Bohemians go to Belfield on Friday focused on finishing the season strongly. But they face an in-form UCD side that is clearly showing the same intention.

Manager Aaron Callaghan knows from his own experience as a UCD coach how well supported the college players are.

“They have some very talented young players and they’re a well organised unit. When they hit form they can beat anyone.


“Their levels of fitness are very high. They train like full-time professionals. They have their facilities on-site and they can fit their training in around their schooling, which is an ideal model for any club.”

Bohemians beat UCD by a single goal in both of their league encounters this season, 2-1 at Belfield in April and 1-0 at Dalymount Park in July.

“When we changed the system at half-time we looked a far better team and we looked like we were going to win the game. If we can continue that second-half performance in the remaining games we will probably win more than we lose,” Callaghan said.

But UCD have won five of their last six league games and come to this match from an away victory against Derry City last weekend. Bohemians had to come from behind to secure a 1-1 draw at home to Cork City.

Callaghan believes some of his younger players may be affected by the demands of a full season at the top level. He has rested players as it seemed necessary but he says the onus is on the players themselves to ensure they remain fit.

“If you want to play in a professional manner in this league you have to look after yourself 24/7. That’s what we’ve been getting across to the players this year: they have got to take responsibility for their own fitness levels, their own nutrition, and their own psychological preparation.”

With ex-UCD player Keith Ward suspended, Callaghan’s selection choices are slightly narrowed but Derek Pender returns from suspension and Dinny Corcoran played himself into contention in a friendly earlier this week against Friday’s opponents.

Corcoran scored four times in a 6-3 win over UCD and could be competing with Kevin Devaney (22 on Wednesday) for a starting place.

Against UCD on Monday Bohemians fielded several of the players who have had less game time, including new signing Garreth O’Connor. He came off early in this week’s friendly with a hamstring strain and is ruled out for Friday’s match.

Ryan McEvoy returns from ankle injury and ex-UCD player Evan McMillan, now as crucial in attack for Bohemians as he has been in defence, faces a late fitness test for a knock he took last Friday.

Preview: Bohemians v Cork City


Bohemian manager Aaron Callaghan is determined to secure the highest-possible finish in the league and Friday’s game gives Bohemians an opportunity to move up a place in the table.

Callaghan is aiming at a possible place in the Setanta Sports Cup, that “would be no mean achievement”.

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“I think we can target 11 or 12 points from the five remaining games,” Callaghan said.

“The onus is on us to go out and win the games. If we make sure that the attitude of the players is right we can get a run of wins.”

Friday’s game is also an opportunity to get over last weekend’s cup quarter-final defeat to Dundalk. It came in a match which Callaghan thinks neither side deserved to win but also a performance from Bohemians that the manager described as “poor all over the pitch”

“There may have been a bit of stage fright. The euphoria of beating Shamrock Rovers was probably still in a lot of our minds and we were in the unusual position of being favourites.

“From our point of view the preparation for the game was no different. But if your head is not right as a player going into any match you’re going to get your comeuppance.

“In football you always have your next game to get over a disappointment. It’s done and dusted now and we have been focusing on the Cork City game.”

For Friday, Derek Pender is suspended and Ryan McEvoy (ankle) is unlikely to be fit. Kevin Feely returns today (Thursday) from a trial at Stoke City and will be assessed. Latest signing Garreth O’Connor is likely to be in the match-day squad on Friday.

For this final run of games Callaghan may give some of the fringe players a chance to prove themselves, also with an eye to next season.

“We’ll be looking at giving Andy Mulligan and John O’Connor, for instance, more game time and we’ll be looking at some of the under-19 players who have been doing well.”

Bohemians have recently registered several of their under-19 players with the senior team to give them the possibility of appearing in the remaining league games.

Preview: Bohemians vs Dundalk

“You’ll never win in Tallaght!” was the infamous chant from the Shamrock Rovers fans for the four years since the Hoops relocated to South Dublin, but it seems no one told Aaron Callaghan and his young side.

Kevin Devaney’s goal consigned that particular chorus to history on a magical night for Bohemians last Monday and now they go into an arguably more important game this Friday – their FAI Ford Cup quarter-final tie with Dundalk.

Gypsies’ boss Aaron Callaghan felt that both the result and the performance on Monday had been coming.

“It was fantastic, a great reward for all the players. We’d been OK over the previous four or five games performance-wise without getting the results, but everything just came together that night.”

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