Preview: St Patrick’s Athletic v Bohemians

SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Friday August 11 2023, Richmond Park, 7.45pm
Live on RTÉ 2

Declan Devine says neither side will need any extra motivation when Bohemians travel to Richmond Park to take on St Patrick’s Athletic in tonight’s Dublin derby.

Just a point separates the sides with St Pat’s, rejuvenated since Jon Daly took the reins in May, in second place in the SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division and Bohs in third.

Bohs come into the game buoyed by striker Jonathan Afolabi picking up the SSE Airtricity Soccer Writers Ireland Player of the Month Award for July.

His rich vein of form – scoring nine goals in his last seven games – has been crucial to Bohs’ upturn in form.

Devine said: “He’s been awesome. It’s incredible for him because he’s been outstanding all year and then all of a sudden the goals are coming, and the hype surrounds him now, and that’s correct.

“He’s fully deserving of it and we hope now that he can keep pushing on because the sky’s the limit for him.

“He deserves the recognition and all the plaudits he is getting because he works so hard. He never misses training.

“He comes in every day and he’s got that big friendly, gentle smile on him but then he takes to the pitch and becomes an absolute monster for defenders.

“He is a really popular guy in the group. They are all very close, and I think the players understand and appreciate the work that he is putting in.

“He’s just such a nice person and I’m delighted for him, absolutely delighted for him, and delighted for the group as well because we all want individual recognition for our players.

“Hopefully that will be a catalyst now to finish the season strongly and should give him enormous confidence, and the team huge confidence.”

Bohs chalked up another home win last week when they beat Drogheda United 4-2 at Dalymount Park.

But having taken the lead as early as the second minute through Kacper Radkowski – the Pole’s first goal for the club – Devine was frustrated that his side allowed 10-man Drogs back into the game.

Devine said: “First and foremost, it was important that we won the game. But our game management is something we need to get better at, and we have spoken about that this week.

“At the same time, we were the dominant team. But it was disappointing that we let them back into it when they were down to 10 men.

“But I don’t think there is a team in the country that scores as many late goals as us and that is a credit to the players.

“Getting Kacper on the scoresheet was our 15th goalscorer this season in a tight squad, so it is pleasing that we have players all over the pitch capable of scoring.

“So there were positives to take out of the game, but at certain times of the game we let our standards drop and you can’t do that against a good side like Drogheda.”

He knows too that St Pat’s are a team with a pep in their step and capable of punishing such mistakes, but says his side are looking forward to heading to Inchicore with confidence and belief.

Devine added: “St Pat’s have a lot of good players and Jon has done a fantastic job since he’s come in there.

“But this is a Dublin Derby where two top teams go head to head. It’s gonna be full house and it’s live on the box, so there’s absolutely zero extra motivation needed for either team.

“We’ve got to make sure that when we play the game that we play with belief and we play with confidence because we deserve to play with belief and we deserve to play with confidence.

“So this is a game that we look forward to. It’s a game that certainly whets the appetite for everybody connected with both clubs.

“And it’s a venue that early in the season we were very good in, and performed very well there.

“In the home game we had a right go with ten men and we should have got a draw with ten men. So there’s been very little between the two teams all year.

“It is set up for a game where I think both teams will give a right go. We’ve got to just make sure that we give ourselves every opportunity to go there and win the game by being defensively solid but also as creative as we have been in the final third.”

TEAM NEWS

Dean Williams is Bohs’ only absentee.

Preview: Bohemians v Drogheda United

SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Friday August 4 2023, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm
Tickets: tickets.bohemians.ie

Declan Devine has said Bohemians need to be out of the traps fast at Dalymount Park – no matter who they are playing against.

Bohs host Kevin Doherty’s Drogheda United on Friday on the back of a 2-0 win against UCD at the same venue last week.

Devine’s side have beaten Drogs 3-1 at home and 2-0 away so far this season, but both of those victories were harder fought than the scorelines might suggest.

Devine said: “There is no underestimating Drogheda United. Kevin is a fantastic manager and he has some fantastic players. He has a lot of experience in his squad and a lot of players who can cause you problems.

“We also know that in the two games we have played against Drogheda this season that there has been very little between the sides.

“We had to dig in really, really hard up in Drogheda, and we showed good resilience when we played them in Dalymount too.

“Drogheda’s away form shows that they are not afraid of going to big venues and performing – they have won in the Brandywell and they have won in Tallaght.

“We have to control what we can control and that’s our levels of intensity. We know we could have started at a higher level of intensity against UCD, so that is something that we want to make sure we bring to the table this week.”

After a scrappy first-half performance against the Students last week, Bohs upped their game in the second half but had to wait until the 75th minute for Johnny Afolabi to break the deadlock from the penalty spot before he added a second – his seventh goal in his last six games – on 89 minutes.

Devine said: “John has been outstanding, absolutely outstanding. But you’re only as good as the people around you. We are providing him with opportunities that perhaps we weren’t earlier in the season.

“The competition for places is as good as I’ve ever worked with. The talent we have, and the ability to change shape, formations and personnel is something our fans should be excited about.

“But Johnny has been a real pivot for us in terms of a general play. You only have to see him in training to see how ruthless he has become, and long may that continue.

“I am delighted to see him nominated for Player of the Month along with James McManus. He just has to continue working at the levels he is working and continue to enjoy the moment.

“There are names on that top goalscorer list who aren’t in the country anymore and that should be his aim – topping that list and being the best striker in the country as I believe he is.”

Victory against UCD kept Bohs in fourth place – three points ahead of fifth-place Dundalk and five behind leaders Shamrock Rovers.

But Devine says his side must hit the ground running from the opening minute from every game between now and the end of the season to consolidate and build upon their current league position.

Devine said: “We want to make sure that every time we play at Dalymount Park, that we are out of the traps fast, irrelevant of who we are playing.

“We are finishing games magnificently well – scoring a lot of late goals, using our bench – but we need to be more ruthless in the opening periods of games.

“We have been very good at Dalymount in recent weeks. We’ve played some really good stuff and scored good goals. Long may that continue, because we are hitting a really important part of the season.

“But those games are done and in the past. We cannot look back, and we can’t look forward beyond our next 90 or so minutes.

“Whatever team takes to the field, they have to grasp their opportunities and empty the tank to make sure that when they walk off the pitch at the end they have that sense of achievement we have had in recent weeks.

“We want to make sure that when anyone comes to Dalymount, that it is an intimidating place with our fans and players bang at it – we need our supporters to be with us in difficult moments in games too.

“That rapport between the fans and players has been outstanding. I’ve looked back and seen so many pictures from after games – kids hugging Johnny and the sheer excitement in some of the pictures I’ve seen on social media is testimony to the atmosphere that’s being created.

“We need every single voice, and every bit of support, to get us over the line in these games. We’re heading towards the last phase of games in a relatively good position but we want to get better.”

TEAM NEWS

Dean Williams (ankle) is Bohs’ only absentee. Luke Dennison (hand) is available once more.

PREVIEW: Bohemians v Shelbourne

Sports Direct FAI Cup First Round
Friday July 21 2023, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm
Tickets: tickets.bohemians.ie

Bohemians manager Declan Devine has demanded a performance ‘full of energy, heart and soul’ when his side host Shelbourne in the FAI Cup at Dalymount Park.

He says Bohs need to improve on last week’s performance against the same opposition – his side drew 1-1 in the league at Tolka Park.

Devine’s men go into the tie boosted by the addition of winger Danny Grant to the matchday squad for the first time since he rejoined the club last week from Huddersfield Town.

Devine said: “We are looking for a performance – a performance full of energy, heart and soul.

“We want our players to really come to the party as it is all about winning this game. Nothing else is important.

“We have got to make sure – by hook or by crook – that we are in that draw for the next round.

“There will be a lot of clubs going out this weekend and we have got to make sure that we are not one of them.”

Johnny Afolabi netted his fourth goal in four games against Shels last week as Bohs battled back to earn a point in Drumcondra but Devine was disappointed with his side’s performance.

He said: “We have to be better than we were last week. We were disappointed with ourselves. We have to be harder to play against. We have to be tighter together in transition offensively and defensively.

“But there is no team in the country who have gone to Tolka this year and had it easy. They are very good in Tolka, they are very hard to play against.

“They have players who can hurt us and we know that. But we also have players who can hurt them.

“We have been very good here in Dalymount but we have to stop giving ourselves mountains to climb, that is something we have to fix.”

The return of Grant to Dalymount was greeted with delight from Bohs fans, and Devine says he has been impressed with what he has seen from the 23-year-old in training so far.

He hopes to see more of Ali Coote and James Akintunde too – the duo have had limited game-time recently due to persistent niggles but are now back in contention to start.

Devine said: “Danny is added to the squad and will be involved at some stage, which gives a huge lift.

“He is looking great. I am sure he is itching to get back playing again – he has been a massive addition in training.

“But even before Danny comes into the squad, we have incredible attacking options. We have some of the best attackers in the country. The competition for the front three of four positions is exceptional.

“Ali came on last week, and has trained well again this week. James has trained well the last week to 10 days too.

“We need to tighten up at the back, and try to get another body or two in, but our attacking options, even just watching them today in training, really really excite me.”

Efforts to improve defensively were bolstered by the arrival of Bartlomiej Kukulowicz – the right-back made his debut as a second-half substitute in Tolka last week.

His introduction saw captain Keith Buckley move back to his natural position in midfield and with him pulling the strings in the centre of the park, coupled with the introduction of the lively duo of Coote and James Clarke, sparked Bohs back into life.

Devine added: “Bartlomiej has come in and did very well in the 15 minutes. Bucko has experience of playing there and with new players coming in during this window, sometimes it takes time for them to get up to speed because they haven’t played.

“Bucko knows the right-back role, he has been outstanding any time he has played there this year. Yes, him playing there is a loss in the middle of the park but we have other quality midfielders also.

“We just have to make sure that players we bring in at this time are safe, and look at the bigger picture that there is a lot of football to be played between now and the end of the season.”

TEAM NEWS

Luke Dennison (hand) and Dean Williams (ankle) remain out.

Danny Grant is set to be named in the matchday squad for the first time since his return to the club.

Preview: Shelbourne v Bohemians

SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Friday July 14 2023, Tolka Park, 7.45pm

Declan Devine says last week’s comeback victory over Dundalk gave everyone at Bohemians a huge lift.

But he expects another tough game in tonight’s sold-out Dublin derby away to Shelbourne, who he says are one of the hardest teams in the league to break down.

Bohs have the opportunity to break back into the top four this evening, and have been bolstered by the signing of Polish right-back Bartlomiej Kukulowicz last week and the return of a fans’ favourite, winger Danny Grant, who joined yesterday.

Devine was frustrated that they again gave themselves a mountain to climb against the Lilywhites – James McManus had given Bohs the lead on 15 minutes but they found themselves 2-1 down 20 minutes later.

But he was delighted with his players’ resolve as they never gave up in the second half, and finally got their rewards with goals in the 81st minute from substitute John O’Sullivan and in the 84th minute from Johnny Afolabi.

He was particularly pleased for O’Sullivan, whose first year at the club has been disrupted by injury, meaning he has had to bide his time for opportunities to show what he is capable of.

Devine said: “I am delighted for John. John has had a difficult first year with the club with his injury. But he puts himself about on the training pitch everyday, and he got his reward last week.

“It was really pleasing for him, and it was really pleasing for the group too as he is a popular guy within the group.

“If you back at the goal, his movement and his ability to see things happen showed a lot of ability and experience.

“He is a good fella and hopefully now that can be the catalyst for John to push on and have a really strong end of the season.”

Already buzzing from O’Sullivan’s equaliser, Dalymount erupted when Afolabi coolly slotted home the winner after a fine through-ball from substitute James Clarke.

Devine said: “I was worried because he had just picked up a yellow card before the goal and with the emotion of him scoring, I was thinking ‘please, please, please do not take that top off!’ It would have been a long ten minutes with ten men!

“Johnny has been carrying a niggle for six or seven weeks and it has only recently cleared up. Now we are seeing the best of him.

“There is nobody in the league who has had the physical competition that that man has had. But he just gets up and gets on with it, and now he is bringing goals to his game, and defenders are afraid of him.”

As delighted as he was with his team’s resolve to fight back, Devine says they need to stop giving themselves mountains to climb.

He added: “We have a really difficult game. Shelbourne are undoubtedly one of the hardest teams in the league to break down.

“But we are confident in ourselves and in our ability. We have looked at where we can hurt Shels but we have got to learn from previous games in terms of game management.

“We have got to understand that we cannot give teams head starts or ways back into games, that is something we have talked about all week.

“Our application this week and the lift last week’s result and performance has given us is huge. We learnt a lot about ourselves last week, and our ability to drive and come from behind. But individual errors have got to stop.

“We will bring a huge crowd over to Tolka Park. We want to make sure we send those people home happy.

“It’s going to be a physical game and a tactical game, but it is one we have prepared well for.

“This team cares and works hard. This team leaves everything out on the pitch. Yes we make errors and individual mistakes but as a group we keep working, keep driving on and finish games strongly.

“We have a lot of talent for a team that has only been assembled for such a short period of time.

“There is a real unity in our group and I think you can see that in our performances. No matter what happens in games, we are brave, and aggressive in our play. This team has character in abundance.

“But we know we can’t keep giving ourselves mountains to climb because eventually the mountain will be too high.”

TEAM NEWS

Ali Coote (hamstring) and James Akintunde (quad) are back in contention.

Kris Twardek (thigh) is a doubt, while Luke Dennison (hand) and Dean Williams (ankle) remain out.

Preview: Bohemians v Dundalk

SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division
Friday July 7 2023, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm
Tickets: tickets.bohemians.ie

Bohemians manager Declan Devine has challenged his side to get back to the level of performance they showed they are capable of earlier this season.

Bohs suffered their heaviest defeat of the season when they were beaten 3-1 by Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds last Friday.

It was a particularly frustrating result given Bohs have shown they are well capable of beating the Bit O’Red – winning 1-0 at the Showgrounds in April and 2-0 at Dalymount at the beginning of last month.

So Bohs come into tomorrow’s game against Dundalk in patchy form, but boosted by the signing of Bartlomiej Kukulowicz, who Devine describes as an ‘out-and-out right-back’ and who ‘ticks a lot of boxes for us in the way we want to play’.

Devine said: “We have dropped a lot of points over the last eight or nine games. There have been a lot of tough games but we certainly should have had a better points return. We have spoken about that.

“Friday night in Sligo was our worst performance of the season, there is no doubt about that.

“We didn’t get to grips with the game, we didn’t start the way we wanted to start. To find ourselves 2-0 down at half-time, we gave ourselves a mountain to climb.

“Sligo outworked us, outfought us and outplayed us. That is something we cannot let happen again. I think it’s the first time this season that we were second best in all three of those strands.

“There have been times where we have been outplayed but where we have outfought the opposition but that didn’t happen in Sligo.

“We were seriously lacking. Everyone is hurting. We know there is more in us. I still believe there is a lot in this group of players.

“We have a very tight group and we have spoken about the points left behind us. We are confident we can get back to the level of performances we are capable of.”

Bohs have four points from their two games against Dundalk this season – a 2-1 victory in Dalymount in February and a 2-2 draw in Oriel Park in May when Devine’s side battled back from 2-0 down.

The Lilywhites come into this game in fourth place, four points and one place ahead of Bohs, although Stephen O’Donnell’s side have played two games more.

Devine said: “The top teams are not too far ahead of us. We have games in hand but that means nothing as you still have to win those games.

“The four teams above us will be heading into Europe very shortly, which shows how important this game is. We want to be closer to the top teams when they are playing in Europe than we are now.

“We want a proper response now. We have played some good stuff at home and we want to get back to that. We want to put in a performance in front of our fans, and we want everyone to rally together and push on.”

Although frustrated with the manner of the defeat last week, Devine revealed his options were limited due to injuries of some of his key men.

He said: “We are carrying a lot of niggles and knocks at the moment. We didn’t have enough players to fill the bench properly. Ali Coote couldn’t come on, James Akintunde couldn’t come on and Keith Buckley was carrying a knock that we weren’t willing to take a risk with.

“With so many niggles in the group, we have to be very careful as we don’t want a situation where because we have taken a risk a player ends up being out for six, seven weeks like Dean Williams is and like Luke Dennison is now. We can’t afford any more.”

Those concerns forced Devine’s hand when it came to Monday’s Leinster Senior Cup semi-final away to Shelbourne at Tolka Park, and he opted to hand the reins to U19 manager Trevor Croly.

Captain for the night, James McManus, and Cian Byrne, in his first game back after being recalled from his loan spell at Longford Town, were the only players with significant senior football experience yet Croly’s side came out on top of a Shelbourne side that featured several first-team regulars.

In an entertaining end-to-end tie, Bohs twice sacrificed a two-goal cushion but came out 4-3 winners thanks to goals from Adetobi Jinadu, Jack O’Reilly, Taylor Mooney and Peter Grogan to progress to the final against Usher Celtic.

Devine added: “It was a brilliant game and a brilliant atmosphere. We had originally planned to have five or six first-team players in the team but with the injuries and niggles we have, and the manner of the defeat in Sligo, we felt that we needed a full week’s training schedule.

“We got in touch with Trevor Croly immediately after our game on Friday night to tell him that. Each and every one of his players who took to that pitch on Monday night should be so proud and their families should be so proud.

“They were up against a very difficult opponent – Shels’ U19s are very strong and they had five or six senior players with a wealth of experience.

“So for them to go toe-to-toe with them and perform in such a pressurised situation was a credit to themselves but also a testimony to Trevor Croly, the coaching staff and all who have coached them in the academy.

“Nobody wants to lose a semi-final, it doesn’t matter if it is your senior team or your U19 team, so to come away from Tolka with a win is huge for them.

“To be pegged back to 3-3 and to then have the bravery and quality to go up again and get that fourth goal was very pleasing.

“All of the first team and coaching staff were in the main stand and I think we cheered even more than the fans because we were just delighted for them – the sheer enjoyment of it – and we knew how much it meant to them.

“After the game, for the first team to go into the dressing room to congratulate the U19s, and get behind them and support them, was special. It was a lovely unity, and we look forward to the final now, which we hope is in Dalymount.”

TEAM NEWS

Ali Coote (hamstring), Luke Dennison (hand) and Dean Williams (ankle) are out. James Akintunde (quad) and Keith Buckley (calf) are doubts.

It is hoped that new signing Bartlomiej Kukulowicz will join the matchday squad, while Cian Byrne is set to be included having been recalled from his loan spell with Longford Town.

Grant Horton and Drew Baker’s loan spells at the club have come to an end.

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