PREVIEW: Bohemians v Shelbourne

Sports Direct FAI Cup First Round
Friday July 21 2023, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm
Tickets: tickets.bohemians.ie

Bohemians manager Declan Devine has demanded a performance ‘full of energy, heart and soul’ when his side host Shelbourne in the FAI Cup at Dalymount Park.

He says Bohs need to improve on last week’s performance against the same opposition – his side drew 1-1 in the league at Tolka Park.

Devine’s men go into the tie boosted by the addition of winger Danny Grant to the matchday squad for the first time since he rejoined the club last week from Huddersfield Town.

Devine said: “We are looking for a performance – a performance full of energy, heart and soul.

“We want our players to really come to the party as it is all about winning this game. Nothing else is important.

“We have got to make sure – by hook or by crook – that we are in that draw for the next round.

“There will be a lot of clubs going out this weekend and we have got to make sure that we are not one of them.”

Johnny Afolabi netted his fourth goal in four games against Shels last week as Bohs battled back to earn a point in Drumcondra but Devine was disappointed with his side’s performance.

He said: “We have to be better than we were last week. We were disappointed with ourselves. We have to be harder to play against. We have to be tighter together in transition offensively and defensively.

“But there is no team in the country who have gone to Tolka this year and had it easy. They are very good in Tolka, they are very hard to play against.

“They have players who can hurt us and we know that. But we also have players who can hurt them.

“We have been very good here in Dalymount but we have to stop giving ourselves mountains to climb, that is something we have to fix.”

The return of Grant to Dalymount was greeted with delight from Bohs fans, and Devine says he has been impressed with what he has seen from the 23-year-old in training so far.

He hopes to see more of Ali Coote and James Akintunde too – the duo have had limited game-time recently due to persistent niggles but are now back in contention to start.

Devine said: “Danny is added to the squad and will be involved at some stage, which gives a huge lift.

“He is looking great. I am sure he is itching to get back playing again – he has been a massive addition in training.

“But even before Danny comes into the squad, we have incredible attacking options. We have some of the best attackers in the country. The competition for the front three of four positions is exceptional.

“Ali came on last week, and has trained well again this week. James has trained well the last week to 10 days too.

“We need to tighten up at the back, and try to get another body or two in, but our attacking options, even just watching them today in training, really really excite me.”

Efforts to improve defensively were bolstered by the arrival of Bartlomiej Kukulowicz – the right-back made his debut as a second-half substitute in Tolka last week.

His introduction saw captain Keith Buckley move back to his natural position in midfield and with him pulling the strings in the centre of the park, coupled with the introduction of the lively duo of Coote and James Clarke, sparked Bohs back into life.

Devine added: “Bartlomiej has come in and did very well in the 15 minutes. Bucko has experience of playing there and with new players coming in during this window, sometimes it takes time for them to get up to speed because they haven’t played.

“Bucko knows the right-back role, he has been outstanding any time he has played there this year. Yes, him playing there is a loss in the middle of the park but we have other quality midfielders also.

“We just have to make sure that players we bring in at this time are safe, and look at the bigger picture that there is a lot of football to be played between now and the end of the season.”

TEAM NEWS

Luke Dennison (hand) and Dean Williams (ankle) remain out.

Danny Grant is set to be named in the matchday squad for the first time since his return to the club.

Preview: Shelbourne v Bohemians

SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Friday July 14 2023, Tolka Park, 7.45pm

Declan Devine says last week’s comeback victory over Dundalk gave everyone at Bohemians a huge lift.

But he expects another tough game in tonight’s sold-out Dublin derby away to Shelbourne, who he says are one of the hardest teams in the league to break down.

Bohs have the opportunity to break back into the top four this evening, and have been bolstered by the signing of Polish right-back Bartlomiej Kukulowicz last week and the return of a fans’ favourite, winger Danny Grant, who joined yesterday.

Devine was frustrated that they again gave themselves a mountain to climb against the Lilywhites – James McManus had given Bohs the lead on 15 minutes but they found themselves 2-1 down 20 minutes later.

But he was delighted with his players’ resolve as they never gave up in the second half, and finally got their rewards with goals in the 81st minute from substitute John O’Sullivan and in the 84th minute from Johnny Afolabi.

He was particularly pleased for O’Sullivan, whose first year at the club has been disrupted by injury, meaning he has had to bide his time for opportunities to show what he is capable of.

Devine said: “I am delighted for John. John has had a difficult first year with the club with his injury. But he puts himself about on the training pitch everyday, and he got his reward last week.

“It was really pleasing for him, and it was really pleasing for the group too as he is a popular guy within the group.

“If you back at the goal, his movement and his ability to see things happen showed a lot of ability and experience.

“He is a good fella and hopefully now that can be the catalyst for John to push on and have a really strong end of the season.”

Already buzzing from O’Sullivan’s equaliser, Dalymount erupted when Afolabi coolly slotted home the winner after a fine through-ball from substitute James Clarke.

Devine said: “I was worried because he had just picked up a yellow card before the goal and with the emotion of him scoring, I was thinking ‘please, please, please do not take that top off!’ It would have been a long ten minutes with ten men!

“Johnny has been carrying a niggle for six or seven weeks and it has only recently cleared up. Now we are seeing the best of him.

“There is nobody in the league who has had the physical competition that that man has had. But he just gets up and gets on with it, and now he is bringing goals to his game, and defenders are afraid of him.”

As delighted as he was with his team’s resolve to fight back, Devine says they need to stop giving themselves mountains to climb.

He added: “We have a really difficult game. Shelbourne are undoubtedly one of the hardest teams in the league to break down.

“But we are confident in ourselves and in our ability. We have looked at where we can hurt Shels but we have got to learn from previous games in terms of game management.

“We have got to understand that we cannot give teams head starts or ways back into games, that is something we have talked about all week.

“Our application this week and the lift last week’s result and performance has given us is huge. We learnt a lot about ourselves last week, and our ability to drive and come from behind. But individual errors have got to stop.

“We will bring a huge crowd over to Tolka Park. We want to make sure we send those people home happy.

“It’s going to be a physical game and a tactical game, but it is one we have prepared well for.

“This team cares and works hard. This team leaves everything out on the pitch. Yes we make errors and individual mistakes but as a group we keep working, keep driving on and finish games strongly.

“We have a lot of talent for a team that has only been assembled for such a short period of time.

“There is a real unity in our group and I think you can see that in our performances. No matter what happens in games, we are brave, and aggressive in our play. This team has character in abundance.

“But we know we can’t keep giving ourselves mountains to climb because eventually the mountain will be too high.”

TEAM NEWS

Ali Coote (hamstring) and James Akintunde (quad) are back in contention.

Kris Twardek (thigh) is a doubt, while Luke Dennison (hand) and Dean Williams (ankle) remain out.

Preview: Bohemians v Dundalk

SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Friday July 7 2023, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm
Tickets: tickets.bohemians.ie

Bohemians manager Declan Devine has challenged his side to get back to the level of performance they showed they are capable of earlier this season.

Bohs suffered their heaviest defeat of the season when they were beaten 3-1 by Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds last Friday.

It was a particularly frustrating result given Bohs have shown they are well capable of beating the Bit O’Red – winning 1-0 at the Showgrounds in April and 2-0 at Dalymount at the beginning of last month.

So Bohs come into tomorrow’s game against Dundalk in patchy form, but boosted by the signing of Bartlomiej Kukulowicz, who Devine describes as an ‘out-and-out right-back’ and who ‘ticks a lot of boxes for us in the way we want to play’.

Devine said: “We have dropped a lot of points over the last eight or nine games. There have been a lot of tough games but we certainly should have had a better points return. We have spoken about that.

“Friday night in Sligo was our worst performance of the season, there is no doubt about that.

“We didn’t get to grips with the game, we didn’t start the way we wanted to start. To find ourselves 2-0 down at half-time, we gave ourselves a mountain to climb.

“Sligo outworked us, outfought us and outplayed us. That is something we cannot let happen again. I think it’s the first time this season that we were second best in all three of those strands.

“There have been times where we have been outplayed but where we have outfought the opposition but that didn’t happen in Sligo.

“We were seriously lacking. Everyone is hurting. We know there is more in us. I still believe there is a lot in this group of players.

“We have a very tight group and we have spoken about the points left behind us. We are confident we can get back to the level of performances we are capable of.”

Bohs have four points from their two games against Dundalk this season – a 2-1 victory in Dalymount in February and a 2-2 draw in Oriel Park in May when Devine’s side battled back from 2-0 down.

The Lilywhites come into this game in fourth place, four points and one place ahead of Bohs, although Stephen O’Donnell’s side have played two games more.

Devine said: “The top teams are not too far ahead of us. We have games in hand but that means nothing as you still have to win those games.

“The four teams above us will be heading into Europe very shortly, which shows how important this game is. We want to be closer to the top teams when they are playing in Europe than we are now.

“We want a proper response now. We have played some good stuff at home and we want to get back to that. We want to put in a performance in front of our fans, and we want everyone to rally together and push on.”

Although frustrated with the manner of the defeat last week, Devine revealed his options were limited due to injuries of some of his key men.

He said: “We are carrying a lot of niggles and knocks at the moment. We didn’t have enough players to fill the bench properly. Ali Coote couldn’t come on, James Akintunde couldn’t come on and Keith Buckley was carrying a knock that we weren’t willing to take a risk with.

“With so many niggles in the group, we have to be very careful as we don’t want a situation where because we have taken a risk a player ends up being out for six, seven weeks like Dean Williams is and like Luke Dennison is now. We can’t afford any more.”

Those concerns forced Devine’s hand when it came to Monday’s Leinster Senior Cup semi-final away to Shelbourne at Tolka Park, and he opted to hand the reins to U19 manager Trevor Croly.

Captain for the night, James McManus, and Cian Byrne, in his first game back after being recalled from his loan spell at Longford Town, were the only players with significant senior football experience yet Croly’s side came out on top of a Shelbourne side that featured several first-team regulars.

In an entertaining end-to-end tie, Bohs twice sacrificed a two-goal cushion but came out 4-3 winners thanks to goals from Adetobi Jinadu, Jack O’Reilly, Taylor Mooney and Peter Grogan to progress to the final against Usher Celtic.

Devine added: “It was a brilliant game and a brilliant atmosphere. We had originally planned to have five or six first-team players in the team but with the injuries and niggles we have, and the manner of the defeat in Sligo, we felt that we needed a full week’s training schedule.

“We got in touch with Trevor Croly immediately after our game on Friday night to tell him that. Each and every one of his players who took to that pitch on Monday night should be so proud and their families should be so proud.

“They were up against a very difficult opponent – Shels’ U19s are very strong and they had five or six senior players with a wealth of experience.

“So for them to go toe-to-toe with them and perform in such a pressurised situation was a credit to themselves but also a testimony to Trevor Croly, the coaching staff and all who have coached them in the academy.

“Nobody wants to lose a semi-final, it doesn’t matter if it is your senior team or your U19 team, so to come away from Tolka with a win is huge for them.

“To be pegged back to 3-3 and to then have the bravery and quality to go up again and get that fourth goal was very pleasing.

“All of the first team and coaching staff were in the main stand and I think we cheered even more than the fans because we were just delighted for them – the sheer enjoyment of it – and we knew how much it meant to them.

“After the game, for the first team to go into the dressing room to congratulate the U19s, and get behind them and support them, was special. It was a lovely unity, and we look forward to the final now, which we hope is in Dalymount.”

TEAM NEWS

Ali Coote (hamstring), Luke Dennison (hand) and Dean Williams (ankle) are out. James Akintunde (quad) and Keith Buckley (calf) are doubts.

It is hoped that new signing Bartlomiej Kukulowicz will join the matchday squad, while Cian Byrne is set to be included having been recalled from his loan spell with Longford Town.

Grant Horton and Drew Baker’s loan spells at the club have come to an end.

PREVIEW: SLIGO ROVERS v BOHEMIANS

Sligo Rovers v Bohemians
SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Friday June 30, The Showgrounds, 7.45pm

Bohemians’ Dublin derby comeback showed character and resilience but now Declan Devine wants his side to learn from their mistakes and remain fully concentrated for 90 minutes against Sligo Rovers tomorrow.

A crazy ten-minute start to the second half against Shamrock Rovers last week saw Bohs 2-0 down and with a mountain to climb.

But Bohs didn’t give up. They dusted themselves down and stormed back to claim a point thanks to goals from Johnny Afolabi and James Clarke.

Devine said: “We need to learn that if we go a goal behind we certainly can’t go a second goal behind so we have to learn from that.

“We didn’t start the second half well which is uncharacteristic of us as that has been one of our strong points.

“I was very disappointed that we gave ourselves a mountain to climb but I am absolutely over the moon with how we responded. We suffered two huge setbacks but we went out and got a point, and probably should have won it.

“To go two goals down and then get a point against a quality side who really don’t throw away two-goal leads shows the character of this team.

“For us as a group, for our supporters, and for the whole club, it was such an important game for us not to lose.

“I was very pleased with how we turned the game around – our subs were outstanding. It was a high level performance, apart from 10 minutes where we showed a lack of concentration, which is something we need to address.

“The place was absolutely rocking – our fans on both sides, in the Jodi Stand and the Des Kelly Stand, really drove us on to get something out of the game and that is something we want to build on when we are playing at home.

“We have come from behind now on two difficult occasions, away to Dundalk and at home to Shamrock Rovers. That shows that no matter what is thrown at us that we have the character to pull ourselves back.

“We showed we have firepower throughout the team too – I was delighted for Afolabi getting such an important goal for us and James Clarke again showed the quality he has.”

Bohs have beaten the Bit O’Red twice already this season – a 1-0 win at the Showgrounds in April, and an impressive 2-0 win at Dalymount Park at the start of this month.

But Devine warned that both of those victories were hard-earned, and that he expected Sligo to come out fighting after their surprise defeat to UCD last week.

Devine added: “We have prepared all week for a very difficult game. I have been going to Sligo for 20 years and have never had an easy game there.

“Derry went there a couple of weeks ago and lost 1-0, so we have to understand that it is a difficult venue against a team that is going to be hurting on the back of last week, playing in front of their own fans who will be demanding a response.

“Sligo have a lot of talented players, so we are under no illusions that it will be a tough game. Our mindset has been good all week and we know we have to get back to winning ways.

“We have got to take care of ourselves. The two games we have played against them have been tough games. We have had to work extremely hard to win those games and that’s the level we need to be at again.

“We are going to have to expend a lot of energy and aggression, and be forceful in attack. We have a lot of talented players, so we have to look at our strengths and go there and be demanding of ourselves.”

TEAM NEWS

Dean Williams (ankle) and Luke Dennison (hand) are ruled out.

Preview: Bohemians v Shamrock Rovers

SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Friday June 23 2023, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm
Live on RTÉ2

Declan Devine has challenged Bohemians to be greedy when they host Shamrock Rovers at Dalymount Park in the third meeting between the sides this season.

Devine’s men were on the wrong side of defeats in both those games and that is something he and his players want to put right against the league leaders this time around.

The international break afforded his players some time off but they have knuckled down since returning last weekend and are relishing the prospect of the Dublin derby.

Devine said: “The players have put a lot in since they first came in on the 28th of December, so it was a welcome break for them on the back of leaving the Brandywell with a positive point and a positive performance. It was a good time to give them a good five days off.

“Everyone has been back in and at it since last weekend. They are fresh and really focused.

“We have had a good conversation about where we want to get to between now and the end of the season.

“As a group we are very open with one another about what we want to achieve. We want to push on from where we are. The players have really taken to how we want to go about our jobs.

“In the first half of the season, we left some points behind us but we have to push on from that.

“We are sitting in a decent position. All the teams around us have all played a game more than us. So we have to understand that we are a game behind, and we have to stay in touching distance with all those clubs who are in Europe.

“Our players are relishing that challenge. We have to take care of our own business, that’s the bottom line.

“Any player at a club the size of Bohemians should be looking at those European draws this week and making sure that we are in the hat next season and for the foreseeable future.

“That has to be the goal for the club. That’s certainly what I want to achieve now. We have to aim for that at the very least.

“We have to give everything in every game now and see where that takes us. We have to clock up as many points as we possibly can. We want to be greedy now. We want more and we have to get more.

“We want to push this group as hard as we can and push each other as hard as we can.”

They will need to push each other to the very limit to beat the defending champions but Devine says his side are set up to win.

He said: “Rovers is always a huge game. Rovers are the only team in the country we haven’t taken points from so far. That is something we want to rectify.

“The two performances against Rovers so far – first half in Dalymount we were outstanding, second half not so good, but the performance in Tallaght was at a very high level and we really should have got something out of that game.

“But all of that is in the past and we have to go about our jobs in a professional way, get something from the game and try and win the match. We will be setting up to do that.

“Some of our performances this season have been at a very high level. We went to Tallaght and took them on, but ultimately we came away with nothing.

“That’s something that we have to rectify. It’s the second half of the season now and we have to accumulate as many points as we possibly can.

“No matter who comes to Dalymount, we want to set up in a manner that we will be the team in the ascendency. We want to put on a performance for our own fans.

“It being Rovers adds an extra spice to it but in terms of our mindset, we just want to go and win every game and send our fans home happy.”

Bohs come into this game on the back of a behind-closed-game friendly at Dalymount Park with TNS on Monday, which finished 4-4.

Highly-rated U19 prospect Nickson Okosun helped himself to a hat-trick, while Drew Baker scored Bohs’ other goal.

Devine added: “TNS are in Europe so they are at a decent level. We played mostly our U19s and U17s in the second half so it was a good test for them too, it was a really good workout.

“We got the players who haven’t had a lot of minutes up to speed. Nickson came in and scored a hat-trick – he is a talented young lad who is on the periphery of the squad and he will be in the squad against Rovers. Hopefully he can have an influence over the course of the season.”

TEAM NEWS

Dean Williams (ankle) remains out while Jay Benn’s loan has ended and he has returned to Lincoln City.

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