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.

“WE’LL PLAY OFF THE FRONT FOOT”

LIMERICK v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League, Jackman Park, Saturday 7 March, 6.30pm

Bohemians open their league campaign in Limerick with a determination to “play off the front foot”, according to manager Keith Long.

“The players are chomping at the bit and ready to get going,” Long said. “Playing Limerick away is going to be a tough test for us, and we’re under no illusion about that, but we’re looking forward to it.”

The Bohemian manager expects “a tough game” and Limerick to be “well organised and well up for it”.

“We want to go down and win. We will play off the front foot and get at them with fast, attacking football,” Long said.

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The manager considered his team “played well in patches” against Bray Wanderers in the Leinster Senior Cup. But he has been stressing the need for his players to take scoring chances.

“We should be more ruthless in front of goal. We created chances, particularly in the second half, and if we had taken those chances, we could have won by two or three.

“It will take composure from players in front of goal, and we need them to have that belief and confidence in themselves. But we have lads who are well used to scoring and we will need others to chip in.”

Long made up for a missed friendly last weekend, cancelled because of the weather, with a XI v XI match behind closed doors on Monday. “That was a small disruption to the programme, but we’re ready now.”

Bohemians will be missing three players through suspensions carried over from last season – Stephen Best, James O’Brien, and recently re-signed Conor Murphy, who comes back to Bohemians after a spell at Shelbourne.

Also out is long-term injured Dan Byrne, and Dave Mulcahy (calf injury), who is expected to return to training next week.

Team captain Derek Pender (knee) and Dean Kelly, who took a knock in a pre-season game, will face late fitness tests. Anto Murphy, who missed the Bray game through groin injury, is fit for selection.

WE NEED TO BUILD MOMENTUM

BOHEMIANS v BRAY WANDERERS
Leinster Senior Cup, Dalymount Park, Sunday 22 February, 3pm

Bohemians come to their first competitive game of the season aiming to “build momentum” towards the league campaign, according to manager Keith Long.

The confidence of the players and coaches has been lifted this week with the unexpected return of battling midfielder, Dave Mulcahy – “a great boost to everyone at the club”, said Long.

The season curtain-raiser against Bray Wanderers is a repeat of 2014’s start, when Bohemians beat Bray 5-1 in the Leinster Senior Cup.

In his first competitive game in charge of Bohemians, Long comes up against the club where he played for five years and began his coaching career. But he insists “it does not matter who we’re facing”.

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“I’m fully focused on the job here, and I know it’s a big job,” Long said, adding that he is fully aware of the Bohemian fans’ expectations.

“We want to generate excitement among the supporters, so that they’re proud of their team, and want to come and watch them.”

The manager expects to see continuing improvement in his team’s pre-season performances.

“It’s important that we build momentum in the pre-season. Performances will improve as we get to know each other, and to gel as a group.

“We’re coming to the business end of the pre-season and we’ll be sharpening our focus on the start of the league.

“It’s important that we put our best foot forward against Bray. We want to do well in the competition, but we have some players with niggles and we obviously don’t want to put them at risk, with the league in mind.”

Long says he and his backroom team are getting close to identifying their preferred starting line-up. “We’ve worked on different combinations. But there’s still room for players to force their way into the team.”

Bohemians have three players out – new signing Dean Kelly has taken a knock in training, Anto Murphy has a groin strain and Dan Byrne is still recovering from long-term injury, but “making good progress” and aiming to return soon to contact training.

“We want to thank the fans, particularly those who have travelled away with us”

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

Bohemian manager Owen Heary has called for a big show of support from fans as they play Derry in the final game of the season.

Heary is keeping his players focused on a victory to secure 40 points and seventh position in the league.

“It would be a great achievement for the team and for the club to make seventh, as well as having reached a cup quarter-final and a cup-semi-final,” the manager said.

“We’ll play with the same kind of intensity as we have been, and we’ll aim to finish the season on a high. It would be nice to be able to say we beat the cup finalists.”

But Heary also wants a big crowd there to “applaud the players, and thank them”.

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“We want to thank the fans as well, particularly those who have travelled away with us,” he said. “We’ll be happy to sit down with them after the game and celebrate a long, tough season but also an enjoyable one.”

For Friday Dave Mulcahy and Stephen Best are automatically suspended as a result of red cards against Cork. Anto Murphy is also suspended for accumulated yellow cards, having very recently come back from injury.

Derek Pender and Dan Byrne are out injured for the longer-term. But Aidan Price and Paddy Kavanagh return from suspension and Roberto Lopes is available this week.

Heary had to shuffle his defence last week and will have to do so again. “Last week we had Steven Beattie at right-back and Mullers [Dave Mulcahy] at centre-half and we can mix it around again. It’s important that we have players who can play in a couple of positions,” he said.

Heary aimed this season to produce a side that can compete with the best and his team continued to do that last weekend in Cork, going down to the title contenders by a single goal from a long-range free.

“We were unfortunate to go down to a bit of a fluke of a goal, but we kept battling away and gave them a game. It’s important that we keep that mentality in the club,” said Heary.

“THERE’LL BE A BIT OF DOUBT IN THEIR MINDS”

CORK CITY v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League, Turner’s Cross, Friday 17 October, 7.45pm

Bohemians go to Cork unfazed by their opponents’ desperate need for maximum points to keep them in the hunt for a league title.

“We know there’s going to be a big crowd there, and they’re vying for the title. We expect a very tough game but there will be a bit of doubt in their minds, from the fact that they haven’t beaten us this season,” said Bohemian manager Owen Heary.

“They’re a physical team, they’re strong, and they’ll go out to win the game. But the three points are as vital to us as they are to them. We want to move up the table.”

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Bohemians have been a bogey side for Cork this season. The teams drew in the league and in the cup at Turner’s Cross and Bohs won both of their encounters at Dalymount Park. Only Dundalk have a better record against Cork City this season.

Heary has a weakened squad for Friday, missing Aidan Price and Paddy Kavanagh through suspension, and Derek Pender (calf) and Dan Byrne (cruciate) through injury. Roberto Lopes has exams on Friday evening, meaning four potential defenders are missing.

“We’re down a few bodies but we’ll put out a team that can compete on the night,” said Heary. “Last week, with Pender and Mulcahy out, we took the game to Sligo and could have won.

“We gave it everything and it showed you how well we can compete against the teams with a full-time set-up.

“We like to have a go at teams and we have younger players who should have no fear playing Cork in front of a packed house. They should enjoy the occasion.”

As Paddy Kavanagh is ruled out, Kevin Devaney returns from a toe injury to resume his raiding runs down the wing. Dave Mulcahy comes back from suspension and will be in the reckoning for a role in midfield or defence.

Steven Beattie, last week’s man of the match as winger, might revert to the back line where he has provided cover on right and left when circumstances demanded it. Playing Keith Buckley at right-back, as he did against Cork City in the cup, is another option.

But this could also be the opportunity for under-19 defender Stephen Best to step up. Signed earlier this year from Crumlin United, he returned recently from ankle injury and played 90 minutes in last week’s 2-1 victory over Longford Town in the under-19 league.

“I’d have no problems throwing him in and seeing how he copes. He would have had more games except for his injury. It will be a tough game for him to be called in, in front of 5,000 people, but he’ll be competing for selection in Friday,” said Heary.

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