CALLAGHAN: CALL-OFF COST US MOMENTUM

PREVIEW: BOHEMIANS v SLIGO ROVERS (Good Friday, Dalymount Park, 7.05pm)

(Please note early kick-off time)

Bohemians welcome league champions Sligo Rovers determined to recover the confidence they felt after their last game 11 days ago.

Last weekend’s late calling-off of the St Patrick’s Athletic game may have cost his team “a bit of momentum”, according to manager Aaron Callaghan.

“The lads put in a good performance against Shamrock Rovers and a good result against Pats would have moved us right up the table,” Callaghan said.

“It’s disappointing when you’re preparing for a game and it’s called off at the last minute, but we can’t control things like that.”

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Bohemians will show the table-toppers the respect they deserve but Callaghan takes confidence from two close games against Sligo last season, including a scoreless draw at Dalymount.

“Sligo have had a great run in the league and they have had a good Setanta Cup so far but we’re looking for a result from Friday’s game.

“The level of consistency Sligo have maintained is very good. They are able to compete for the best players and they have bought well. They took Evan [McMillan] from us, a really good player, and I was surprised that others didn’t get him.”

For Bohemians, Chris Lyons remains out with an ankle injury from the Shamrock Rovers game that may be more serious than first thought. Shane Fitzgerald has returned to training after an ankle injury.

With newly-signed Stephen Paisley now fully fit, Callaghan has to consider what role he may have, given that the defence with Owen Heary in the centre has proven effective.

But the availability of the experienced Paisley and of Dave Mulcahy is a fillip as Bohemians face Shelbourne next Monday. Callaghan may be calling on more of his squad over the next few days.

BANK HOLIDAY BLOCKBUSTER

BOHEMIANS v SHAMROCK ROVERS (Dalymount Park, Monday March 18th, 2pm)

Following a disappointing second half reversal against Cork City on Friday, Bohemians will need no motivation to bounce back as they take on fierce rivals Shamrock Rovers in a Bank Holiday Blockbuster in Dalymount Park on Monday, writes KEVIN FAGAN.

All St Patrick’s Day goodwill will go out the window as another chapter is written in the Airtricity League’s most intense rivalry.

Despite the defeat, Bohs boss Aaron Callaghan was pleased with his side’s performance on the banks of the River Lee, where Owen Heary’s header just before the interval was cancelled out by two second-half strikes.

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“I thought it was a good performance overall, obviously we didn’t get the result we wanted. The intensity they came out with in the second half we couldn’t cope with it.

“We conceded two sloppy goals, I think their second one was a bit lucky with someone miscontrolling it. But we got back into the game in the last 15 to 20 minutes, so I was delighted with the performance individually and collectively.”

Coming off back-to-back wins in games against Shamrock Rovers last season, Callaghan knows that there is more than just three points on offer against the Hoops.

He said: “It’s not just a game – it’s a big Dublin Derby against our biggest rivals. Last year we were set up quite well for those games but we definitely need to perform at our best to get a result.

“I think last year is history to be honest. They’ve strengthened, they have a new manager and a new set of players. They’ve started the season well so it’s a good test for us – but it’s one we’re looking forward to.”

The Gypsies boss knows that he won’t need to fire his players up for this one. Callaghan said: “They know the importance of the game for themselves first of all, but also for the fans. They need to make sure they put in a performance individually, and then collectively I think we’ll be good.”

Callaghan praised the effect of a raucous Jodi Stand support in the 4-0 win against Rovers last season. He expects a big crowd again this time around, and the Bank Holiday kick-off should make for a fantastic atmosphere.

He added: “I think there’s going to be a really good crowd. The fact we moved it forward and that they’ve started well, I think there could be four or five thousand at it, and I know our fans will come out in force.”

Bohs will be without midfielder Dave Mulcahy, who is still struggling with an ankle injury, while centre-back Stephen Paisley and midfielder/forward Kevin Devaney are doubts through illness. Bar that trio, Callaghan expects his squad to be at full strength for the big game.

THERE’S LIFE AFTER COLLEGE

PREVIEW: CORK CITY V BOHEMIANS (Friday March 15th, Turner’s Cross, KO 7.45pm)

Bohemians face a challenging trip to Cork City for their first away assignment in this season’s Airtricity League Premier Division, writes KEVIN FAGAN.

Having lost out after extra-time to UCD in the Leinster Senior Cup last month, the Gypsies came out on top in the two key games of an exhausting Dalymount trilogy against College – winning 2-1 in the league on Friday and 3-2 after extra-time in the EA Sports Cup on Monday.

And Bohs boss Aaron Callaghan is delighted to be preparing for a game against someone other than the Belfield outfit!

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“Three games in 15 days against UCD is a bit much – but we came out on top in two of them, which is the main thing.

“I wasn’t overly pleased with the performance in the league game but the second-half performance in the cup game was probably our best performance to date, culminating in us getting a last-minute goal and bringing it to extra-time.”

Callaghan was also pleased with the fact that he could afford to change nine players from the starting line-up for the league victory and still progress in the EA Sports Cup with that thrilling extra-time winner from Chris Lyons.

He said: “For the squad, I was trying to get two players to compete for every position, and I think we’ve done that. When you can change eight or nine players and still get the result, it’s definitely pleasing for me.”

What will also please the Gypsies’ boss is the form of his attacking players. Out of the six goals scored against UCD over the three ties, five were from strikers and the other from the attack-minded Karl Moore (pictured). Firepower up front is a big priority for Callaghan this term. He said: “It’s an area that we’ve tried to improve on and hopefully that can continue”.

This weekend’s opponents Cork City have one of the most-changed squads in the league this term and Callaghan is expecting a tough fixture, adding: “They’ve spent wisely, brought in a lot of players. They have quite a decent budget down there by all accounts and we’re expecting nothing but a tough game. I watched their draw against Limerick and I think it was pretty even. We’re looking forward to it now.”

On the injury front, Bohemians have a few doubts for the trip. As well as a few players carrying knocks from Monday, Stephen Paisley has been ill over the past few days, Kevin Devaney is nursing a knock on his ankle and Dave Scully has a back strain. Those three will be assessed at training tonight before Callaghan decides who to bring on the trip down South.

AARON: YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE A GOOD START CAN TAKE YOU

Bohemians kick off their league campaign with the second of three early-season meetings with UCD – and boss Aaron Callaghan wants the Gypsies to start as they mean to go on.

Callaghan is keen to make a winning start on Friday (Dalymount, kick-off 7.45pm) and is confident that his squad is much better prepared than at the same time last year.

“We have been able to put a bit of shape and structure on the team but we will see better when we have played a few league games,” Callaghan said.

“A good start can give you momentum, as Drogheda demonstrated last year. It can help the confidence of both the players and the fans and you never know where it can take you.”

Callaghan firmly believes his squad can improve on last season.

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“The lads are hungry. Their attitude in training has been fantastic and we hope that will manifest itself in match performances. There’s a desire there to do well and I believe we can win a trophy.”

The manager is not fazed by last month’s extra-time defeat to UCD in the Leinster Senior Cup.

“There was nothing between the teams. They play a similar game to us and their fitness levels are high. But the line-up of both sides will look very different on Friday from what it was.”

Callaghan expects his counterpart Martin Russell to make “five or six” changes for Friday and he himself could be making as many EIGHT changes.

The manager is delighted to have retained 15 of last year’s squad, as the slow start in 2012 was at least partly down to players learning new approaches.

“The fact that we kept so many, and who can help new players coming in, is very good from our point of view.”

Callaghan also believes he has a squad with cover for all positions, and thus competition for starting places. However, he already has a fairly clear idea what his best 11 might look like but “nobody can rest on their laurels, they need to keep their standards high”.

The pre-season schedule has taken a small toll on the players. Shane Fitzgerald (ankle), Kevin Devaney (ankle) and Kevin O’Leary (illness) are not available for Friday.

On Monday 11th March, Bohemians again host UCD at Dalymount Park in the EA Sports Cup (kick-off 7.45pm).

(Pic: UCD’s Michael Leahy and Bohs winger Keith Buckley at last week’s Airtricity League launch at the Aviva Stadium)

Let’s Talk About It: Westport v Bohemians

A Bohemians XI heads west this Sunday to take on Westport United in a fundraising game to raise money for Talk About It, a national voluntary organisation based in Mayo, which promotes the prevention of suicide in Ireland.

The challenge match, which kicks off at 2.30pm, is a renewal of an old friendship dating back to the early 20th century.

Frank Gill, a native of the Quays area of Westport, was involved with the Gypsies in the 1900s and it was through this connection that the Connacht club adopted their red and black colours.

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On one occasion, Harold Sloan, who scored in Bohs’ only IFA Cup final victory in 1908, planted a tree in recognition of the clubs’ friendship.

To further raise awareness for the work of Talk About It, Sunday’s game will be broadcast live on Setanta Sports Ireland.

Setanta Sports commercial director Trevor Twamley said: “To demonstrate our support for this important charity event, which we will broadcast live to 1.2million homes, Setanta Sports has shifted AC Milan from Setanta Ireland to Setanta Sports 1 to make way for Westport United and Bohemians.”

Tickets (adults €10, children €5) for the match are available locally in Wesport from Downtown Records, Henry McGlade Music Store and the Mill Times Hotel.

As part of its fundraising drive Talk About It is also running a monster memorabilia at the Westport Woods Hotel on Sunday November 4.

The charity’s founder Joe McGuire said: “We have already started on this mammoth task and among those we have received are fully signed jerseys from the Irish national rugby squad and the Dublin Gaelic football team to whom we send out thanks.”

Website by Simon Alcock