“We want to finish the league campaign on a high”

St Patrick’s Athletic v Bohemians
SSE Airtricity League
Monday November 9 2020, Richmond Park, 7.30pm
Live on WatchLOI

Bohemians head into their final league game of the season tonight with second place and European football long secured.

It has been 16 days since the team’s last game, but that time has allowed one of the club’s key performers this season recover from injury.

Rob Cornwall is expected to wear the captain’s armband this evening in the absence of the suspended Keith Buckley.

The centre-back, who has recovered from an ankle injury sustained in the 3-0 win over Cork City a month ago, said: “I’ve been training for the last few weeks, so I am looking forward to hopefully getting back out on to the pitch tonight.

“It was the same injury that I got out in the game in Hungary. On both occasions they were impact injuries so there is not a lot you can do to prevent that.”

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With other first-team regulars unavailable, the 26-year-old’s experience could prove invaluable to what is the youngest team in the league and 21st youngest top-flight team in Europe.

Cornwall joined four years ago as a 22-year-old but the retirements of the likes of Shane Supple, Ian Morris and Derek Pender in recent seasons have seen him become one of the more senior members of the squad sooner than he anticipated.

He said: “It feels weird being considered one of the older lads in the team now – some of them probably think I’m older than I am because of all my grey hair!

“With Bucko out tonight, it’s a chance for us to step up – not just me but other players too. There are leaders across the team.”

With five players ruled out through injury or suspension, it is also a chance for others perhaps frustrated by their lack of game-time to make their case for a starting place in Friday week’s FAI Cup quarter-final against Dundalk, but Cornwall said nobody is looking that far ahead.

He said: “We are not looking ahead to the Dundalk game yet.

“It’s very much all about tonight. Inchicore is a hard place to go at the best of times and St Pat’s are a good team. We’re fully focused on that and trying to get three points – we want to finish the league campaign on a high.”

Just over a year ago, Bohs headed to the same venue against the same opposition needing a point to guarantee European football for the first time in eight years.

Under the cosh for much of the game, Keith Long’s men held out for a 0-0 draw. In the era of games being played behind closed doors, the post-match scenes that followed are a distant memory but Cornwall insists fans still motivate the side every time they take to the pitch.

He added: “We all remember the scenes out there last season – James Talbot’s save, the ball being cleared off the line, and what it meant to the fans when the final whistle went.

“It’s been a strange year not being able to celebrate games with fans, but we are still spurred on in the knowledge that they are cheering us on from home, and we live in hope that next season we’ll be able to have fans back with us again sooner rather than later.”

TEAM NEWS

Bohemians are without captain Keith Buckley and Anto Breslin (both suspended) as well as Andy Lyons (arm), Danny Mandroiu (groin) and Keith Ward (Achilles).

Vice captain Rob Cornwall (ankle) and Dan Casey (head) both return, while Evan Ferguson and Gavin O’Brien have been promoted from the Bohs-SKB U17s.

“Character is massive in sport and the boys are made of the right stuff”

Preview: Bohemians v Finn Harps
SSE Airtricity League
Saturday October 24 2020, Dalymount, 7.30pm

Bohemians go into their final home league game of the season in fine form and up against a club who have not won at Dalymount Park in 21 years.

But manager Keith Long has warned his second-placed side to expect a battle against Ollie Horgan’s Finn Harps, who are currently battling for every point at the opposite end of the table.

Long said: “Ollie and his backroom team have been in this position several times over recent years and they are past masters in the art of avoiding the drop.

“Harps are always well organised and have some very good players in their ranks that can cause any team problems. Games between us have by and large been close affairs and tonight we expect a tough challenge as we always do against a committed and motivated team.”

Bohs’ run of three wins on the trot came to a halt with a 0-0 draw away to Dundalk last week. The Gypsies had good chances to score and the fact they left the home of last year’s champions feeling a little disappointed with a draw indicates how far the team has come.

Long said: “I felt we had the better of the chances in the first half most notably Andre Ward’s chance after four minutes when the ball came to him too quick to sort out his feet in the box.

“We also played some good attacking football particularly on the break and looked dangerous going forward. We came close to scoring through Keith Ward in the second half also.

“But we had to be content with an away draw which is saying something as our trips to Oriel in recent years have always proved difficult and getting anything up there is a real achievement.

“It was an achievement also for our squad and the mentality of the players to have the belief despite the disruptions we faced during the week and on the day of the game.

“I have to single out Michael Barker and Paddy Kirk for special mention. Both players were outstanding in Dundalk despite playing out of position at centre-back.

“They have had to be patient watching the team do well from the sides. Their attitude to training has never wained and they showed that hard work pays off with two brilliant displays.

“Character is massive in sport and the boys are made of the right stuff coming into the team and leading from the back. It speaks volumes for them as individuals and the type of men they are.”

TEAM NEWS

Bohemians are without Rob Cornwall (ankle) but Dan Casey (head) returns as does one player previously ruled out as a result of testing positive for Covid-19 and another who was self-isolating having been deemed a close contact.

“We want to finish the season on a high with as many points as we can”

Preview: Dundalk v Bohemians
SSE Airtricity League
Friday October 16 2020, Oriel Park, 5.45pm
Live on WatchLOI

Bohemians head to Oriel Park with European football secured but looking to go one further by confirming second place.

For Michael Barker, it is also another opportunity to show what he is capable of having had to wait nearly eight months to see any action in the SSE Airtricity League.

Like many others, the 27-year-old has had to bide his time as a combination of the truncated season with fewer games and Bohemians’ fine form has limited opportunities.

Having featured in Bohs’ opening four league games of the season, Barker’s only action since February came in last month’s FAI Cup win over Cabinteely.

But with just over ten minutes remaining in Bohs’ 3-0 win over Cork City last week, an ankle injury suffered by Rob Cornwall provided Barker with his chance.

He is likely to deputise this evening once more in place of Cornwall, who is ruled out on his 26th birthday.

Barker said: “It was a long time coming! It’s been a tough season for those of us who have had to bide our time. So it was nice to get back on the pitch, even if it was only for a few minutes.

“That’s the nature of the reduced season with there being no midweek games or EA Sports Cup games this year. The team has been doing so well and the performances have been so good, that it would be hard for the manager to change the team.

“We just have to keep pushing ourselves. Training is very intense and you don’t want to take your foot off the pedal and be ready when called upon.”

Barker played a big role in the club qualifying for Europe last season, with manager Keith Long recently highlighting that his injury-time winner in Waterford last June and the jubilant scenes that followed as the point that the team really believed they could do it.

The defender says that is a moment he will never forget, but is delighted the team has repeated the feat again this year with three games left to play.

Covid-19 has robbed fans the opportunity to celebrate that achievement in the way they did last time around, but having gone eight years without European football, nobody is taking it for granted.

Barker said: “It was a lot different to last season! It was on the cards for a few weeks now, which is a testament to how well the team has done.

“The fact that anything less would have been seen as a disappointment tells you how far the club, team and management have come in recent years. There are quality players at the club and they deserve to be playing in European competitions.

“Everyone in the squad has contributed. It has been a very enjoyable season despite all the disruption. It bodes well for next year.

“It’s huge for the club and the area and most importantly the fans. That was the one downside of Europe this season was not having them over with us in Hungary. Hopefully that might change next year.”

Bohs have won three on the trot but face a Dundalk team who have regrouped and improved under Filippo Giovagnoli.

Barker added: “We know Dundalk are one of the best teams in the country, if not the best. They had that dip earlier in the season but since the new manager came in they have turned a corner.

“They have been brilliant of late and have reminded us of how good they can be with their run in Europe.

“But regardless of who we are playing, we want to win.

“Finishing second would represent an improvement on last season so we want to finish the season on a high with as many points as we can.”

TEAM NEWS

Bohemians are without Rob Cornwall (ankle) while one player is ruled out as a result of testing positive for Covid-19 and another is self-isolating having been deemed a close contact.

“The players are hungry to improve, to learn and develop”

Preview: Bohemians v Cork City
SSE Airtricity League
Friday October 9 2020, Dalymount Park, 5.45pm

Keith Long has challenged Bohemians to build upon back-to-back victories as they go in search of their highest league position in a decade.

Victories at home to Derry City a fortnight ago and away to Shelbourne last Saturday have consolidated Bohs’ position in second place.

A win this evening and victory against Dundalk next week would secure second, but Long is never one to get ahead of himself.

Cork City are the visitors to Dalymount and arrive after the departure of manager Neale Fenn, with Colin Healy taking the reins.

The Leesiders came to Dublin 7 in similar circumstances last season following John Caulfield’s exit from the club – and left with all three points.

Long said: “Tonight’s game will be very difficult despite their current league position. They are fighting for every point and are dangerous opponents with some quick, clever natural footballers so we are very aware of the threats they possess.

“What is important for us is to continue to grow as a group, to focus on improving every week. We have a very young squad which needs reminding from time to time.

“The players are hungry to improve, to learn and develop and they are essential ingredients as we try to finish the season strongly.

“We have recorded back to back victories in the league. We conducted our own version of the great escape against Derry City a fortnight ago – a dramatic conclusion to a game we scarcely deserved anything from. It did however highlight the perseverance of the players who kept going until the very end.

“We had a better team performance in Tolka Park. Danny Grant took his goals really well and it was great for him to get his first hat-trick in senior football.”

While Grant stole the headlines, Long was keen to praise another man whose efforts while the game was in the balance gave Bohs momentum.

Long said: “A crucial penalty save from James Talbot at a critical point in the game kept us ahead and allowed us to get ahead even further with two more goals from Danny.

“James has had a tough spell since his injury sustained on the opening day of the season. He has had to be patient with the form of Stephen McGuinness in his absence and upon our return but his attitude to training and around the group has been first class and he is getting his rewards at the moment for that.

“James is an outstanding goalkeeper and we are lucky to have two players of that calibre in that position pushing each other hard in training for the number one jersey.

“The derby and football in general is not the same without supporters. I can only imagine the scenes with our supporters in the ground. We miss you all not being there and it’s something I don’t think any of us can or will get used to as we continue to live with Covid.”

Bohs go into the final four league games of the season with a trimmed squad.

Kris Twardek and Luke Wade-Slater have left the club for Jagiellonia Białystok and Larne respectively, while Ciarán Kelly has joined Ballymena United on loan until January.

Long added: “Sadly last Saturday was the last time we saw Kris in a Bohs jersey. Kris has been such a tremendous addition to our squad this season and it is with great regret that we lose him. He gave everything in his short time here and we wish him well for the future with his new club in Poland.

“Also leaving the club on loan is Ciaran Kelly. Ciaran is under contract with us next year and is a lad that we have high hopes for. The shortened season has meant there are not as many opportunities for players to play every week.

“Our squad was built for games on Friday/Monday/Friday over the first quarter of the season and for Europe but obviously Covid put paid to that with the result being fewer games.

“It is extremely frustrating for players not to play every week and I have huge empathy for them. We also have to manage the potential of the team and our form since the return has been very good, so that means limited change.

“It can be difficult for players and it is not ideal but it’s the situation we currently find ourselves in and we have to adapt accordingly.”

TEAM NEWS

Danny Mandroiu is away with the Ireland U21s.

“We need to start games fast and come out flying”

Shelbourne v Bohemians
SSE Airtricity League
Saturday October 3 2020, 7.30pm
Live on WatchLOI

Bohemians are aiming to turn luck into momentum when they make the short trip to Tolka Park tonight.

Anto Breslin was perhaps Bohs’ best performer in the smash-and-grab win against Derry City last week.

Keith Long’s men trailed for a 92 minutes at Dalymount Park, creating little, before first a Keith Ward penalty and then a last-gasp winner from Andre Wright from Breslin’s cross sealed all three points in the most unlikeliest of circumstances.

Breslin, who joined from Longford at the start of the season having previously been with Wolves, said: “Luck was very much on our side. We didn’t play anywhere near as well as we are capable of.

“But we showed what we are made of. There is great character in the team at the best of times but we had it in abundances last week.

“I don’t know of many teams who can say they’ve been 1-0 down for 92 minutes and have gone on to win the game.

“It was nice to have a bit of luck go our way for once. There have been plenty of occasions this season where we should have had penalties but they haven’t been given.

“When luck goes your way you have to enjoy it. Another week it might go the other way.”

Breslin knows Bohs won’t get away with it like that every week and will need to improve in Drumcondra tonight against a Shelbourne side that contains several former Bohemians who are battling to stay away from a relegation scrap.

3,560 were in attendance at Dalymount Park when these sides last met back in March – the final game before Covid-19 restrictions kicked in – and Breslin admits the team have had to try and create their own atmosphere of togetherness in the continued absence of fans in stadiums since.

He said: “Shelbourne are a very organised team, hard to break down and good at set-pieces.

“It’s going to be strange to have another Dublin derby without fans and without an atmosphere, but we know they are behind us from home.

“It’s up to us as a group to create our own atmosphere. We’ve five games left and we want to qualify for Europe and finish as high up the table as possible.

“The performance was disappointing last week. We want to improve on that. The previous week against Sligo, we were really good. We could have been out of sight at half-time. We need to find that consistency every week.

“But against Derry, we didn’t start well and conceded early. We need to learn from that. We need to start games fast and come out flying.”

Despite very able competition from Paddy Kirk, Breslin has been a mainstay at left-back this season having had big boots to fill following the departure of his fellow former St Kevin’s prodigy Darragh Leahy to Dundalk.

Breslin added: “I’ve been delighted with how it’s gone. Darragh was a great player here but I was confident in my own ability and knew what I was capable of.

“I certainly found it difficult at the start. The intensity in training is far greater to what I was used to at Longford. I had maybe lost that little bit of sharpness since coming back from England, so there was a period of having to adapt.

“There’s a great bunch of lads here who keep pushing each other. It’s not just one player, it’s the whole team. You can’t have a night off!

“Everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. It’s unfortunate that because of the shortened season that some of the lads haven’t got as much game-time as they would have hoped for.

“But it’s a credit to them that you wouldn’t know they are out of the team if you watch us train. Everyone just keeps pushing each other so that they are ready to play if called upon.”

TEAM NEWS

Kris Twardek (suspension) and James Finnerty (illness) are available once more.

Ciarán Kelly has joined Ballymena United on loan. He will return to the club in January.

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