“WE’VE FULLY RECOVERED AND HAVE PREPARED WELL”

DROGHEDA UTD v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League, United Park, Friday 3 April, 7.45pm

Bohemian manager Keith Long is confident his team can find the “winning habit” again after a week in which they drew one game and lost one.

“Against Shamrock Rovers the players had to dig deep and showed a lot of character, they put in a gutsy, resolute performance to get a valuable point,” he said.

“Last week was tough on a part-time squad playing three games in six days, but we have fully recovered, prepared well this week and are fully focused on the game against Drogheda.”

Going away again this Friday to Drogheda Long expects “another tough game”. “All teams in the league are capable of taking points from each other and Drogheda will be no different on Friday, we know we will have to perform to our maximum to get anything from the game.”

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Long will wait to see how his squad comes through Friday’s game in Drogheda before considering whether to make changes for the EA Sports Cup tie against Longford Town on Tuesday – three days before the two teams meet again in the league. “It’s not ideal that we have to play Longford Town twice, but that’s how the draw worked out,” he said.

Anto Murphy is available again, having missed the Shamrock Rovers game through suspension. 18-year-old Stephen Best came in for Murphy and won plaudits for his performance.

The ex-Crumlin United defender is one of the assets that Long will manage carefully. Best still has commitments to the under-19 side, now in the quarter-finals of the championship.

“Stephen is a player we have high hopes for. We have to manage his game-time for the benefit of Stephen and the team. He has a big-game mentality for someone so young and he has a good temperament. He fully justified his selection, making his full league debut against Shamrock Rovers,” the Bohemian manager said.

“If he continues to work hard, and keeps his feet on the ground, he can only improve as a player. But we are pleased with his progress to date.”

Dave Mulcahy (calf) and Dan Byrne (cruciate) remain sidelined through injury. But Mulcahy has returned to training and is already showing his influence on the players around him, according to Long.

Byrne is doing non-contact training, as he recovers from long-term injury. But he will not be rushed back, Long insists.

“We can head to Tallaght with a spring in our step”

SHAMROCK ROVERS v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League, Tallaght Stadium, Friday 27th March, 8pm

Bohemian boss Keith Long says his players are “upbeat” ahead of Friday’s derby against Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght. The Gypsies tasted defeat for the first time this season on Tuesday as champions Dundalk came away with a somewhat misleading 3-0 scoreline.

Despite defeat, the Bohs manager has pinpointed Friday’s clash as the ideal tonic following the midweek result. “There’s no greater opportunity than a game against your biggest rivals to bounce back with a good performance and hopefully a positive result,” he said.

“The players are looking forward to the game, nobody is feeling sorry for themselves after Tuesday night. Everybody is upbeat and hopefully we can head to Tallaght with a spring in our step.”

While he never played in the fixture during his career, Long is fully aware of the importance and magnitude of the game as he leads the side into his first Dublin derby as Bohs manager. “I’ve been around the league long enough to understand the importance of a Bohs-Rovers derby. The players don’t need motivation for a fixture like this – this is what they’re in the game for.

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“We want to give a good account of ourselves. That’s what our supporters want to see. They want to see us trying to play football, they want to see the honesty and the work-rate that we saw on Tuesday. If we get that, then we can’t ask for any more from the players.”

Although the result against Dundalk was disappointing, the manager took a lot of positives from the performance, which saw the Gypsies threatening for long periods.

“There’s no shame in defeat to Dundalk. The scoreline was a little skewed in that we constantly went for it throughout the game. We had a go at them and I don’t think 3-0 was a fair reflection,” he said.

The home side created a number of chances against the Lilywhites on Tuesday and Long has stressed the importance of capitalising on opportunities, especially in big games. “Goals win games, and we’ve got to be clinical in front of goal. Having said that, I’d be a little bit more worried if we weren’t creating the chances.”

Finally, the Bohs boss is expecting full commitment from his charges on the big stage. He added: “The players have set a minimum standard for themselves that when they cross the line in that red and black shirt, that they give absolutely everything. I expect no different on Friday night.”

Bohs have no fresh injury worries ahead of the game with Pat Fenlon’s Hoops. Long-term absentees Dan Byrne (cruciate) and Dave Mulcahy (calf) remain on the sidelines, while Anto Murphy is suspended following his dismissal against Dundalk.

“WE BELIEVE WE CAN PULL OFF A SURPRISE”

BOHEMIANS v DUNDALK
SSE Airtricity League, Dalymount Park, Tuesday 24 March, 7.45pm

Bohemian manager Keith Long says he “couldn’t be happier” with his team’s start to the league campaign, and he is “looking forward” to games against Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers over four days.

Long wants to “turn Dalymount Park into a fortress” and is calling on the fans as well as the players to help in that. Facing the league champions is “a big challenge but also a great opportunity for our players to test themselves against some of the best players in the league”.

“We hope our supporters will come out once again and get behind the team like they’ve done far this year,” Long said.

“The players will need no added incentive. We’ll go into the games with confidence and with a belief in our ability that maybe we can pull off a surprise.”

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In Bray last Saturday Bohemians created many more scoring opportunities than they converted, but secured the win with a second-half goal.

“You’d be more worried if you weren’t creating the chances. But we’ve got to learn to convert them when they come our way. Against some of the better teams the chances may not come as often,” said Long.

Keeping a fifth clean sheet in as many competitive games gave Bohemians the win with a single goal. “You build from the back, that’s the foundation of what we do, so we’re really pleased not to have conceded a goal as yet in the league,” said Long.

Saturday’s goal came from Adam Evans, who also scored away against Limerick in the first league game. The 20-year-old has shone as one of Bohemians’ stars so far, testing defences repeatedly with his runs down the left.

“I’m really happy for Adam. He is unproven in the League of Ireland. I knew him as a school-boy player with Belvedere, when he was highly thought of,” said Long.

“He has always had lightning pace. He’s a young man and he will mature and adapt to the pace and physicality of League of Ireland football.

“He is seeing the benefits of the pre-season with the team, and now he has the greater confidence that comes from scoring goals.”

Bohemians have all players available for the Dundalk game, apart from long-term injury Dan Byrne (cruciate) and Dave Mulcahy (calf), who will rejoin team training in the next week or two.

The part-time squad will be fully tested with three games in six days, but Long is focused on getting the best-possible side out in Tuesday’s game before he thinks about Friday’s trip to Tallaght.

The Bohemian manager remains optimistic about his squad’s possibilities. “We’re going to improve. We will evolve. The team will change from time to time. For this week, we will do our very best to get a result in the games.”

“WE KNOW WE CAN GET BETTER”

BRAY WANDERERS v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League, Carlisle Grounds, Saturday 21 March, 5.45pm

Bohemians go to Bray determined to keep the foot on the pedal and to maintain a 100 per cent record in the league.

Manager Keith Long returns to the club where he started his coaching career, meeting Bray for the second time in a month as Bohemian manager.

In the Leinster Senior Cup the sides went to 120 minutes without a goal scored but Bohemians advanced to the next round on penalties.

“That game showed what difficult opposition Bray are to play against. They are a dogged outfit and they can grind you down,” said Long.

“They’ll be competitive and we’ve got to make sure we look after ourselves, and get right into it.”

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In three league and league-cup games, Bohemians have racked up eight goals without conceding any. Five of the goals have come from set-pieces, two more last Friday when defender Anto Murphy scored from a free-kick and from a corner.

For Long, last weekend’s win against Galway United was “very pleasing, because we didn’t play to our full potential”.

Bohemians created many more scoring opportunities than they converted and Long admits he doesn’t know precisely what was not clicking.

“We were a bit loose at times and didn’t keep the ball as well as we could, or should,” he said. “We know we can get better but the pleasing thing is to pick up the win having not played at our best. That’s a good habit to get into.”

Dave Mulcahy (calf) and Dan Byrne (cruciate) are still out but Long otherwise has a full squad to choose from. The trip to Bray is followed on Tuesday by a home game against the league champions Dundalk but the manager is not planning to save any players.

“We’ve got to give Bray every respect, which we will do. We can’t take our foot off the pedal. We have to try and win,” he said.

“After Saturday, we will think about Tuesday. But for Saturday, we’ll put our best foot forward and pick our strongest XI against Bray.”

EVERYBODY’S PUT THEMSELVES IN CONTENTION

BOHEMIANS v GALWAY UNITED
SSE Airtricity League, Dalymount Park, Friday 13 March, k-o 7.45pm

Bohemians welcome Galway United as their first visitors in the league campaign and manager Keith Long is “under no illusions” his team faces a “big test”.

But with a 3-0 away win last weekend in Limerick followed by a 3-0 home win over Athlone Town in the EA Sports Cup on Tuesday, Bohemians go into this game with confidence.

The manager saluted the performance of his team in a potentially tricky tie at Limerick, getting an early goal and not “taking our foot off the pedal”. He expects to give most of that line-up a chance to prove themselves again.

He was at least as pleased with the clean sheet as with the goals scored. “Goals win games but clean sheets are the foundation of everything that we do,” he said. “To come away with three points is a good start, but it’s no more than that. We won’t be getting too carried away.”

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Following Tuesday’s showing by an almost-entirely changed team, he has the “problem that I want” of many alternative selections. “We made nine changes to the game and the boys did very well. That’s what we want, competition for every place, and everybody putting themselves into contention.”

Long expects Galway to fight hard for their first league points, after forfeiting an early lead last week against Derry City. “I’m sure they’ll be disappointed not to have picked up some points against Derry. They’ll be coming to Dalymount expecting to get a result.

“Tommy [Dunne] did very well to bring Galway up in his first season in charge, and he knows what it takes to be competitive in the Premier Division. I am under no illusions they will present a big test for us.”

Long says Bohemians’ weak home form in recent seasons has not been an issue within his squad. “We want to put in a good, positive performance in front of our supporters, get our season started in Dalymount on the right note, and hopefully send the supporters home happy with three points.”

Bohemian have all carried-over suspensions served, and only Dan Byrne and Dave Mulcahy are out through injury. Mulcahy (calf) will return to team training later this month and Byrne (cruciate) is building his fitness towards contact training in the coming weeks.

President Michael D. Higgins will attend Friday’s match, seeing Galway in action again after returning to his home-town last weekend. A strong supporter of the League of Ireland, President Higgins will be present at Dalymount Park also to mark Bohemians’ 125th anniversary year.

Among those meeting the poet-President will be Lewis Kenny, Bohemians’ newly appointed Poet in Residence.

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