“This is just as big, if not bigger, than last week’s game”

BRAY WANDERERS v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League, Carlisle Grounds, Friday June 13, 7.45pm

Bohemians are aiming to bring last week’s form into a league match that could be “just as big” as the FAI Cup win over Limerick., writes BRIAN TRENCH.

For manager Owen Heary both these two games before the summer break were like cup finals. A win over Bray could lift his side out of the bottom two in the league and help hold a mid-table position as the season continues.

“We need to take our cup form into the league. If I had to choose, I’d take three points on Friday. This is just as big, if not bigger, than last week’s game.

“Against Limerick we had a very positive performance and two well-taken goals. Overall, we were very strong and we let them create little or nothing.

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“I hope we can take last week’s hard work into the Bray game. We’re not conceding many goals and, if we can take our scoring chances, we will move up the table.”

Bray will be “hurting” after their defeat last weekend in the FAI Cup, Heary believes. “It’s going to be a difficult game but, if we go there positive, we can get the points.”

Friday’s game brings Heary back to the scene of his first match as Bohemian manager in July 2013. Heary watched that game from the TV gantry, as he was banned from the touch-line. Bohemians won 3-1 to lay the foundations for their survival in the Premier Division.

“I’d happily sit in the gantry again as long as we come away with the three points,” said Heary.

His team beat Bray 5-1 early this season in the Leinster Senior Cup and drew 1-1 at Dalymount in the league playing 70 minutes with ten men.

Bohemians come to Friday’s game with doubts over the availability of Derek Pender (quad injury), who was substituted at half-time in Thomond Park, and of Dave Mulcahy (hamstring), who replaced him.

Jason Byrne (shoulder injury) has missed training since being an unused sub against Limerick but could face his old club if he completes a full training session on Thursday evening.

Steven Beattie misses Friday’s game due to a one-match suspension (yellow cards) following his goal-scoring and Man of the Match performance against Limerick, playing up-front alongside Dinny Corcoran.

Subject to Byrne being available, Heary may well opt again for a two-man strike force. Meanwhile, he has brought in another attacking option with the signing of Adam Evans (20), an ex-Belvedere player and under-19 international, who was most recently with Inverness Caledonian. He has been training with Bohemians and will be available when the transfer window opens.

Facing into the second half of the season Heary takes comfort from the adaptability of his players, knowing that they may be called on to cover for injuries or suspensions in various positions. Eoin Wearen and Roberto Lopes were effective in mid-field last week, though more usually featuring in the back four. Beattie has provided cover at right-back and proven himself a potent attacker.

“We don’t have a big squad and when we’re down one or two bodies it affects us more than other clubs. But we have good young lads who are fully committed and we need to keep them focused.”

“I’VE NO DOUBT THINGS WILL TURN FOR US”

LIMERICK v BOHEMIANS
FAI Ford Cup, Thomond Park, Saturday June 7, 5.30pm

Bohemians expect a “battle” when they go to Limerick on Saturday. But Owen Heary’s side will bring into that battle cup form which is better than league form, and away form which is better than home form.

Bohemians have won three EA Sports Cup matches to reach the semi-finals of that competition. This is more than their two wins in the league, where they have picked up nine of their 13 points on the road.

“Our cup form is good but Limerick will give us a battle, a physical battle. It’s going to be a difficult game. Look at what they have done in their last two league games,” said Heary.

The Bohemian manager says his players have worked harder in training this week than any time over many months.

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“You can see how it is hurting them that we are not getting results. I can understand as well fans’ frustration, but they need to keep believing and getting behind the team. I have no doubt that things will turn for us.”

The Bohemian manager concedes his team were outplayed against Dundalk last Friday. This was no near-draw or near-win but the squad have picked themselves up from that defeat, he said.

“We didn’t have the intensity we need. We didn’t do enough to take something from the game. We had a game plan going out and we didn’t stick to it. After that early goal the game plan changed because we were chasing the game,” said Heary.

“This week’s preparations have been better because we had longer time. I have no doubt that the intensity will be there for the Limerick game. This and the Bray game before the break next week are two big cup games in my opinion. We have to go into every game as if it was a cup final.”

Making his side difficult to defeat was one of his targets and he takes some comfort from having let in less than half the number of goals conceded by three other sides around them in the league table. “That’s part of what we need to continue doing, but we need to dominate games and take our chances,” he insisted.

Bohemians’ two most senior players Dave Mulcahy (hamstring) and Jason Byrne (back strain) face late fitness tests. But Eoin Wearen (groin) has returned to training, meaning there is adequate cover at the back and Steven Beattie can again be played in attack.

Heary has identified some strikers as possible recruitment targets in the transfer window. “With our budget, they’re going to be young lads, not fellas looking for this and that, but with hunger.”

 

“WE CAN’T GO OUT THINKING WE’LL SIT BACK”

BOHEMIANS v DUNDALK
SSE Airtricity League, Dalymount Park, Friday 30 May, 7.45pm

Bohemians are buoyed for the visit of high-flying Dundalk by two successive clean sheets in the league and league cup. Winning a league point away to Shamrock Rovers and a place in the EA Sports Cup semi-finals over the past week has boosted Bohs’ confidence after a run of frustrating near-wins and a narrow defeat, writes BRIAN TRENCH.

“The clean sheets have been pleasing, particularly against a decent Rovers side. We had the better chances in the first half and we defended very well in the second half,” said Bohemian manager Owen Heary.

“We played to win, and that’s how we know how to play. But your expectations are different against teams like Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk. These are the teams with the big budgets, contending for the title.”

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The memory of securing a draw against Dundalk two months ago when goalkeeper Dean Delany gave a man-of-the-match performance also puts Heary’s team in a positive frame of mind facing the league leaders.

“Their recent results show you the calibre of the team. I said at the start of the season I thought Dundalk were the most likely to win the league. They have that extra hunger after last year’s disappointment,” said Heary.

“This is another difficult game, but one the lads are looking forward to. We can’t go out thinking we’ll sit back because, if you do that, Dundalk will punish you. We have to take the game to them, without leaving gaps they can exploit.”

The Bohemian manager may have a near-full hand to deal from, depending on how some players recover from knocks received last Monday against Longford Town. Captain Dave Mulcahy was out for that match and faces a late fitness test for a tight hamstring.

Defender Eoin Wearen (groin) is still sidelined but, with the progressive return to full match fitness of Anto Murphy, Bohemians have several options across the back line. Left-back Jack Memery has returned to training following college exams.

Dan Byrne topped an outstanding performance in defence against Shamrock Rovers with a goal on Monday. “He has been excellent for us, and he’s there on merit. He has kept most of the top centre-forwards in the league at bay,” said Heary.

The Bohemian manager hopes to be able to move Stephen Beattie up front following his several weeks in the right-back position. “He offers us a bit more in attack with the pace he has.”

Striker Dinny Corcoran returned from suspension to score against Longford Town and his return allowed Jason Byrne to be rested and also to “take the pressure off him”.

Eighteen-year-old Gavin Moore will again be on the bench as substitute goalkeeper. Stepping into the senior Bohemian squad to replace the departed Lee Murphy means he missed a cup semi-final 4-1 victory on Monday with his under-19 team-mates and will now miss a final on Friday.

IT’S A GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR US

LONGFORD TOWN v BOHEMIANS
EA Sports Cup quarter-final, City Calling Stadium, Monday 26 May, 7.45pm

Owen Heary has challenged his players to continue to up their game as they go in search of a place in the last four of the EA Sports Cup tonight.

Bohs responded to an unlucky defeat against Drogheda United 10 days ago to secure a deserved draw against high-flying Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght on Friday.

And Heary is looking to build on that as he welcomes Dinny Corcoran back from a three-game suspension to boost his options up front.

“I was pleased with how we played on Friday, but again we’re talking about missed chances,” he said.

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“It’s been tough on Jason Byrne. With Dinny suspended and injured before that, Jay has been asked to play nearly every minute of every game over the last few weeks, which is not what we expected.

“With Dinny back, we can mix it up again and between them, we’ll be back scoring and pushing on up the table again.”

While Bohs have struggled in front of goal in recent outings, Heary was delighted with improvements at the back.

“Rovers are a very experienced team and put us under a lot of pressure with the amount of possession they had in the second half,” he said. “But our lads stood up to everything and we limited them to a couple of half-chances.

“It was only our third clean sheet of the season, so it’s something we’ve been looking at. But for that to come away to one of the best sides in the league is an achievement.”

One problem area had been the position of left-back and Heary thinks he has now found the solution. He said: “We needed to improve and Derek Pender has really shored things up there in recent weeks.

“But there are knock-on effects too. Moving Pender meant dropping Steven Beattie back to right-back, which obviously weakened our attacking strengths.

“With Anto Murphy getting back to fitness now, we’ve now a solid and experienced back four to choose from. Dano Byrne is the only inexperienced player there and he’s been absolutely fantastic for us.”

Skipper Dave Mulcahy will not be risked tonight after coming off with a tight hamstring against Rovers on Friday, while Eoin Wearen is also out as he awaits the results of a scan on a groin injury he suffered in training on Thursday.

As well an opportunity to reach a cup semi-final, tonight’s opposition also provide Heary with a chance to gauge just how far some of his younger players have progressed. He said: “You only have to look at their teamsheet to realise what a big test this will be for our lads. Stephen Rice, Pat Sullivan, Pat Flynn – all tough league winners.

“It’s a massive test for us and a great opportunity for our players to up their game and to test themselves against players with great experience.”

And it is young players such as 18-year-old Jake Hyland who will continue to benefit. “It’s a competition we want to win and you have to keep faith with lads like Jake who have got us this far in the first place.

“He’s scored three goals in the last two rounds (1 v UCD, 2 v St Pat’s) so he’s already justified his selection. He’s progressing fast and he should be in the Ireland Under-19 team.”

 

“IT’S VERY FRUSTRATING”

SHAMROCK ROVERS v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League, Tallaght Stadium, Friday 23 May, 7.45pm

Bohemians go to Tallaght in search of a league win following several “very frustrating” draws and a single-goal defeat to Drogheda last week, writes BRIAN TRENCH.

This week’s training has given particular attention to finishing, as Bohs look to turn some of the many chances they are creating into goals.

“It’s very frustrating that we are dominating games, creating chances and we’re not winning,” said manager Owen Heary. “Drogheda had very few chances and then we go and make a bad mistake and they win the game.

“We will keep working on shape, but we have been working more on shooting practice. We’re creating a lot of chances and we should be putting away at least two of those away in a game.

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“Jason [Byrne] was unlucky with a couple last week but we cannot rely only on him. We need someone to help him turn chances into goals.”

With Dinny Corcoran suspended, veteran Byrne is the only out-and-out striker available, and this may be putting particular pressure on him, according to Heary.

“Any striker can have a dry spell but Jason knows it will come right for him because he is getting into good positions.”

Among the midfielders helping to create the openings, Paddy Kavanagh was “brilliant” last week, according to Heary. But it will take supreme effort from all his players to get results over the next eight days.

“In our next two league games we’re playing teams who are contending for the title and a very decent Longford side [in the EA Cup on Monday]. They all have good players, with a lot of experience and the clubs have paid a lot of money for them.

“These will be three tough games, but we will have no fear playing anyone. We just need a bit of luck.”

Filling the full-back positions remains a particular challenge, and with Darragh Reynor and Philly McCabe leaving the club, Jack Memery busy with exams, and Derek Pender (hamstring) facing a late fitness test, that challenge has increased even more.

However, Roberto Lopes returns from suspension and Anto Murphy and Aidan Price came through the Drogheda game well despite fitness concerns earlier in the week.

Goalkeeper Lee Murphy has also left Bohemians for personal reasons and Heary is looking to the July transfer window as an opportunity to freshen his squad and fill some gaps, albeit within severe budgetary constraints.

Meanwhile, the Bohs backroom team are looking to the future, having signed seven under-19 players in the past week. “We had the best under-17s this year and we’ve committed some of them to the under-19s. This is a positive for the future,” said Heary.

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