, may not be risked tonight as he is eased back to fitness.

Darragh Leahy (glute), Luke Wade-Slater (hamstring) and Andy Lyons (hamstring) weren’t risked on Monday but should be okay to play tonight.

Cristian Magerusan (cruciate) and Dinny Corcoran (ankle) are unavailable.

“This group of players want to get to a final. Everyone at the club does.”

Dundalk v Bohemians
Monday August 19 2019, Oriel Park, 7.45pm

Bohemians boss Keith Long believes a strong vocal travelling support at Oriel Park tonight can help the club reach its first major final in nine years.

The Gypsies come into the game flying high after Friday night’s remarkable 10-1 win over UCD at Dalymount Park where goals from Andre Wright (4), Danny Mandroiu (3), Conor Levingston, Danny Grant and Ross Tierney left all in attendance stunned.

The result was the club’s record league win in its 129-year history and was the first time a club has scored 10 in a League of Ireland game since Cork Hibernians beat Transport by the same scoreline 59 years ago.

More importantly the win, coupled with Derry City losing at home to Shamrock Rovers, saw Bohs leapfrog the Candystripes and back into third position in the league.

Long said: “It was a great night for the players and fans. We moved back up into the European places and we improved our goal difference in doing so, which is important.


“We started the game really well and played some really good stuff. The boys didn’t take the foot off the gas in the second half. They were hungry for goals.

“It was great for Andre to get his first goals for the club, which was important for him. Now that he’s off the mark in the league that will help him going into future games.”

It exorcised the demons too of when Bohs and UCD last met when the Students claimed a 1-0 win at Belfield in July.

Long asked questions of his side that night and again in the 1-0 defeat away to the UCD’s survival rivals Finn Harps at the beginning of the month.

The character shown in the nature of the 3-2 comeback win over Shelbourne in the FAI Cup 10 days ago coupled with Friday’s performance suggests a determination within the squad to answer those questions.

But it will be an altogether different challenge posed tonight against the champions and runaway league leaders.

Vinny Perth’s side bowed out of the Europa League last week with a disappointing 4-1 aggregate defeat against Slovan Bratislava.

Domestically, however, they are showing no signs of a let-up in their dominance and Bohs don’t need any reminding of just how ruthless they Lilywhites can be.

The Gypsies have twice gone up to Oriel Park on Monday nights this season and have matched the Lilywhites on their own patch for 90 minutes only to come home empty-handed after conceding injury-time penalties on both occasions.

For it to happen once was hard to take, for it to happen a second time was gut-wrenching for players, management and travelling support alike, who will all be hoping it is a case of third time lucky tonight.

Long said: “We played extremely well in both games and to lose them was hard to take. Tonight the most important thing is to get the result. The result is more important than the performance.”

Getting that result will be easier said than done but Bohs won’t be lacking in determination in their efforts to do so.

They came agonisingly close to getting to the final of the FAI Cup last season – they were 1-0 up their semi-final against Cork City in the 87 minutes until a controversial penalty decision forced a replay in Turner’s Cross, which they lost.

That heartbreak has reinforced the determination within the dressing room to go one better in the EA Sports Cup where Derry City await the winners of tonight’s game.

If they do, it would be the club’s first major cup final since winning the Setanta Cup in 2010.

Long said: “This group of players want to get to a final. Everyone at the club does.

“There is a hope and expectation there which brings its own pressures but we will go up there giving everything we’ve got to get us to a final.”

Despite the date for this game only being confirmed last Wednesday on account of Dundalk’s involvement in Europe, a large travelling support is expected.

Long said: “The supporters have got behind us up there this season as they have everywhere we’ve gone this season.

“I know the club has supplemented buses for this one. It’s good to be able to give the supporters back something for the support they’ve shown throughout this season, so hopefully we’ll have a big support up there behind us. That can be important if a game is in the balance.”


Goalkeeper James Talbot is suspended due to accrued yellow cards. He is likely to be replaced by Michael Kelly, who was signed at the end of last month.

The 23-year-old most recently played a first-choice goalkeeper for Longford Town last season having previously been on the books at Cabinteely and Shamrock Rovers.

Earlier this year he was training with QPR.

While Talbot misses out through suspension, club captain Derek Pender returns from his.

Rob Cornwall played his first game since April on Friday as he continues his recovery from an Achilles injury. He might not be risked again tonight.

James Finnerty, with whom Cornwall formed a formidable partnership at the heart of the Bohs defence in the early stages of the season, misses out once more with a calf injury.

Long-term absentees Dinny Corcoran (ankle) and Cristian Magerusan (cruciate) remain out.

“Everyone was buzzing last week and we need to bring that confidence into tonight’s game”

SSE Airtricity League
Friday August 16 2019, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm

On and off the field, you get the feeling that Andy Lyons is a young man with the world at his feet.

Off the field, like 56,000 students across the country, the self-assured 19-year-old received his Leaving Cert results last week and yesterday, before training in the evening, he sat down to digest his first CAO offer and consider the next steps.

On the field, it has been such a whirlwind few months for the young full-back that it is hard to fathom how he combined his Leaving Cert studies at Blackrock College.

But just like how he took to being thrust into the demands and spotlight of first-team football, not a lot seems to faze him on that front either.

He said: “It was great to get it over and done with and I’m very happy with how I’ve done.


“I haven’t quite decided what course I want to do yet but I’m looking at courses in business, sport and communications and I’ll have a good think over the next while.”

He will put those considerations to one side once more tonight when he is likely to line out at right-back again when Bohemians host UCD at Dalymount Park.

Lyons, who came through the Bohs system and U17 and U19 level, broke into the first team last season, making four starts and one substitute appearance in the league having initially been tested in the Leinster and EA Sports cup competitions.

But he has come on even further this year. He has been involved in nine league games of which he has started eight and played the full 90 minutes.

And after his Leaving Cert, there was the small matter of starring for his country as Tom Mohan’s Ireland reached the semi-finals of the European U19 Championships.

His performances in Armenia didn’t go unnoticed, with Bohs manager Keith Long acknowledging: “Andy had a great tournament and the feedback from Tom has been top notch. He has coped well with any challenges he’s come up against so far.”

Lyons, who joined Bohs from Long’s former club St Joseph’s Boys, is grounded and appreciates the role his manager and backroom team have played in getting him to that point.

And having captained Craig Sexton’s Bohs U19s to league and cup glory last season, he is now hungry to progress even further in the first team now too.

He said: “I’m really grateful to Keith and Trevor for trusting in me and giving me the opportunity to play first-team football. It’s been an unbelievable year for me.

“Playing the league had me in good stead going to the Euros. We were playing against the best players in the world at that age group, players at some of the biggest clubs and leagues in the world but first-team football prepared me well.

“I was pleased with how we fared and how I did myself personally too. We were unlucky to be playing a really good Portugal team in the semi-finals. Losing that game was disappointing. On another day we might have done better but overall the tournament was an amazing experience.”

Lyons’ most recent game-time has seen him make the most of the opportunity afforded him in the absence of suspended skipper Derek Pender.

‘Detser’ sits out again tonight as he completes a four-match ban for the part he played in post-match scenes when Bohs faced – and lost to – tonight’s opposition in Belfield last month.

Those unnecessary scenes were instigated by the provocations of UCD goalkeeper Conor Kearns, who also remains suspended for tonight’s game as a result of his idiocy.

Lyons said: “I was away at the time at the Euros so I didn’t see the whole incident but I know there was a bit of handbags at the end.

“Detser is a hugely important person to the team and at the club so it’s never going to be easy for me to stay in the team but when I get an opportunity to play I want to make the most of it.”

While Lyons is bidding to do enough tonight to keep Pender out of the team on his return from suspension, he is quick to point out the huge influence his captain has had on his development as a player.

He said: “Detser has been great to me as he has been to all the younger players and squad as a whole. He looks after all the younger players.

“You learn so much from him all the time both on the pitch and off the pitch but because we play the same position, he has taught me so much on top of that.

“He makes you a better player every time you train with him. He’s been marking some of the same players for 8/9/10 years and he will always help me by giving me little snippets of information on them if I’m playing and how to mark them.”

Having come unstuck when the sides last met and having lost to Finn Harps in their last league outing, Bohs know there will be no room for error if they are to regain the third place position they ceded to Derry City with that defeat in Ballybofey.

Lyons said: “We’re under no illusions going into any game that we have to be at it. We lost to them out in the Bowl and even when they came to Dalymount the last time they gave us a really good game in the first half.

“They’ve already beaten us so will feel confident again so we have to be at our very best.”

But Bohs are confident too. Poor defensive lapses saw them 2-0 down in last week’s Extra.ie FAI Cup tie against Shelbourne but the manner of their six-minute turnaround to win the tie has their tails up.

Captain on the night Keith Buckley led by example and his goal sparked the comeback on 85 minutes, while some magic from Danny Mandroiu saw him equalise three minutes later before sealing the deal injury time.

Lyons added: “We shouldn’t have been 2-0 down in the first place so that was disappointing from a defensive point of view. But the most important thing was we showed our character as a team to dig deep and turn the game around.

“Even at 2-0 down, we believed we could get back into it and at least bring the game to extra time… but to win it in normal time was special.

“I think fans are getting used to seeing a bit of magic from Danny but Bucko’s goal was excellent too. Obviously the fans, everyone at the club and in the team were buzzing all week and we need to bring that confidence into the UCD game now.”


Skipper Derek Pender serves the final game of his four-match ban for the part he played in a post-match flare-up the last time these sides met.

Rob Cornwall (Achilles), Ryan Swan (hamstring) and Kevin Devaney (hip) are all available for selection once more, but James Finnerty (calf) is a doubt.

Long-term absentees Dinny Corcoran (ankle) and Cristian Magerusan (cruciate) remain out.

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