“WE’LL BE HOPING FOR A REACTION”

Limerick FC v Bohemians
SSE Airtricity League, Markets Field, Saturday 8 August, 6.30pm

Bohemians go south again, aiming to wipe the memory of last week’s defeat in Cork. Having gone down 4-0 to title-chasers Cork City, Bohemians face bottom-of-the-table Limerick, fresh from their first win of the season.

Manager Keith Long was deeply disappointed with Bohemians’ display in Turner’s Cross, describing it as “our worst performance this season”.

“We had a discussion among ourselves and some home truths were told, and we’ll be hoping for a reaction on Saturday,” Long said.

“We let ourselves down last Friday. When you don’t turn up and you don’t play your normal game, you’re going to be punished. We carried too many players, we didn’t play with tempo and intensity, and it was unlike us.

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“It confirmed what we knew already: individually and collectively, we have to be right on top of our game to get results.”

With a depleted squad going to Cork, Long put Jake Kelly into the line-up just over 24 hours after the 25-year-old forward completed his signing from Dundalk.

The manager knew what he could expect of his recruit, having worked with him at Bray, and entrusted him with corners and free-kicks despite Kelly not having trained with the squad.

One of Kelly’s efforts on goal, early in the second half, hit the cross-bar. “If that had gone in, the dynamic of the game changes, and we are back in it. But overall we have no complaints. We got what we deserved from the game, which was nothing,” said Long.

“Jake’s got good quality and he’ll benefit from those 80 minutes. He hasn’t played from the start too often this season. When he integrates with the group fully and gets up to match fitness, you’ll see what he can contribute.”

Twenty-eight points behind Bohemians in the league table, Limerick will battle for anything they can get from the game. “Martin [Russell] has made changes and brought in new faces and, with the win over Sligo, the mood in their camp has got to be good. We’re wary of the threat that Limerick pose,” said Long.

Bohemians began the present campaign in March with a 3-0 win at Limerick’s temporary home, Jackman Park, but two months later needed a late goal from Jason Byrne to clinch a 2-1 win over Limerick at Dalymount.

For Saturday, Anto Murphy and Paddy Kavanagh make a “welcome” return to the squad following suspension. Lorcan Fitzgerald’s recovery from hamstring injury has been slower than anticipated and he is likely to miss this game. Derek Pender, Dan Byrne and Marc Griffin are out for the longer term.

“WE HAVE TO TEST OURSELVES”

CORK CITY v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League, Turner’s Cross, Friday 31 July, 8pm

Bohemians face a “tough challenge” in Cork following two home victories in the league. The record of recent games between the two sides is strongly in Bohemians’ favour but manager Keith Long insists the form is reset when each game is started.

He regards Cork City as serious contenders for the league title, especially following a 1-1 draw last weekend against leaders Dundalk. “In my view Cork marginally shaded that game,” Long said.

“They have good players, experienced players, international players.They are a top side and it’s a tough challenge, but we have to go down there and test ourselves against them. If we’re organised and disciplined we have a chance of picking up points.”

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Despite the flurry of first-half goals and eventual 4-2 victory over Derry last weekend, Long expects more of his players.

“It was a chance to put a team to the sword, which we haven’t done. Derry were frail at the back and we exposed them ruthlessly in a 10-minute spell, but we went out of the game for long periods.

“It was a chance to improve our goal difference and we didn’t capitalise on that. But ultimately we are judged on the three points. It was a win and we can’t be too disappointed.”

Long was pleased with the success, yet again, of a Bohemians set-piece, which led to the first goal, and with how his team dealt with the loss of Ismahil Akinade at the end of the first half and later playing for 12 minutes with ten men, while Paddy Kavanagh was being treated for a facial injury.

For Friday Bohemians must prepare without Anto Murphy and Kavanagh, both suspended. Murphy completes his two-game ban for a red card, and Kavanagh misses one game for accumulated yellow cards.

Lorcan Fitzgerald (hamstring), is rated a 50/50 chance to be available. So too is Akinade (shoulder), who took a heavy fall in last week’s defeat of Derry City. Dan Byrne and Marc Griffin are out with long-term injuries.

“Winning is a good habit”

BOHEMIANS v DERRY CITY
SSE Airtricity League, Dalymount Park, Friday 24 July,7.45pm

In their second successive home game Bohemians are aiming to confirm the form shown last week. A ten-man win over Sligo Rovers, with a clean sheet, was a welcome response to losses against other teams below Bohemians in the league table.

Manager Keith Long was very pleased with the grit his team showed as they weathered a Sligo storm in the latter part of the game.

“Winning is a good habit and, equally so, losing can become a bad habit. So, it was important that we didn’t let the rot set in last week. It was a good three points, and we hope we can back it up against Derry,” said Long.

“The players really dug in and put their bodies on the line. It was our first clean sheet in seven competitive games and a return to the defensive performances that served us so well earlier in the season.” (Bohemians started the season with eight clean sheets in eight competitive games.)

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In a strong team display last Friday Roberto Lopes put in yet another exemplary performance. Just turned 23 last month, he has had leadership responsibilities thrust upon him through captain Derek Pender’s absence.

“At the start of the year I named him vice-captain because he epitomises everything that is good about Bohemian Football Club. He’s come up through the under-19s, he’s honest, he works really hard, and is an example to everyone,” said Long.

“He goes about his business in a quiet manner, he doesn’t look for plaudits. He’s a big influence in the dressing-room, maybe more in actions than in words.”

Lopes may have to play a more defensive role again on Friday, as Bohemians plan without Anto Murphy, who serves an automatic suspension for his red card last week. Fellow-defender Lorcan Fitzgerald returns from suspension but is rated a “50/50 chance” to start, with a hamstring injury.

With defenders Pender and Dan Byrne on the long-term injury list, Bohemians are especially pleased to welcome back Eoin Wearen, a midfielder who can also cover in defence.

Wearen transferred to the north-west with former Sligo manager Owen Heary but has not featured in Rovers’ most recent games. He returns to his native area of Dublin and, if the paperwork can be completed in time, could be pressed into action on Friday.

“He’s a very welcome addition, and we hope we can the best out of him. He’s got a lot of quality and he’s a good fit for Bohemians,” said Long.

Marc Griffin’s cruciate injury and Dean Kelly’s departure leave Bohemians short in the striker department but manager Long, working with a very modest player budget, continues to look for possible signings in the remaining week of the transfer window.

“LET’S GET BACK TO BASIC”

BOHEMIANS v SLIGO ROVERS
SSE Airtricity League, Dalymount Park, Friday 17th July, k-o 8.05pm

Bohemians boss Keith Long is looking for his side to get “back to basics” after a disjointed few weeks which have seen the Gypsies play just two competitive games in the last 34 days.

Bohs face Sligo Rovers this Friday night in front of the Setanta Sports cameras, looking to bounce back from consecutive league defeats against Drogheda United and Longford Town.

“It’s been a bit disjointed in the last few weeks, but it gives us a chance to re-focus and get back to the basics and back to what we did well earlier in the season,” said Long.

“We’ve trained particularly well this week and last week, and hopefully you’ll see that in the performance tomorrow night against Sligo. As disappointing as the defeats were, we can’t dwell on them. We need to look forward, and that’s what we’ve done over the last 13 days.”

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While Sligo Rovers have been going through a rough patch, Long still expects a tough game from the Bit O’Red, now managed by former Bohs man Joseph Ndo.

“They’re in a state of flux at the moment, but they’re a full-time team and they have lots of good players. If we’re not on our guard, it could be a difficult night for us,” said Long.

“Joey was one of the great technicians of the League of Ireland, and I have no doubt that he’ll try and play a brand of football that he’s accustomed to.”

At the beginning of the season, many pundits would not have been surprised if the current league positions (5th & 10th) of the two teams was reversed. But the Bohs manager welcomes the new-found expectations that his side’s form has heralded.

“That expectation is there now, and we’ve got to handle that and embrace it. We recognise that the players have done a decent job so far, but we can’t take our foot off the pedal in any way,” said Long.

“The League table doesn’t lie at this stage of the season, we want to kick on, get as many points as we can, and try and finish as high up the table as we can.”

The Gypsies have collected more points on their travels than at Dalymount Park this season, and Long is looking for his side to take the game to the opposition when on home turf.

“It’s a home game. The onus is on us, irrespective of who we’re playing. We’re expected to win, and we want the players to embrace that challenge.”

Bohs will be without the suspended Lorcan Fitzgerald, while Jake Hyland is almost certain to miss out with a groin injury.

Jason Byrne and Dylan Hayes are back in contention after run outs in a friendly against Everton Under 21s on Wednesday. Derek Pender (achilles), Marc Griffin (cruciate) and Dan Byrne (knee) remain on the longer-term injury list.

“LAST WEEK WAS A BLIP”

LONGFORD TOWN v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League, City Calling Stadium, Saturday 4th July, 7.30pm

Bohemians boss Keith Long is hoping his side can ‘regroup, re-energise, and get a result’ as they travel to the Midlands to face Longford Town this Saturday. The Gypsies suffered a disappointing home defeat to Drogheda United last time out, and the manager is hopeful they can bounce back quickly.

“It was a disappointing result – we were at home, and we’re expected to win. But hopefully we can bounce back with a result and performance against Longford. Last week was a blip and we need to get back to basics and do the things that have served us well in the games to date.

“Games against Drogheda and Longford are extremely important for us. We need to keep going and keep the pressure on the teams above us – and the only way we can do that is by winning football matches.”

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Tony Cousins’ side should pose a significant test for Long’s men, who ran out 2-0 winners when the teams met at Dalymount Park in April. “Going to Longford is not going to be easy. They’ve come up from the First Division with a very experienced squad of players,” said Long. “They’ve done extremely well so far this season, but they’ll equally be looking for a win having lost their last couple of games.”

With the four teams above the Gypsies in the table involved in European action over the next few weeks, Bohs have an opportunity to pick up points on the full-time sides above them. “It’s an opportunity to get points on the board, so let’s see how the league table looks after the weekend ,” said Long.

“It does help that we don’t have the distractions of Europe – and we’d like to be in that position this time next year. We’re ambitious, but we have to be realistic about our ambitions too.”

Despite their excellent start to the season, Long insists that his side are still taking it one game at a time. “You can’t look past the next game. If you do that, and get ahead of yourself, you can come unstuck. The second series of games is notoriously difficult – teams have a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses and are therefore better prepared.”

Bohs hosted recently-promoted Scottish Premier League side Hearts in a friendly game on Wednesday night and Long was happy to give some returning players and young players game-time against quality opposition. “I thought it was a good exercise, and I thought we played very well,” said Long.

“It was good to get decent game time for some players and it was a good run out for some members of our Under 19 squad. They did themselves no harm in terms of their performance.”

Bohs will be without Dylan Hayes (back), while the Longford game will be too soon for Jason Byrne (calf), who only returned to training this week. Stephen Best suffered a gash on the head in the game against Hearts, but should be fit to be part of the squad in Longford. Derek Pender (achilles), Dan Byrne (knee) and Marc Griffin (cruciate) remain on the longer-term injury list.

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