Preview: UCD v Bohemians

SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Thursday October 12, 2023, UCD Bowl
Tickets: ucdfc.ticketco.events/ie/ie

Declan Devine says Bohemians need to show their cutting edge if they are to get past UCD in the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division at Belfield tomorrow.

Bohs come into the game buoyed by Saturday’s Sports Direct FAI Men’s Cup semi-final win away to Galway United, which set up a final date against St Patrick’s Athletic in the Aviva Stadium next month.

But Devine insists all attention has now turned to achieving maximum points between now and end of the league season.

Tomorrow’s game in hand offers his side the opportunity to leapfrog Shelbourne and move back to fourth in the league table.

The make-up of this year’s cup final means that whoever finishes the season in fourth will secure European qualification.

And Devine said: “It is vital that we put the cup to one side now, as fantastic as Saturday was for everybody involved.

“Our focus is firmly on our four remaining league games. We have put so much effort into our league campaign that we cannot look past that, starting with UCD.

“Finishing the league season as strongly as possible is massively important. We have worked hard all year in the league and we want to go now and qualify for Europe through the league.

“That is what we want to achieve and we will be giving everything of ourselves. I know the players, I know the staff and how hard they work. I have no doubt the application and hard work to do that will be there.

Bohs were frustrated by their last trip to the UCD Bowl in April, conceding a late equaliser to draw the game 1-1.

It is a performance that still rankles with Devine, and he wants his players to make amends for it against a UCD side who are still scrapping hard for pride despite already being relegated to the First Division.

He said: “We have to look at it as an opportunity to go out and perform. It’s a venue where we haven’t won this year and we want to put that right. Nothing else right now matters.

“It’s vitally important that we go there with the right mindset and I have no doubt that we will because we have a really strong bunch of players.

“We aren’t the only team to drop points against UCD. Rovers recently went and drew 0-0 with them. It was a game where Rovers dominated but couldn’t find the cutting edge they needed so that must be a lesson to us.

“We have got to go there with a real positive mindset and perform to the levels we are capable of, and move the ball as quickly as we possibly can.

“We have so many creative players in our team that against anybody, we can create problems. That has to be the goal.

“There are no gimmies in this league, so we have to be at it in every game between now and the end of the league campaign.”

Bohs’ resolve was truly tested in Saturday’s semi-final win.

A goal up and taking control of the game, things threatened to suddenly unravel when Kacper Radkowski, an ever-present this season, was inexplicably shown a second yellow card and given his marching orders.

Devine’s men dug deep to see out the game, but Devine could not hide his disappointment for his 22-year-old centre-back, who will now be suspended for the Aviva Stadium showpiece.

He said: “It was a disgusting thing to happen to such a young lad who has played every minute of every game for us this season.

“Not only do I think they weren’t yellow cards, I don’t even think they were fouls. He has only made two challenges in the game and to get two yellow cards and a sending-off for them, I think is just devastating for us and devastating for the boy.

“It is extremely harsh. The boy is absolutely devastated, he is really hurt. He will be a huge loss, and it is a real downer in terms of having our best players available.

“Thankfully Cian Byrne came on and did exceptionally well for us but the boy just didn’t deserve that.

“It was crazy stuff. The way the cards were being flashed about was reckless in my opinion. There wasn’t a bad challenge in the game.

“Neil Doyle is one of my favourite referees in the league.

“He is very experienced, and a very controlled and calm referee. But there was a big prize at stake on Saturday, and the amount of yellow cards was hard to understand.

“We spoke at half-time to the boys who were on yellow cards and told them not to make a second challenge that would give the referee something to think about, and Kacper didn’t make a challenge that should have given any referee something to think about. He didn’t do anything wrong.

“Some players might never have another opportunity to play in an FAI Cup final again, so for Kacper to miss out in this way put a real downer on it. It’s a squad game. One person’s pain is felt by everyone. It was totally needless.”

Despite going down to ten men, Devine was delighted with the resolve of his side who got over the line despite having to play half and hour of normal time and over ten minutes of injury time a man down.

Devine added: “It was a fantastic way to get to the final in a venue that was extremely difficult – the pitch was poor and opposition were a man up for 40 minutes.

“There were a lot of positives, particularly the team spirit and the natural willingness to dig in when we went down to ten men, while still creating opportunities to try and put the game to bed.

“I was absolutely delighted with Dylan Connolly’s contribution, not just the goal. He has been outstanding in recent months and for him to get his first goal, and such an important goal, was exactly what he deserved.

“It is a testament to the work he has put in. It was the perfect finish, and he arrived at the back post at the perfect time after a perfect ball from Johnny Afolabi.

“I also think Krystian Nowak deserves great praise. He was very commanding in the box, and very calm when things were getting a bit crazy towards the end. He really showed his experience.

“Keith Buckley was outstanding too. It was a real Keith Buckley performance. He was an inspiration to everyone around him.

“Calm and in control when he needed to be, and snarling when he needed to be, winning second balls and giving us a platform to play.

“We had a lot of great performers and big characters who dragged us over the line. But that is behind us now, and the aim must be to match that determination and desire in every game between now and the end of the season.”

Team news

Bohemians have no injury concerns going into this game but James McManus is unavailable as he is on international duty with the Ireland U19s.

Preview: Galway United v Bohemians

Galway United v Bohemians
Saturday October 7, 2.40pm, Eamonn Deacy Park
Live on RTÉ One

Declan Devine has said Bohemians need to do what they do best – play with intensity and move the ball with purpose – to get past Galway United in the semi-final of the Sports Direct Men’s FAI Cup.

Bohs travelled to Galway this afternoon ahead of tomorrow’s tie, and Devine says his side are fully aware of the challenge the First Division champions will pose.

John Caulfield’s side won all 16 of their home league games this season on their way to clinching the title, scoring 53 goals at Eamonn Deacy Park and conceding just four in the process.

They have already beaten Premier Division clubs in the previous two rounds – thumping UCD 5-1 in the last 16 and Dundalk 4-0 in the quarter-finals.

Devine said: “Any time you face a John Caulfield team you know you are going to face a team that is very fit and competitive. John’s record speaks for itself. He is a very decorated manager and has done an unbelievable job with Galway with Ollie Horgan alongside him.

“They are in a really good place as a club, but so are we. We are a new team, a new squad, a new backroom team, and we are playing in a semi-final in our first season together.

“That is something we want to grasp. We come into this game with a fully fit squad, and we want to give everything of ourselves to progress to the final, knowing that we have to be at our very, very best. I have full faith in our players that they will give everything to make sure our game plan comes to fruition on the day.

“All Galway’s stats are there for us and all to see. We treat every team with the greatest of respect. We fully understand how good Galway are and I think they are going to be a brilliant addition to the Premier Division next season in terms of their location, the size of the club.

“This is a one-off game. There will be no second chances. We have prepared really well all week and our players have been really looking forward to this but they also know the strengths of Galway, so we have prepared in a professional way.

“We’ve got a very strong squad, and very capable players. We need to take the emotion out of it and go out there and play.”

Bohs come into this game on the back of a 3-1 win against Sligo Rovers last week, which saw Devine’s side move back up to fourth in the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division at Dalymount Park.

The home side struggled to find their rhythm in the first half, but came out all guns blazing in the second half with a brace from Johnny Afolabi, either side of an Ali Coote effort, giving Bohs a three-goal lead until the Bit O’Red grabbed a consolation from the penalty spot in injury-time.

Devine said: “Whenever we hit the levels we are capable of, we are very hard to play against. I think Sligo were a bit shocked in the second half last week.

“But again, as I said after the game, we cannot afford to leave minutes behind us on the pitch, which we did in the first half. We have to play for the full duration of the game.

“The pleasing thing for us this year is that we have been able to get a lot of late goals, and we have real resilience in our team, which is important when you go to places like Galway at this level of competition.

“We need all of that to come together. I have never known a semi-final that has been one-way traffic, they are nearly always very tight affairs. We know what we want to do to progress because we have worked so hard to get here.

“When you represent a club like Bohemians, there is pressure in every game. But the players have really taken to that. I think Dalymount has become one of the hardest venues for teams to come to in Ireland.

“Being able to play to the standard that we have in front of our own fans has given us a platform to build on. The challenge is to bring that with us to Galway. We went to a difficult venue and against a good team in the last round against Drogheda, and I feel we are going to have to be even better than that again in Galway.

“But we have experience in our team too – the like of Keith Buckley, James Talbot, Jordan Flores, Krystian Nowak, Dylan Connolly – players with plenty of know-how, and we just have to make sure we pull everything together on the day by doing what we do best, playing with intensity and moving the ball with real purpose.”

Team news

Bohemians have a full squad to pick from, with Adam McDonnell returning from suspension.

Preview: Bohemians v Sligo Rovers

SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Friday September 29 2023, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm
Tickets: tickets.bohemians.ie

Declan Devine feels Bohemians have left points behind them in recent weeks and says they need to show more of a cutting edge in front of goal.

Bohs host Sligo Rovers at Dalymount Park tomorrow on the back of a 1-1 draw against Shelbourne at the same venue on Monday, having been held to a 0-0 stalemate away to Drogheda United last Friday.

Against Shels, Devine admits that his side put in a below-par performance in the first half, but were then left frustrated that large spells of dominance in the second half did not force a winner.

Devine said: “I was really disappointed at half-time, and I think the players were disappointed with themselves too.

“We started the first couple of minutes quite well, but our intensity just wasn’t at it. We can’t afford that, particularly at this stage of the season.

“We improved considerably in the second half. We had a lot of positive approach play, if you look at our stats in terms of shots and chances that we created, but we have got to be more ruthless.

“We’ve left points behind in our last two games because we have not been ruthless enough in front of goal during periods of dominance. We need to show a real cutting edge to put the ball in the back of the net when chances come our way.”

Bohs’ second-half resurgence was part-inspired by skipper Keith Buckley’s move back to midfield.

Devine said: “We signed Bucko as a midfield player and that is where I foresee him playing in the future. But with injuries, players leaving, and players coming in mid-season and trying to find their feet, we have played him at right-back, and he has done really well there.

“I was impressed with Bart Kukulowicz in the last couple of games, in the Leinster Senior Cup and when he came on against Shelbourne, so he is settling in now. Certainly at the business end of the season, you want your captain in midfield.

“I see Keith Buckley as an outstanding midfield player, and hopefully we can get him in there between now and the end of the year.”

Devine was also happy to see a star performance once more from Ali Coote, who netted Bohs’ equaliser in the 74th minute.

The Scotsman’s early-season form saw him named the SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers Ireland Player of the Month for March but his influence in recent months has been disrupted by injury and the form of others.

Devine said: “Ali was outstanding in the second half on Monday. There are players who haven’t started games recently who are really pushing hard, and that’s what you want at this stage of the season.

“I’m delighted for Ali because his season has been disrupted by injury and niggles, ones that he has found hard to shake off. But we saw his quality again on Monday.

“As a group we know that if we are to achieve what we want to between now and the end of the season we will need our big players to play big parts. We have to have the mentality to do that.”

Devine is expecting another tough game against Sligo, a team who Bohs have beaten twice this season but lost to in the last meeting between the sides.

He added: “We are expecting another difficult ding-dong of a battle. I’ve watched Sligo’s wins against UCD and Derry City, and they were very good. They deserved to beat Derry but we have to concentrate on ourselves. We are at the business end of the season and we have to be at our very, very best in every game.

“We have to target wins in every game between now and the end of the season. There have been surprising results here, there and everywhere, even in recent weeks, so we have to take care of our own business.

“We have worked hard to put ourselves in a strong position. We cannot have any regrets at the end of this series of games.

“A lot of our performances have been good, but the requirement is to keep going for 95 minutes or however long we have on the pitch. We can’t leave anything behind.

“We have created a lot of chances in the last few weeks but we have to be ruthless in both boxes from start to finish. We know what we are capable of but we have to go out and show our quality.”

TEAM NEWS

Adam McDonnell (suspended) is Bohs’ only absentee.

PREVIEW: BOHEMIANS v SHELBOURNE

SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Monday September 25 2023, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm
Tickets: tickets.bohemians.ie

Declan Devine says Bohemians must grasp every opportunity presented to them between now and the end of the season, and make their pace and power count when they host Shelbourne at Dalymount Park tomorrow.

Bohs were left frustrated on Friday night when they could not find a way past Drogheda United. They were held to a 0-0 draw in the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division at Weavers Park having won 3-1 in the Sports Direct FAI Men’s Cup at the same venue a week previously.

Devine says his side’s performance did not reach the heights of the display in the cup, and has challenged them to move up the gears against Shels at Dalymount.

Devine said: “It was always going to be a difficult game. We won four out of the four previous games against them this season but none of those were easy games.

“We prepared well for the game and had two or three really good opportunities, and their goalkeeper came away with man of the match, which tells its own story.

“We had opportunities to win the game and, bar one great opportunity they had, we were the dominant team. But having watched the game back, I think we had another couple of gears in us. We didn’t hit the heights we did up there the week before.

“You only have to look at the results over the past couple of weeks to see the nature of this league. For us, Friday could end up being a valuable point. It was really important we didn’t lose the game but we wanted to win it.”

Shels’ win against Cork City on Friday saw them overtake Bohs and move up to fourth in what is a congested top half of the table.

Devine said: “We are still in a position where we have four home games to go, two away, and are challenging for those European places.

“Monday is a big game, there is no doubt about it. It’s been a calendar month since we last played a league game in Dalymount. We have had Rockmount and Usher Celtic in the cups in the meantime, but the players are all really looking forward to having a league game at home.

“There’s very little between a lot of the teams pushing hard for Europe. We have to make sure we go and perform. The players have trained the last two days and are feeling fresh.

“It’s a big game, a derby with a lot riding on it. It’s a game every player wants to be involved in. At home with the big spaces we have in Dalymount and with the pace and power we have in this team, it suits us.

“We want to grasp every opportunity that is presented to us between now and the end of the season. We have two home games this week and we want to target two wins but we know we have to be at our absolute best to do that.

“Shels have strengthened with the additions they brought in during the summer but we are in a good place too with the players that are now back available to us. Everybody is back fit – Dean Williams got another game under his belt with the U19s against Rovers in Tallaght today.

“With three games in a week, we have got to use our squad and use our subs. We are able to make changes in games without weakening the team because we have a lot of talented boys available.

“I couldn’t be happier with the effort the players are giving us. It is our first year together, we are in the semi-final of the cup, and we are pushing hard in the league for a European place.

“But these are the games now in the business end of the season where we really have to be competitive, and showcase the style of play and qualities that we have – our pace, our power. I think we can be a real handful for anyone, especially at Dalymount Park with the crowd right behind us. It is up to us now to embrace that, give everything of ourselves to get maximum points.”

Despite a congested fixture list in recent weeks, Devine comes into this game with a full squad to choose from.

Dean Williams has benefited from run-outs in the Leinster Senior Cup final and for the U19s, while Paddy Kirk has overcome the ankle injury that saw him sit out the previous two games.

Devine also hopes to see more from the likes of James Akintunde – a key performer in Bohs’ blistering start to the season but who has endured a frustrating few months since.

Devine said: “Having worked with James for a number of seasons at Derry previous to bringing him here, I can say he has had a really unfortunate year with injuries. Not only has he picked up one or two injuries, he’s actually had three or four throughout the course of the year.

“He is a guy who gives everything of himself, and is otherwise in fantastic condition. But he has a stop-start season with the injuries he has picked up. I think over the coming weeks we will see the James we saw at the start of the season when he was really tearing it up.

“He is a fantastic player to have, and he is working incredibly hard in training. We will definitely see the best of him again.

“The same goes for other players. The likes of Dean Williams who was out for several months is coming back to fitness now at the right time, likewise Luke Dennison, so we have players who have missed out at various stages of the season back and who are now chomping at the bit to be involved.

“We had Ali Coote back in the team on Friday and he did really well. Kris Twardek, Declan McDaid and John O’Sullivan are pushing hard too. John has come on in recent games and has had positive impacts, and Paddy is back fit this week too.

“So it’s the business end of the season, injuries have cleared up, and everyone is gunning to have a really big push between now and the end of the year.”

TEAM NEWS

Bohemians have a full squad to choose from, with Paddy Kirk having recovered from an ankle injury.

Preview: Drogheda United v Bohemians

SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Friday September 22 2023, Weavers Park, 7.45pm
Tickets still available online on general sale

Declan Devine says Bohemians must knuckle down and refocus if they are to deliver a repeat victory away to Drogheda United tomorrow evening.

Bohs came out on the right side of last week’s Sports Direct FAI Men’s Cup quarter-final at Weavers Park and tomorrow face Drogs at the same venue in the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division.

A goal from Krystian Nowak and a brace from Johnny Afolabi delivered a 3-1 win and the perfect present for Devine’s 50th birthday last Friday, but Devine had little time to celebrate as focus immediately turned to this week’s rematch.

Devine said: “I was happy last week with our performance but I wasn’t ecstatic as I thought we had opportunities to put the game to bed earlier than we did. I was also disappointed that we conceded just after half-time even though not in a million years did I think it was a penalty.

“The main purpose of last week was to get into the next round of the cup and that was achieved. We moved the ball in difficult conditions quite well, and created a number of great opportunities. But I am looking for us to be better this week in both boxes.

“We defended well, but felt we could have had the game controlled a wee bit better. There are definitely things we can learn from last week, and things we need to do better. That has to be the aim for us going there again.”

After dominating long periods of the first half, Bohs probably felt they should have had more to show for it than a 1-0 lead at the break, particularly when Ryan Brennan’s penalty levelled the game early in the second half.

But Bohs asserted themselves, and went after the game once more.

Devine said: “Our squad is key. Being able to make changes in the way we did, at the stages that we did, was very important. When we go into this period we are in now in terms of having back-to-back Friday/Monday games, we have to utilise our squad.

“We have to make sure that we have energy and quality coming off the bench at the right times.

“Over the course of the season, we have scored a lot of late goals, and the fact that when we went back to 1-1, that the players did not panic and did not worry is a sign of the team maturing.

“It showed experience and that they trusted themselves. They took their setback, sucked it up and they went after the game again, which was a defining moment in the game.

“There was a calmness about us in terms of going and getting the next goal. To get the goal reasonably quickly after Drogheda scored gave us confidence too.

“But we had to dig in, we had to defend. We faced a lot of set pieces and defended them really well, which was really pleasing as was getting three goals away from home.”

The challenge now is to do it all again against a side seeking revenge, but Devine knows there can be no let-up as his side, currently in fourth, looks to break into the top three and secure European qualification through the league.

Devine said: “We spoke on Saturday morning then about a refocus and their attitude, honesty and intensity all week has been outstanding.

“Every player and every member of staff knows the importance of the next game. We are at a stage of the season where every point and every three points is critical. We have got to go up to Drogheda again and give an even better performance than what we did last week.

“We still have a couple of gears that we can go up. We have to make sure now that we are relentless in our pursuit of points, wanting more and driving on between now and the end of the season.”

Devine also comes into this week’s game with the advantage of being reminded of what some of the club’s upcoming talent, and first-team players in need of game-time, have to offer after a crowd of 3093 at Dalymount Park on Monday night saw an experimental Bohs line-up beat Usher Celtic 5-0 to lift the Leinster Senior Cup.

Devine added: “It was a really positive night for us. When we went out for the warm-up and knew that there was going to be over 3000 there, that was sensational.

“It was invaluable that that bond between the fans and players was there for the younger lads playing in front of such a crowd for the first time.

“It was brilliant for Cian Byrne, who has come right through our academy, to be the captain of a team that lifts a trophy at Dalymount Park, irrelevant of what the tournament is because that doesn’t happen every day of your life.

“That is something he should take enormous pride and joy in. It reminds all our young players in the U19s that he was playing at that level last year, and shows that the pathway is open to them and that if you work hard, things can happen for you at our club.

“And I was delighted for Jake McCormack and Chris Lotefa to experience what it feels like to score in front of such a crowd.

“It was right that a good few of the U19s got to play and had an opportunity to perform in front of such a crowd because the U19s got us there with the performance away to Shelbourne in the semi-final.

“At this stage of the season, we also had to use the game for some players to get minutes. Bart Kukulowicz, Louie Holzman, Cian Byrne, Luke Dennison, Ali Coote – a lot of them needed to play, and they played well. Declan McDaid’s goal was a fantastic goal, and Kris Twardek did really well.

“Overall it was a great night. There is a great appetite from our fans to see us play in Dalymount and that is down to the levels of performances that the players are putting in when they play at Dalymount. We have been good at home this year. Our performance was very professional, scoring early and scoring late.”

 TEAM NEWS

Paddy Kirk (ankle) and Bart Kukulowicz (knee) are doubts while Dean Williams (ankle) made his long-awaited return off the bench on Monday.

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