“We’ve beaten what’s in front of us but there are tougher challenges ahead”

Keith Long is encouraged by Bohemians’ start to the season but has warned that there are much tougher challenges ahead.

Bohs have won back-to-back games against the division’s newly-promoted sides Finn Harps and UCD.

But the stakes ratchet up several notches when Shamrock Rovers come to Dalymount Park.

The Gypsies have enjoyed the bragging rights against the Hoops lately, winning four and drawing one of the last five, but Long is expecting a tough battle.

Long said: “We’ve done what we can. We’ve beaten what’s in front of us but there are tougher challenges ahead of us, starting against Shamrock Rovers.

“That’s not being in any way disrespectful to Finn Harps or UCD.

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“UCD will find their rhythm and Harps have already done so getting a point against Dundalk on Friday.

“We’re in a good place and it’s great to have points on the board but Rovers are a different proposition.

“There is an expectancy there for them to challenge and win titles so we have to be at our very best against them.

“It’s a big step-up again and a different test for us but we’re looking forward to it.

“It’s a quick turnaround playing Friday and Monday but it’s the same for both teams and we haven’t had to travel.”

As always in derby games, the crowd will have their part to play.

Long said: “It’s a derby, a full house and something our new players will have to adapt to quickly.

“We need the crowd behind us again. They followed us over to Belfield in big numbers on Friday after a full home stand in Dalymount the previous week.

“They’ve given us a big lift already this season and we hope they can help us again.”

That trip to face UCD was decided by two beautiful finishes – first from Danny Mandroiu from 25 yards and then from Dinny Corcoran from six yards.

Long said: “They were two good goals, excellent finishes. Danny Mandroiu’s was sensational. Dinny’s was excellent too after great work by Paddy Kirk down the left-hand side.”

Kirk was one of two changes to the starting line-up from opening night. He came in at left-back in place of Darragh Leahy while Andy Lyons replaced skipper Derek Pender.

Both Kirk and Lyons are products of the club’s U19s and Long is delighted with their progression.

He said: “This time last year you would have been wary about putting both in like that but they have both come on so much.

“They’re a credit to themselves and both did very well. It’s good to have that competition across the squad and players who are ready to come in and play when called upon.”

That competition for places has been bolstered up front too by the re-signing of Ali Reghba – another product of the club’s U19s – and the return to fitness of Ryan Swan.

Swan made his long-awaited debut off the bench against Harps and was again used as a substitute against UCD.

Signed ahead of the 2018 season, he failed to see any action all year after suffering a cruciate tear in pre-season.

Long added: “I’m delighted to have Ali back on board. He gives us more options up front and out wide.

“He’s still very young and has a lot to learn but he’s a quick learner too and has worked extremely hard.

“There’s competition up front now with Dinny, Sam Byrne, Ryan and Ali.

“It’s great to have Ryan playing too. He was so unfortunate last year, getting injured in only his second training session.

“He’s worked ever so hard and his attitude has been exemplary. He’s honest, hard-working and they’re the kind of people we want.”

TEAM NEWS

Michael Barker (hamstring), Promise Omochere (ankle) and Cristian Magerusan (cruciate) remain out. Kevin Devaney (knee) remains a doubt.

“I’M BEING KEPT ON MY TOES”

UCD v BOHEMIANS
Friday February 22 2019, UCD Bowl, Belfield, 7.45pm

Dinny Corcoran believes Keith Long’s new-look Bohemians can continue to improve as the season progresses.

Corcoran, 30 earlier this month, is the second-oldest player in the squad behind skipper Derek Pender in what is otherwise a youthful and inexperienced Bohs team.

There were five debutants – James Talbot, James Finnerty, Luke Wade-Slater, Conor Levingston, Danny Mandroiu – in the starting line-up on opening night.

Three more – Ryan Swan, Scott Allardice and Sam Byrne – were sprung from the bench as Bohs came out 1-0 winners against Finn Harps at Dalymount last Friday.

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Corcoran bagged the winner and said: “It wasn’t the prettiest of games at times but it was the perfect result to start of the season with.

“The new lads settled in and adapted and they’re all looking to continue to improve.

“We have some technically gifted players and I think that will show as the season progresses.

“We’ve got competition in the squad now and that is pushing everyone on. I’m being kept on my toes!”

It took Corcoran seven league games to net his first league goal in 2018 so the fans’ favourite was relieved to start 2019 with an early goal.

He said: “It took me a while to get off the mark last season so I was delighted to score in the first game.”

Bohs go into tonight’s game looking to make it two wins from two against the division’s newly-promoted sides.

But Corcoran warned: “We’re in no position to take any team for granted. We have to be on top of our game.

“They’re a young team with a lot of good, technical players. They’re a bit like ourselves in that way – although we have one or two oldies too!”

He hopes that last week’s sold-out Jodi Stand is a sign of things to come this season and that the Gypsies will have a big support behind them out in Belfield, adding: “It’s a good game for fans, they can make it feel like a home game out there.

“In previous seasons when UCD were in the division before our fans always travelled out in numbers so we should have a big crowd there like we had in Dalymount last week.”

TEAM NEWS

Michael Barker (hamstring), Promise Omochere (ankle) and Cristian Magerusan (cruciate) remain out.

Kevin Devaney (knee) was a late withdrawal against Finn Harps and remains a doubt. Danny Grant (hamstring) comes back into contention.

“A packed Jodi Stand can spur on our new players”

BOHEMIANS v FINN HARPS
Friday February 15th 2019, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm

Bohemians welcome newly-promoted Finn Harps to Dalymount tomorrow with skipper Derek Pender telling his new team-mates to embrace the season’s opening night but warning them to be prepared for a tough battle.

Harps have not beaten the Gypsies at Dalymount Park in 20 years but every point won against Ollie Horgan’s teams is a hard-earned one.

That is a message the experienced Pender – 35 and begining his eighth season at Dalymount Park – is keen to impress upon his inexperienced team-mates.

There is a feeling that there is potential in this Bohs dressing room. Players of experience – such as Shane Supple and Ian Morris – have left and have been replaced by youth.

Pender is the oldest player in the squad by five years with Dinny Corcoran, 30 yesterday, the only other player not in his teens or 20s.

New arrivals such as James Talbot in goals, James Finnerty in defence and Daniel Mandroiu, Luke Wade-Slater and Conor Levingston in midfield, will be hoping to copy the example set by Darragh Leahy, thrown in at the deep end for his debut aged 19 on opening night last season against Shamrock Rovers, and rising to the challenge of first-team football.

Pender said: “We’ve done well against Harps at home when they were in the division before before but we all know that they have got results against us in the past too – most notably in the cup in Ballybofey two years ago – so we expect a really tough opening game.

“People might think they’re a team we should be beating but football doesn’t always work that way. We have a lot of new and young players and it will take time for them to adapt to the physical side of the game in our league.

“We don’t know how long it will take them to adapt. It took us a while to find our rhythm last year but we are determined to get off to a good start this year and hopefully we can click a bit earlier this season.

“It’s a big step for our new players. They’ll soon find that our league is a tough one. You don’t get a minute – it’s fast and furious. They will need to learn quickly and that’s why we try to make our training as competitive as when you’re playing so it’s not such a shock to the system.”

Pender and Co are all the more determined to hit the ground running having had hopes of a positive season curtain-raiser – an IRN-BRU Cup quarter-final against East Fife – dashed due to a frozen pitch at Dalymount a fortnight ago.

Bohs fans turned up in good numbers that Saturday afternoon but left disappointed not to see Keith Long’s new-look side.

Pender said: “There was a good crowd here for the East Fife game and we were disappointed it had to be called off, as I know our fans were too.

“But hopefully that whetted the appetite a bit and we’ll have a big crowd for the first game. A big crowd will be something new for our new players and playing in front of a packed Jodi Stand with our fans behind them will be an experience for them that will really lift them and hopefully spur them on.

“Our fans have really driven us on in recent years and they can really drive our new players on too. They’ve always been behind us, particularly in the last few years.

“Every time I step on to the pitch they give me a lift. I’ve been a player in this league for a good number of years and nothing lifts you like Bohs supporters when they’re behind you.

“Even in the cup semi-final defeat to Cork City last season when we were all so devastated, they stayed behind to lift us. I’ve never experienced anything like what we had there.

“That bond is special and that’s something we want to build on. We always want to give something back to the fans for their support. People might say that’s a cliche but for me it’s not – I really mean it.”

TEAM NEWS

Michael Barker (hamstring), Promise Omochere (ankle) and Cristian Magerusan (cruciate) all miss out.

“We hope the personalities and ability of our players can shine through”

IRN-BRU SCOTTISH CHALLENGE CUP QUARTER-FINAL
Bohemians v East Fife
Saturday February 2nd, Dalymount Park, 3pm

Keith Long believes his budding Bohemians will need the patient and encouraging support of the Dalymount Roar behind them to get over the line against East Fife today.

The Bohs manager also reckons people need a bit of a reality check if they think the Gypsies are going into today’s IRN BRU quarter-final as favourites to progress.

Entering into his fifth season at the helm, Long is now the longest-serving Bohemians manager in two decades and is on course to eclipse Turlough O’Connor’s longevity and become the club’s longest-serving manager since Billy Young, who managed the club with distinction for 16 years until 1989.

An away semi-final against Ross County on February 15 awaits the winners and while bullish of his new-look side’s ability, Long is wary that the timing of the fixture in respect of both teams’ seasons is weighted in the visitors’ favour.

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He said: “It’s going to be a tough game but we’re really looking forward to it. Even though we’re starting our season a bit earlier than other teams, it’s still been a long off-season so we hope there’ll be a big crowd behind us.

“It’s a quarter-final and a huge opportunity for us to progress and that’s what we want to do. We want to get to a final. It would huge for the club and the supporters.

“To do that, we need to play to our utmost ability and have our fans be patient and right behind us if the tie is in the balance.

“It’s going to be a measure of where we’re at as a team. The timing of this game presents mitigating factors against us.

“That’s not looking for excuses but you have to be realistic when you have so many new players. It can take time to gel and find our feet, so we hope the personalities and ability of our players can shine through.

“We know we are not the finished article but we have some excellent new young players in the team but there is still work to be done and we will continue to evolve.

“We’ve rebuilt our squad, this is our first competitive fixture. In many ways we are coming into this game undercooked in comparison to the opposition.

“They’re third in their league, they’re flying high and they’ll be coming over confident. They’re bang in-season and in a good run of form.

“In my mind they are coming over as favourites. The bookies mightn’t agree but reality suggests otherwise. It’s very much a new team coming up against a settled, confident one.

“That’s not being trying to play mind games or knocking ourselves at all. We have real quality and potential. It’s just a reflection of where both teams are in their respective seasons at the moment.”

Prior to beating Sutton United on penalties after a 0-0 draw at Dalymount in the last round, Bohs have played and beaten Scottish opposition in this tournament already.

In September, a much-changed Bohs team beat Peterhead with Kevin Devaney’s effort the only goal of the game.

That scoreline did not quite reflect Bohs’ superiority on the day but Long doesn’t believe there are many comparisons to be made between the opposition that day and what they face at Dalymount this afternoon.

East Fife are third in Scottish League 1 with Peterhead occupying the same position in their league – a division lower.

Long said: “East Fife are third and the teams ahead of them are full-time and with good budgets in Raith and Arbroath.

“We’ve played Scottish opposition already in this tournament but we only won 1-0, albeit in a game we dominated, against a Peterhead side who are a division lower

“There is going to be a quantum difference in the standard of East Fife in comparison.”

Bohs come into this game with mixed results performances in their three pre-season games played to date.

They kicked off their pre-season campaign with a 2-2 draw with Shelbourne at Abbotstown, followed it up with a 0-0 draw with the Defence Forces in Crumlin and appeared to find their groove with a 4-0 win against Longford Town at the AUL on Tuesday night.

Long said: “Pre-season can be misleading. It’s wrong to get carried away with results whether they’re good or bad as pre-season games are about a lot of things – getting minutes spread out across the players to try bring them up to speed, trying out different combinations and structures across the team and all that.

“We’ve shown quality in patches – most notably in the first half against Shelbourne and in the second half against Longford – but it would be wrong to read too much into those at this stage.”

TEAM NEWS

Kevin Devaney (groin) and Darragh Leahy (hip) are likely to sit this one out. Cristian Magerusan (cruciate) is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines, while Scott Allardice is cup-tied having played for Dundee United’s U20s earlier in the competition.

“We have to give it go and let’s see where that takes us”

Preview: Shamrock Rovers U19s v Bohemians U19s
SSE Airtricity U19 League Final
Tuesday October 30, Tallaght Stadium, 7.30pm
(General admission €5, U14s go free)

The Bohemians U19s are looking to cap off another remarkable season by clinching a second league title in a row when they travel to Tallaght Stadium to face Shamrock Rovers.

SSE Airtricity U19 League champions last term, Bohs brought that form into this season once again – lifting the Enda McGuill Cup with a hard-fought win away to St Patrick’s Athletic in September.

The Bohemians faithful acknowledged the hard work being done at underage level by really getting behind Craig Sexton and his side for their Uefa Youth League return leg fixture at Dalymount Park last Wednesday.

A crowd of 1563 came to Dalyer as Bohs went down fighting against a fancied FC Midtjylland side, losing 2-1 to the Danes on the night and going out 4-2 on aggregate.

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Sexton’s side have dusted themselves down after that disappointment and are refreshed and ready to go toe to toe with Aidan Price’s Hoops in the league decider.

He said: “It’ll be an interesting game, it’ll be a tight one I think. But we have to give it go and let’s see where that takes us.

“I think we will get a crowd there with it being a Dublin derby, it’ll appeal to a wider audience.

“I think it’s the first time Bohs and Rovers have played in a big final since I played in the U20s final in 2010.

“We were beaten on penos that night, so hopefully the result will go the other way this time around!”

While trophies and the honour of representing the country in Uefa competition have been obvious highlights, Sexton sees the progression of players to Keith Long’s first team as the real sign of success.

The pathway for players is clear, from the joint Bohs-SKB U15 and U17 teams right through to the U19s and on to the first team. 

Ali Reghba, Andy Lyons, Cristian Magerusan, Danny Grant, Jamie Hamilton, Promise Omochere and Ryan Graydon have all featured for the first team this season as well as starring for Sexton’s U19s, while Paddy Kirk, now 20, has this season established himself as a first-team squad regular having shone for the U19s in recent seasons.

Sexton said: “Either way the game goes, this group have been fantastic. What they’ve achieved this season and last has been unbelievable.

“For the first team, the amount of players we’ve been able to bring through has been extremely pleasing.

“That’s where our success lies and I’m extremely proud of all the boys.”

Their route to the final has proved difficult, however, having had to dig deep in the knockout stages of the league against both Waterford and UCD.

In the quarter-final against Waterford, Bohs trailed 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 before eventually coming out on top 4-3 after extra time. In the semi-final, Bohs relinquished a 2-0 lead to need penalties to defeat UCD.

Sexton added: “We played Waterford, we scored with five or ten to go having been behind the whole game.

“Against UCD we were 2-0 up, cruising in the game, concede one and concede another just on the stroke of full-time.

“For the players to press the restart button and go again for another 30 minutes and win the shootout after that set-back was excellent.

“It shows you the type of group we have that they were able to dig deep and get those results.”

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