“players are playing for a place in next year’s squad”

BOHEMIANS v SLIGO ROVERS
SSE Airtricity League, Dalymount Park, Friday 10 October, 7.45pm

Bohemians resume their push for the highest-possible league finish when they host Sligo Rovers on Friday.

“A win against Sligo would put us just three points behind them and we might move ahead of Derry,” said manager Owen Heary.

“We could be playing Derry in the last game of the season to see who finishes ahead.

“To finish seventh or sixth would be a good achievement for the club as a whole and for the players who have worked really hard.

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“Any player should want to finish as well as possible. There are players too who are playing for a place in the squad next season.”

This game comes just over a month after a rescheduled league game at the Showgrounds was decided by the odd goal in five.

Sligo won 3-2 but also ended ahead on yellow cards, 4-1, all of them given out in the tense last 20 minutes of the encounter.

“They’re a good side, but we don’t want them to let them get away from us,” said Heary.

Bohemians have had two fewer defeats in the league than Sligo Rovers and are unbeaten at home since Dundalk’s 2-0 victory at Dalymount at the end of May.

“We have done quite well at home despite the problems early on. We have lost only four games at home,” said Heary.

“The one thing we had to do, was to make sure we were hard to beat, and we weren’t that last week against Pat’s.”

The manager gave his players some time off since losing 3-1 to St Patrick’s Athletic 11 days ago. He also introduced a few novelties into training to help refresh a team that was showing signs of fatigue.

“You can allow for a few players who were tired, but there were some performances that were not up to the standard we have been asking for. We did not impose ourselves on the game,” said Heary of the Richmond Park game.

Captain on the night Derek Pender came off with a calf injury late in that game and he may miss the rest of the season.

“He’s been excellent all season. He’s had to fill in at left-back and he’s done it without moaning,” said Heary.

“He’s gone back to the right side and he’s scored two great goals. He’s been a leader on and off the park.

“He keeps telling me he’ll make it back for the last game. He’s that committed.”

Kevin Devaney (toe injury) is out for Friday but has returned to training and is expected to be available for next week’s match away to Cork City. Dan Byrne (cruciate) is sidelined for the longer-term.

Dave Mulcahy, who did not make it to the St Pat’s game in time due to a major traffic disruption on the M50, is suspended for Friday. But Anto Murphy, who returned from injury to come off the bench against St Pat’s and scored a late consolation goal, has had more time to regain fitness.

Jason Byrne has also recovered from a knee injury that kept him out of the squad against St Patrick’s Athletic.

Steven Beattie is likely to feature again in the back line. But Heary may also take the opportunity to look more closely at some of the players who are in the frame for next season’s squad, among them defender Stephen Best.

IT’S ALL TO PLAY FOUR

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League Premier Division, Richmond Park, Tuesday 30th September, 7.45pm

Starting with Tuesday’s Dublin derby at Richmond Park, Owen Heary is targeting four big results against four teams currently ahead of his side as he bids to secure a top-half finish in his first full season in charge of Bohemians.

“One of the best things about us at the moment is that we have no fear,” he said. “We’re not in any danger of relegation, so the lads are able to get to grips with games.

“It’s all to play for. We’ve four games left against four teams ahead of us (Pat’s, Sligo, Cork and Derry). None of them are going to be easy but we want to prove ourselves against those sides and get as high a position as we can.”

Heary believes his side are gathering momentum after two positive results last week. “Even though the Shamrock Rovers game (1-1, Tuesday) was a big derby, in many ways the game against Limerick was more important for us,” he said.

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“Beating Limerick (2-0, Friday) puts us four points clear of them in seventh. If we were to beat Pat’s, that would leave us level on points with Sligo Rovers who are in fifth and come to Dalymount next week.”

St Pat’s are familiar opposition for Bohs this season. As well as the two previous league encounters, the sides also faced off in both the EA Sports Cup and Ford FAI Cup.

Bohs’ only victory in those four meetings came in the EA Sports Cup (3-2) in May but Heary’s men can feel unlucky not to have won the drawn league game at Dalymount in July (1-1) and not to have forced a replay in the Ford FAI Cup quarter-final at Richmond Park earlier this month (2-3).

“Bar the first league game at Richmond in April (1-3), we’ve always given them a game,” he said. “We threw everything at them in the Cup game. We were very disappointed to come out with nothing having been in touching distance of bringing them to a replay.”

The date for this game was brought forward to Tuesday due to St Pat’s Ford FAI Cup semi-final against Finn Harps this Sunday in a competition they have not won since 1961.

Even though the defending league champions are all but out of the title race and have a massive Cup tie looming, Heary is not expecting the game to be any easier.

“We can’t be worrying about what Pat’s are thinking. We have to do our own job,” he said.

Younger members of the Bohs squad have come in for much praise this season, but it was the experienced trio of Jason Byrne (36), Dave Mulcahy (36) and Anto Murphy (32) that provided the talking points after the win against Limerick.

Byrne and Mulcahy grabbed the goals, while Murphy returned after seven weeks out with an ankle injury.

Heary added: “It was great to have Anto back. In the last few minutes, we were able to throw him on to get some game-time to get his sharpness and awareness back up.

“He had a tough tackle put in on him too, so that was a good test. He’s back sooner than we expected but you could see he was exhausted after five minutes.

“Jayo came up trumps with a lovely little dink and Muller, who was unlucky not to score against Rovers too, had a good finish to allow us to see out the game easily enough in the end.”

Paddy Kavanagh (personal commitments) returns to the squad, but Jason Byrne (knee) and Eoin Wearen (foot) are minor doubts. Kevin Devaney (toe) and Dano Byrne (cruciate) remain sidelined.

Pic by Eddie Lennon: eddielennonsportingimages.com

“WE STILL WANT TO IMPROVE”

BOHEMIANS v LIMERICK

SSE Airtricity League, Dalymount Park, Friday 26 September, 7.45pm

Bwill take the same fighting attitude to Friday’s game against Limerick as they did to a tough derby match against Shamrock Rovers on Tuesday.

Manager Owen Heary and his squad are determined not to be seen as “just a side that turns up” or that “just sees out the season”.

“We still want to improve our performances. We still want to improve our home form. We still want to get a few more goals for Dinny, and there have to be more goals for us.”

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As seen in recent games, his squad has bought into that approach fully. They faced Shamrock Rovers with a depleted squad: Steven Beattie and Roberto Lopes played 90 minutes despite being weakened by flu and finished “flat-out”.

“We work hard for each other. We close down the team facing us. We work as a unit. People can see the transformation since the start of the season,” said Heary.

“I thought we deserved the three points on Tuesday, but before the match, knowing we were down a lot of bodies, we would have taken the one point.”

Paddy Kavanagh and Keith Buckley covered very effectively for injured Kevin Devaney (toe) and suspended Eoin Wearen respectively.

“It was a very disciplined performance by the team. They were aggressive, they were on the front foot from the word ‘go’,” said Heary.

Strong tackles early in the game set the tone for Bohemians’ performance. “That’s what the game is missing at times. You should be allowed make aggressive tackles. There was nothing malicious there. I think referees are seeing that strong tackles can be good tackles, and they’re letting them go.”

Bohemians have overtaken Limerick in the league table but Heary expects another stiff test for his players, who also face a trip to Inchicore next Tuesday.

Limerick manager Martin Russell watched Bohemians in their last two league games and will have his team well prepared.

“We have beaten Limerick twice this year, in the cup and in the league. But they are like ourselves, they work hard and they have some strong, physical players. It will be another battle,” said Heary.

For Friday, Eoin Wearen and Jake Hyland return from suspension and Craig Walsh has served his ban but he is likely to be out with a quad injury. Kevin Devaney (toe) and Dan Byrne (cruciate) remain out.

Anto Murphy, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury, was on the bench on Tuesday and was trying to come on in added time for one of his trade-mark long throws. He is likely to a sub again on Friday as he continues to regain fitness

TAKE YOUR CHANCE

BOHEMIANS v SHAMROCK ROVERS

SSE Airtricity League, Dalymount Park, Tuesday 23 September, 7.45pm

Bohemian manager Owen Heary is preparing his players for “games coming thick and fast” as they face Tuesday’s rescheduled match against Shamrock Rovers, who themselves come to the game just three days after the EA Sports Cup final.

“Rovers will be chomping at the bit, especially after being beaten in a cup final. But we’ll be well prepared and ready for the game,” said Heary.

For Bohemians, this derby is followed by Limerick’s visit on Friday and a rescheduled game against St Patrick’s Athletic next Tuesday.

Heary has to cope with a longer injury and suspension list than at any other time in the season. Eoin Wearen, Craig Walsh and Jake Hyland are suspended. Kevin Devaney (toe) joins Anto Murphy (ankle, but back training) and Dan Byrne (cruciate) among the injured. Steven Beattie and Roberto Lopes have had flu and one at least may miss Tuesday’s game.

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Heary will not want to take chances with players who are less than fully fit, as he expects the derby to be “pacey” and “asking a lot of the players”.

“It will be a chance for other players to come in and play for their positions. Hopefully, they’ll take that opportunity,” he said.

Ryan McEvoy and Keith Buckley, ‘veterans’ of many Bohs-Rovers games, are likely to feature. “Bucko is a good player and he’s a bit unfortunate that Kevin Devaney has been playing so well. But Bucko knows what to expect coming into a game like Tuesday’s. He has that bit of experience.”

Heary thought his side were “unfortunate not to get three points” from Friday’s “scrappy enough” game in Athlone. “But our attitude was right going into the game and we took the game to them.  We need to have the same attitude on Tuesday.”

“WE DIDN’T GO OUT WITH A WHIMPER, WE GAVE IT EVERYTHING”

ATHLONE TOWN v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League, Lissywoollen, Friday 19 September, 7.45pm

Bohemians go to Athlone determined to show they have got over their FAI Cup quarter-final defeat.

Manager Owen Heary says his team were “gutted” at not making it to a semi-final. “But our job as coaching staff is to pick them up and get them focused on the league games.

“We don’t just want to see the season out. This will be a test of the players and ourselves, how we respond after being knocked out and, it might seem, with nothing much to play for.”

The narrow defeat to St Patrick’s Athletic was hard for players and coaches to take, said Heary. “When they had a player sent off we threw absolutely everything at them, got a goal back and we’re unfortunate not to get an equaliser.

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“But the positive thing for me was that we didn’t go out with a whimper. We gave it everything.”

Bohemians are now fully concentrated on securing maximum points from the remaining league games to secure at least a mid-table finish.

“Last year the target was to avoid relegation, this year eighth or better, next year we’ll be aiming to go higher. If we can keep the basis of the team we now have for next season, we can improve further.”

Training has focused on set-pieces as half of the ten goals conceded in the last four games have come that source.

“We tidied up on that during the year, so it’s disappointing that we conceded from set pieces in recent games when we were well in the game or getting back into it,” said Heary. “That’s down to a lack of concentration and maybe thinking we’re safe.”

Bohemians face an Athlone side with a target to make it into the play-offs at worst. “Athlone have done well over recent weeks, they’ve turned a corner and I’m they’ll be fired up for Friday,” said Heary.

All Bohemians’ opponents in the coming games, including next Tuesday’s opposition, Shamrock Rovers, still with European ambitions, have something to fight for. “We have all the top teams, bar Dundalk, to play and I’m sure the fans would like to see us compete against these teams.”

For Friday Bohemians will be without Eoin Wearen (suspended), Ryan McEvoy (back injury), Dan Byrne (cruciate) and Anto Murphy (ankle). However, Murphy has returned to training and may make it back for next weekend.

His return would be a boost to the team, which has had to be shuffled and reshuffled to cover for absences at the back. Last Friday Steven Beattie was at left back, having earlier played at right back, on the wing and in attack.

“He has played every position except in goal. With our resources, those are kind of players we have to sign, who can play in numerous positions,” said Heary. Along with Beattie, Derek Pender, Kevin Devaney, Dave Mulcahy, Roberto Lopes and Keith Buckley are among those who have featured in two positions or more.

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