“WE’VE SHOWN REAL CHARACTER”

UCD v BOHEMIANS (Tuesday May 7th, UCD Bowl, KO 7.45pm)

Bohemians play their third successive away match in eight days when they go UCD on Tuesday.

They come to this game after securing hard-fought draws on the road against St Patrick’s Athletic and Drogheda United.

“The way the lads fought back [against Drogheda] shows how much they care. The result was a reward for the effort they put in,” said Bohemian manager Aaron Callaghan.

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“Coming back from goals behind two games in a row shows real character,” Callaghan added.

Owen Heary, who made it to the bench last Friday after a month on the sidelines with a knee injury, looks set to return to action. Stephen Traynor is also available after a long lay-off. Derek Pender will have a late fitness test for a strain.

“We will have to prepare really well for UCD. They beat Shamrock Rovers at home. They are performing well and their fitness levels are always good,” said Callaghan.

The Bohemian manager returns to one of his former clubs with a squad that includes recent UCD players Ciaran Nangle and Chris Lyons, who celebrates his 20th birthday on Wednesday.

In the last 12 league meetings between the sides, UCD have won only once. However, last February they defeated Bohemians in the Leinster Senior Cup through a Ciaran Nangle own goal in the last minute of extra time.

In March, Chris Lyons scored penalties in successive games when Bohs avenged that defeat with two victories in three days over UCD in the league and in the EA Sports Cup.

“THE LADS HAVE WORKED THEIR SOCKS OFF”

DROGHEDA UNITED v BOHEMIANS (Friday May 3rd, Hunky Dorys Park, KO 7.45pm)

Bohemians complete the first cycle of league games on Friday, playing away to Drogheda United who are undefeated since the first match of the season.

But despite perceptions of the two sides as far apart, Bohemians’ four points from their last two games means that victory on Friday would put them within a point of Mick Cooke’s side, Bohs manager Aaron Callaghan points out.

Monday’s gritty draw against St Patrick’s Athletic has set up Bohemians very well for the trip to Hunky Dorys Park. “I always knew there was that character in the team. Just because one or two results didn’t go the way you wanted didn’t stop us believing in the lads, who have worked their socks off in training,” said Callaghan.

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“With so many changes, and so many younger players coming in, I was over the moon to get that result”.

With four of the most experienced players unable to play, even more responsibility than usual fell on Dave Mulcahy and goalkeeper Dean Delany. The No. 1 was, in Callaghan’s view, “exceptional, making three or four fantastic saves towards the end” and Mulcahy’s was rated by his manager as “one of the best individual performances I have seen in the league”.

Bohemians are well aware that Drogheda United have proven very difficult to beat. Last season, Bohemians had one draw and three defeats in league and league cup encounters with the Drogs. Just a month after Friday’s match, Bohs face Drogheda again in the FAI Cup.

“We’ve got to respect them and we’ll do our usual analysis on how they are playing but we have to concentrate on our own performance and on our shape,” said Callaghan.

“We’re getting more players forward, which has certainly helped us. We looked dangerous on the break against Pat’s. As much as they had chances to win it, we definitely had one or two chances to nick it.”

Bohemians secured their point last Monday with 19-year-old Conor O’Brien making his league debut, and 19-year-olds Andy Mulligan and Michael Barker starting for just the second time.

Callaghan has now started 22 players from his squad and it is likely he will have to draw on more, as Stephen Paisley has left the squad due to work commitments outside football and Darragh Hanaphy is on a temporary break also due to work commitments.

With Paisley off the payroll, Aaron Callaghan has some flexibility in his modest budget and is looking to bring in a striker.

For Friday, Owen Heary (knee) remains sidelined, while Derek Pender (bruised ribs) and Dave Scully (hamstring) face late fitness tests before Friday’s game.

At the other end of the age spectrum, 17-year-old Adam Kelly is now training with the senior squad. He joins defender Michael Scott, just turned 19, who has taken the squad number 23 vacated by the departing Niall Forrester.

CALLAGHAN: WE’RE GOING OVER THERE CONFIDENT

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC v BOHEMIANS (Monday April 29th, KO 7.45pm)

Bohemians play their rescheduled match against St Patrick’s Athletic boosted by a home win in difficult conditions against Bray Wanderers on Friday.

“We’re going over there more confident as result of that win,” said manager Aaron Callaghan. “But Pat’s are also in better form than when we were due to meet them last month.”

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Callaghan had wanted his players to “put in a shift” and “give the fans something to shout about” on Friday. He changed the system to put more players up front, with three at the back.

“This left us a bit vulnerable at times. We were open to counter-attack and Bray tried to take advantage of that. But the lads did well and I certainly can’t fault them for effort.”

Callaghan was pleased with the performances of Bohs debutant Shane Fitzgerald and of lively winger Andy Mulligan, who made his first league appearance after an intensive campaign of college football.

But the schedule of two games a week is taking its toll on the squad. Callaghan will not have time to prepare fully for the challenge of an away Dublin derby and his selection choices are narrowing.

Several players have picked up injuries and will face late fitness tests. Derek Pender (calf) and Dave Scully (hamstring), who were crucial to Bohs’ efforts on Friday, are among the doubtful starters.

Stephen Paisley (knee), Conor O’Brien (ankle) have joined Owen Heary (knee) on the injury list.

The Bohemian manager expects St Patrick’s Athletic to improve this season on last year’s achievements. “They have a good squad, they’re on a good run and they have shown they can contend for the title,” he said of his former club.

Ex-Pat’s man Dave Mulcahy returned to Friday’s squad after illness and showed all the value of his experience when Bohs had their backs against the wall late in Friday’s game. His strength and guile will be required again on Monday, particularly in the possible absence of Heary, Paisley and Pender.

Eight of the last nine league games between Bohemians and Pats have been drawn or decided by a single goal either way.

CALLAGHAN: WE HAVE TO KEEP SUPPORTING THE YOUNG LADS

PREVIEW: BOHEMIANS v BRAY WANDERERS (Friday April 26th, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm)

Manager Aaron Callaghan is looking for a high work-rate from his players and renewed support from the fans as Bohemians look to pick up points after four defeats in five games.

Callaghan’s squad had an intensive and “excellent” training programme this week when the players put in a “nearly full-time” effort.

But in last Friday’s “poor performance”, according to Callaghan, “Dundalk were more efficient and they worked harder – and that was particularly disappointing to me”.

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“Maybe the players were a bit affected by having that game just three days after the trip to Limerick,” added Callaghan.

“The schedule is dictated to us without consultation and now we have another three-day break before the rescheduled match against Pats.”

In training Bohs have identified areas for improvement and talked through the recurring problems with individual errors.

“But we can’t blame players,” insisted Callaghan. “With a young squad you are more likely to have these errors and we have to keep supporting the young lads.”

The manager believes that Bohs fans understand that their team is a “work in progress – and in progress over two or three years” but the players and coaches “know the reality of where we are”.

“We haven’t given the fans a lot to shout about, especially at home. If we don’t put in a shift we can’t call on the fans as a twelfth man,” said Callaghan.

“I am a realist. We have to improve the results and if the system needs tweaking, that’s my responsibility.”

Friday’s game against equally youthful Bray assumes greater importance given Bohs’ recent record “but every game is a must-win”, insisted Callaghan, “whether we’re playing Bray or UCD or Shamrock Rovers”.

In the last ten league matches between the sides Bohemians have lost just once.

Having missed Dave Mulcahy last Friday, due to late withdrawal through illness, Bohemians may have to count without the experienced midfielder again. Dave Scully and Darragh Reynor (both illness) are also unlikely to be fit for selection, while Stephen Traynor is recovering from a medical procedure.

Captain Owen Heary (ankle) also remains sidelined, as he has been for over a month.

CALLAGHAN: THIS IS A RESULTS INDUSTRY BUT I JUDGE OUR GAMES ON THE PERFORMANCES

PREVIEW: BOHEMIANS v DUNDALK (Friday April 19th, KO7.45pm)

Bohemians come to Friday’s game against Dundalk looking to make amends for an injury-time defeat to Limerick on Tuesday.

After that game, “it was tough to be in the dressing room”, said manager Aaron Callaghan. “The lads know themselves they should have got something out of the game.”

Despite three defeats in four games Callaghan is encouraged by the individual and team performances.

“I know this is a results-based industry. But I judge our games on the performances. I believe if you get the performances right, by and large the results will follow,” he said. “There’s nothing that a couple of wins can’t sort out.”

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“The lads are working really hard in training and we’re trying to address those issues of concentration and communication,” he continued. If Bohs cannot get on a winning run “it won’t be for lack of effort”.

There were lots of positives in the team’s display on Tuesday, insisted Callaghan. Midfielder Shane Murray in his first league start was “brilliant” and he is “a fantastic prospect”.

Striker Kevin O’Leary was brought on late, and “we thought he might nick it for us”. He had scored a hat-trick in an earlier friendly against Irish Universities, and is showing promise and an eye for goal.

“I thought we dominated that game and were much the better side but sometimes the lie of the land just isn’t with you. It’s a cruel game. We were pegged back with another goal of the season contender [as with the first goal of the game against Derry City],” said Callaghan.

With Michael Barker and Shane Murray in for David Mulcahy and Stephen Paisley, the team’s average age dropped and youthful inexperience was a factor in the final outcome.

Callaghan and his coaching team, including a psychologist, will be giving more attention to the mental aspects of the game as they seek to eliminate the costly errors, but also to ensure the goal-scoring opportunities are taken.

“Seventy per cent of the game can be in your mind, and we have to address that,” said Callaghan. “One good thing about Tuesday’s game was that we probably had more chances than in any other this season. We changed the system a little to get more players forward, and I felt it worked.”

There may be some personnel changes for Friday as Chris Lyons (ankle) returns from a month-long lay-off, perhaps taking a place on the bench. Captain Owen Heary (knee injury) remains out.

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