“The tough games keep coming”

BOHEMIANS v WATERFORD
Friday April 26 2019, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm

Match sponsors: DHL Express. Matchball sponsors: DB Electrical

Bohemians supporters are still enjoying the bragging rights after winning the Dublin derby on Tuesday.

But Danny Grant has warned that the ‘tough games keep coming’ and that there can be no let-up in performance if second-placed Bohs want to maintain and build upon their good start to the season.

Grant was a contender for the man-of-the-match award in Bohs’ 1-0 win against Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght Stadium before a knock to his knee forced him off 20 minutes into the second half.

A self-assured performance beyond his years was up there with the best yet from a youngster who has progressed to the Bohs first team from the club’s U19s for whom he won two league titles in a row.

The 19-year-old, a business management student in Maynooth University, said: “I feel as a player I have come on and that’s thanks to the help I’ve got from Keith Long and Trevor Croly.

“There’s no better club in the league to be with as a young player. If you work hard and are good enough, you will get a chance.

“I want to keep developing, I want to see can if I get better. Keith’s told me he thinks I look a different player than I was before and that’s given me more confidence.”

That self-belief was evident on Tuesday as Grant was a constant thorn in Rovers’ side in the first half – drawing the first of Lee Grace’s two yellow cards and seeing Trevor Clarke red-carded when he was pulled down on the edge of the area.

Despite his relative inexperience, Grant is no stranger to causing damage in Dublin derbies – it was his low cross in the 99th minute that teed up Darragh Leahy’s memorable winner last season.

But the pressure ratcheted up another notch on Tuesday as Bohs maintained their seven-game unbeaten run against the Hoops, clawing the league leaders’ eight-point lead at the top of the table back to five in the process. The Gypsies also have a game in hand.

Grant said: “Tuesday night was great for everyone at the club. We haven’t set a target but we wanted to win, particularly to close the gap.

“There was definitely more expectation. I’ve only been involved in two derbies but you could feel there was more expectation this time.

“There was an even bigger crowd than before and we had great support behind us. We deserved the three points, although we played better against 11 men.

“I was pleased with how I did and it was a pity I had to go off. I went on a run and got a knock to back of my knee, I think from Lee Grace.

“I couldn’t keep running. I saw Wardy (Keith Ward) warming up on the sideline and I signaled to Bucko (Keith Buckley) to tell the gaffer to take me off.”

Grant is hoping to retain his place in the squad tomorrow though for the visit of Waterford to Dalymount Park – Bohs’ seventh of eight games this month, with a trip to Derry on Monday to come.

Long’s squad has been tested to the max but such have been the level of performances from players who have come into the team while he rotates things that team selection has proved difficult.

Grant said: “Tough games keep coming – the schedule this month has been a test for all clubs. But I think we are in a position this season where we have a really good squad.

“Everyone is made feel important, even if you aren’t playing. It’s obviously hard if you’re starting or borderline starting one week and then in the stands the next week.

“But it is a team effort. There is nobody sulking when they’re left out – there’s no room for that at Bohs.”

While Bohs players are only taking it one game at a time, Grant’s mam Julie can afford to look one ahead.

Her cupcakes on the team’s trip home from Ballybofey a fortnight ago proved very popular, with Danny adding: “I think maybe she’ll bake a big cake for the lads coming back from Derry on Monday instead!”

TEAM NEWS

Cristian Magerusan (cruciate) is Bohs’ only absentee.

“There is expectation at both clubs, but we are still underdogs”

SHAMROCK ROVERS v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League
Tuesday April 23 2019, Tallaght Stadium, 8pm

Keith Long knows Bohemians will have to adjust quickly to the heat of the Dublin derby cauldron to get a result in Tallaght tomorrow.

Bohs have had the upper hand in this fixture in recent times – winning five and drawing one of the sides’ last six meetings.

But since the rivals last met, Shamrock Rovers have remained undefeated since, have surged to the top of the table and are chasing their ninth victory in a row.

Bohs’ form isn’t too shabby either though.

Before today’s fixtures, they moved back to second in the table on Friday – eight points behind Rovers but with a game in hand.

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Along the way rookie keeper James Talbot has kept eight clean sheets and the four goals Bohs have been conceded have been from two penalties, a free-kick and a corner.

Long said: “We’re in good form. Both teams have done very well so far this season. There is expectation at both clubs, but we are still underdogs.

“Rovers are rightly being tipped for the league title. That is to be expected given their level of investment in their squad and the quality of player they’ve brought in.

“We’ve had a good start to the season ourselves though, built on a mean defence.

“Hopefully we can start the game quickly and put in a positive performance. We’re looking forward to it.”

A good start is important. Bohs eventually racked up an impressive 3-0 win against UCD at Dalymount on Friday.

But they were a bit slow out of the traps in the first half and Long has warned his men they can’t afford a similar start against a side of Rovers’ quality.

He said: “Tomorrow will be tough. We acquitted ourselves very well in Dundalk last week, deserved a result, but couldn’t find the breakthrough.

“We followed that up with a good win against UCD but we were sluggish in the first half – we were much better in the second half – but we will need to start brightly against Rovers.”

Competition for places is the toughest it’s been at Bohs for many years.

Ahead of Friday’s game against UCD, Keith Ward admitted no matter who was picked, there was going to be someone watching on from the sidelines feeling aggrieved.

Long agrees, adding: “It’s a good problem to have. We have players pushing hard in games and in training.

“Given how well they’ve done, there are going to be lads disappointed when they’re not starting but that’s the nature of football.”

Thanks to the addition expansion of Tallaght Stadium with the addition of the South Stand, Bohs will bring their biggest ever travelling support to Dublin 24 since the venue first opened ten years ago.

The last of the club’s allocation of 1100 were sold after Friday night’s game against UCD with many supporters left disappointed.

That win against the Students was the fifth home league game of the season for Bohs – and the fifth time the Jodi Stand has sold out as Long’s team continue to attract new support.

The average attendance at Dalymount this season has been 3,211 – up 44 per cent on last year’s average.

Long said: “Our crowds have been fantastic and right behind us all year and we’ll need that in Tallaght again.

“There is great appetite for this fixture from both sets of supporters. You don’t want to let your supporters down.

“Tallaght will be like a cauldron and even more so now with the new South Stand and hopefully we can do our bit to make sure the game can live up to its billing.”

TEAM NEWS

Cristian Magerusan (cruciate) is Bohs’ only absentee. Skipper Derek Pender and Keith Ward were rested against Dundalk and UCD but both remain available for selection.

 

“I wouldn’t like to be Keith picking the team… I just hope he picks me!”

 BOHEMIANS v UCD
SSE Airtricity League
Friday April 19 2019, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm

Match sponsor: Bang Bang. Matchball sponsor: Used Car Centre 01-4594511

Keith Ward believes no matter what starting XI manager Keith Long picks against UCD, there is going to be someone watching on from the sidelines feeling aggrieved.

Monday’s trip to face reigning champions Dundalk was Bohs’ fourth of eight fixtures in the month of April.

With games coming thick and fast, Long made the bold the decision to make seven changes to the starting – and largely settled – XI that had won 1-0 away to Finn Harps three days previously.

None of the changes were enforced, but Long is wary of overloading part-time players with a busy schedule meaning his squad’s strength in depth is at present being tested to the max.

One of those rested was Ward, who, like the rest of those watching from the bench or stands, faces an anxious wait to see whether he will win back his place in the team.

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Not only did Bohs put it up to the champions on their own patch, they did that and much, much more.

They were the far better team for the vast majority of the game, dictating the pace in a way that belied for many a lack of inexperience and others a lack of game-time.

Driven on by an encouraging away support, the Gypsies’ attempts to find the back of the net proved elusive, however.

And, in the third minute of injury-time, their efforts and enthusiasm came to a shuttering halt when Paddy Kirk was contentiously adjudged to have taken down his former Bohs team-mate Daniel Kelly inside the box.

Referee Tomás Connolly awarded a penalty and Patrick Hoban blasted past James Talbot to send the Gypsies home empty-handed. They dropped to third in the table behind Derry City in the process.

While the manner of the defeat was cruel, now that the dust has settled, Bohs, while not satisfied with moral victories, can still afford to take a lot of positives from their performance.

Ward said: “I was in the stands and I think anyone watching the game will think we deserved to win. We were gutted with the way we lost but everyone who played can hold their heads up high about the way they performed.

“We showed how good a squad we have. Man to man, we were excellent. The young lads that came in – the like of Paddy Kirk and Andy Lyons – and Ryan Swan starting his first game in 18 months, for them to play like that against the champions was extremely pleasing.

“There is good strength in depth there. Every year we lose players but Keith obviously has a good eye for them because there is real quality coming through.”

Bohs have been slow starters in recent seasons, but things seemed to have clicked a lot more quickly this term.

Ward said: “It’s a combination of good talent spotting and really hard work training.

“You look at those lads on Monday, some of them have barely played this season but they weren’t tired as the game went on and that’s down to hard work and everyone pushing each other in training all the time.

“But they controlled the game for a lot of it too which is important as you don’t tire yourself out when you’re on the ball whereas they might have if they had to chase it.

“When we train, it’s very competitive. Trevor Croly doesn’t give you an inch! That means we’re all pushing and pushing each other.

“I wouldn’t like to be Keith picking the team tomorrow! I just hope he picks me! No matter who he picks there will be lads in the stand who will feel they should be starting.”

While supporters are still kicking themselves about the way such a positive performance turned sour on Monday, Ward and Co don’t have the luxury of dwelling on it.

They  face a UCD who have improved since Bohs beat them 2-0 in Belfield in the second week of the season and have beaten both Waterford and Cork City in recent weeks.

Ward said: “UCD are 10 games in now and they will know a lot about themselves now and about the division compared to when we last played them.

“They have come on a lot already and will keep improving. They like to play the right way and will be tough opposition. It’s a very competitive division and there are no easy games – everyone knows that.”

The Jodi Stand is on course to sell out for the fifth home league game in a row – supporters are advised to buy online to avoid disappointment – with Ward admitting the players are thriving off the encouragement from the stands.

He added: “It’s great seeing big crowds in Dalymount. I’ve had people on to me looking for tickets for games we as players can’t even get hold of!

“It’s great as a player to come out to see a packed stand hopping like that. In previous seasons you might have had three or four games like that.

“But last year the crowds were up a good bit and the Jodi has been full for four games we’ve played so far this year.

“That pushes players on even more. They’re there to see you, to support you and we take pride in that. You don’t want to let them down.”

TEAM NEWS 

Cristian Magerusan (cruciate) is Bohs’ only absentee.

“I’m excited to see how we can perform against a team of Dundalk’s quality”

DUNDALK v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League
Monday April 15 2019, Oriel Park, 7,45pm

Bohemians’ good start to the season faces perhaps its toughest test yet tonight when we take on champions Dundalk at Oriel Park.

The Gypsies’ haul of 20 points from the opening nine games matches the club’s start in our last league-winning campaign of 2009.

Friday’s 1-0 win away to Finn Harps continued the encouraging run of form built on a mean defence – it was James Talbot’s seventh clean sheet.

It was also Bohs’ first win in Ballybofey since 2008. 

While most of the intervening years have seen both clubs ply their trade in different divisions, there have been some notable frustrating nights in the north-west in recent years for Keith Long’s men – most notably the FAI Cup defeat in 2017 having led injury-time and a stoppage-time saved penalty a year previously.

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But Bohs exorcised those demons with a professional performance against a gutsy Harps side. 

Danny Grant netted the only goal of the game and, as revealed by skipper Derek Pender on social media later that night, was again the toast of his team-mates after his mother Julie made cupcakes for the team for their return trip.

Manager Keith Long said:  ”The result made for a nice journey home… and the lads all enjoyed Danny Grant’s mam’s cakes too. They were very nice!

“The game wasn’t a great spectacle but we worked very hard to get the three points.

“Ultimately I felt we were in control of the game for the most part but Harps threw things at us in the last 10 minutes.

“We were unlucky not to go in 2-0 at the break and we had chances in the second half to increase our lead.”
 
If there were any criticisms to be made of Bohs’ performance, it was their inability to take the chances on offer that ought to have increased the winning margin.

Against Dundalk, they are unlikely to be able afford to pass up such opportunities in front of goal.

They face a Lilywhites side who have lost two games in a row for the first time since 2016. They haven’t lost three on the bounce since 2012.

Long said: “Irrespective of Dundalk’s current form, Oriel Park is a very hard place to go to. They are league and cup champions for a reason.

“I can’t remember the last time Dundalk lost twice in a row so they will want to right that.

“But we have done well in recent weeks so we will go up confident and we will have strong belief in ourselves.

“We need to put in a very good performance to get anything from the game. If we can do that, we’ll see where that takes us.

“It’s a big test for us but I’m excited to see how we can perform against a team of Dundalk’s quality.”

TEAM NEWS

Rob Cornwall returns from suspension. Cristian Magerusan (cruciate) remains out.

“I can’t have any complaints given how well they have played”

FINN HARPS v BOHEMIANS
SSE Airtricity League
Friday April 12 2019, Finn Park, Ballybofey, 7.45pm

After six clean sheets in their opening eight league games, Bohemians’ defence has understandably been a difficult one to break into.

The Gypsies have conceded three league goals this season – from a penalty, from a corner and from a free-kick.

The strength of their rearguard and performances of goalkeeper James Talbot have earned many plaudits.

But one man has been watching on from the bench wondering would he ever get a chance to prove his worth.

Aaron Barry joined on loan from Cork City on the eve of the new season.

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The former Derry City stalwart helped the Leesiders to a second-placed league finish last season but it is Bohs who currently occupy that position as the division begins the second series of league fixtures.

The experienced central defender would have expected to have started for the first team in a league game by now.

James Finnerty arrived to the league from Aston Villa via Rochdale unproven at this level, while last year Rob Cornwall struggled to rediscover the form he displayed in 2017 due to a persistent niggling hamstring injury that affected his game-time and performance levels.

But such has been the form of Cornwall and Finnerty’s partnership in the heart of the Bohs defence this season that it has taken a suspension to the former – sent off in last Saturday’s 2-0 win away to Sligo Rovers – to put Barry in contention to make his first league start for the Gypsies.

Barry said: “It’s unfortunate for Rob to be missing out. Himself and James have been very solid at the back.

“In fairness, I arrived the day before the season started and the two lads haven’t put a foot wrong.

“I know how football works, I can’t have any complaints given how well they have played.

“It’s important to have strength in depth at any club and that’s what you want. But obviously I want to play. Rob’s suspension will hopefully give me an opportunity.”

Barry’s involvement thus far has been reduced to two substitute appearances in the league and starts in the Leinster Senior Cup and most recently the EA Sports Cup.

He gave a glimpse of what he is capable of in the former – netting twice in a 4-1 win against Shelbourne.

He said: “I’ve scored a couple of goals. We’ve been a threat at set-pieces this season – as you saw with James’ overhead kick that went in off his head!

“We all need to chip in with goals to take the pressure of Dinny.”

Barry is coming into a side that have belied mid-season predictions, but he is repeating the mantra of everyone keeping their feet on the ground.

They face a tricky trip to Ballybofey tomorrow – a venue that hasn’t always been kind to Keith Long’s teams in recent seasons.

He added: “I wasn’t paying too much attention to pre-season predictions but I guess people were thinking Bohs would be aiming for mid-table.

“But as soon as I came in, I could see the quality that is around the squad.

“It’s obviously been difficult for Bohs losing three or four good players every closed season but they’ve recruited well and replaced them with more quality.

“There is a good mix of young players but experience too with the likes of Derek Pender, Dinny Corcoran and Rob Cornwall.

“We’re going well at the moment and we are winning games but that can change quickly.

“We can’t get ahead of ourselves. There is a long season ahead and there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way.”

As for his own future, Barry admits that is still up in the air. His loan deal from Cork City ends in July.

He added: “I don’t look too far ahead. At the moment I’m a Bohs player and I’m determined to make the most of any opportunities I get.”

TEAM NEWS

Rob Cornwall is suspended having been sent off against Sligo Rovers last week.

Scott Allardice (facial injury) returns to the fold. Cristian Magerusan (cruciate) remains suspended.

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