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.

“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

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