“What we have is togetherness and trust from Keith”

Bohemians v Cork City - EA Sports Cup Quarter-Final

BOHEMIANS v FINN HARPS
SSE Airtricity League
Friday May 31, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm

“If you’re good enough, you’re old enough” is a well-worn phrase in sport. It’s all well and good saying it, but actions speak louder than words.

At Bohemians, it reflects a commitment from the top that drives players coming through across at all age groups at underage level.

On Monday, another Bohs-SKB academy graduate, Ross Tierney, seized the opportunity afforded to him in the EA Sports Cup.

Fellow Bohs U19 Dawson Devoy tasted first-team football as a substitute for the final 25 minutes, while Alex Kelly made the bench.

Starting his Leaving Cert next Wednesday, Tierney’s teachers at St Aidan’s CBS in Whitehall might not have been best pleased by the distraction.

But for Tierney, it was a moment to savour and a reward for his ability and for years of hard work at underage level with St Kevin’s and Bohemians.

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Ross Tierney gives Dan Casey the runaround – Stephen Burke

It was his first start for the seniors, his only previous first-team minutes coming as a substitute in the Leinster Senior Cup win against First Division Shelbourne earlier this year.

But the diminutive teen put it up to a physical Cork City side.

His opener set Bohs on their way to a 2-0 victory – fellow ex-Kevin’s man Danny Mandroiu added the second from the spot – and settled what could have been a period of nervy uncertainty after the home side spurned a golden opportunity to take the lead from the penalty spot moments earlier.

Tierney, 18, said: “I was actually preparing for the U19s’ game in Longford on Sunday at the weekend but Craig Sexton, the U19s manager, rang me saying that I would be in the first team squad on Monday instead.

“I trained with the first team expecting just to be in the squad but Keith Long pulled me aside and said “You know why you’re here?” and then told me that I’d be starting. It was a bit of a surprise.

“I was delighted to get the chance to show what I can do. I don’t think I started as well as I would have liked but the intensity was always going to be higher from what I’m used to and I knew that. Keith says it will take time to adjust to that.”

He is perhaps overly self-critical. While there was a rawness to his game, he settled quickly considering and his goal contributed hugely to Bohs progressing to the last four where they will meet Dundalk away on the August Bank Holiday Monday.

Tierney in full flight – Stephen Burke

One man in attendance who missed Tierney’s goal, however, was Ross’ brother Dean.

The bars at Dalymount Park are one of its selling points in attracting fans. But their draw has seen many a supporter miss kick-off or goals either side of half-time as patrons finish up their drinks or go to the bar early to beat the queues.

Dean had no such excuse – his brother’s goal game on 33 minutes! Ross laughed: “We had just had a penalty saved, so he went in to get a pint. It took longer than he expected, they had to change the keg or something.

“The next thing he hears over the PA that No 26 Ross Tierney had scored and he said he just went “Ah Jaysus!”

Tierney’s progression comes as no surprise to those who have worked with him. The Ballymun man’s association with Bohs’ partners St Kevin’s began a decade ago and he has represented Ireland internationally up to U18 level.

He said: “I came to St Kevin’s when I was eight. I was with them from U9s up to U14s. I won five leagues and two All-Irelands. I left for a year and went to Belvo U14s and won and All-Ireland there but then have been at Bohs-SKB for U15s and U17s and on to the U19s.”

Then.. Tierney and Mandroiu at St Kevin’s in 2014

He echoes the growing sentiments that the transition from schoolboy football to men’s football has improved with the evolving League of Ireland pathway structure.

The likes of Warren O’Hora, Daniel Grant, Andy Lyons, Paddy Kirk, Ali Reghba and Ryan Graydon, all of whom came through Bohs’ U19s, are perfect examples of first-team success stories so far.

Tierney said: “The continuity helps. You get to know what is expected of you and you get to know people. You look at the team on Monday and there were nine ex-Kevin’s and then you had Andy and Paddy too who came through Bohs U17s and U19s.

“We’ve one of the youngest teams in the league but Keith Long always says that it doesn’t matter what age or height you are: if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.

“It drives you on when you see players not all that much older than you playing regularly for the first team. I think Bohs have become the best club in the country for bringing players through.

“We are all one big club from first team down to U13s. We all want each other to do well. We don’t have money like other clubs but what we have that is more important is togetherness and trust from Keith.”

As well looking to progress with the first team, Tierney is hoping he will get another chance to represent Bohs in Europe later this year. Much like last season, Sexton’s U19s face another nervy wait to see if they will quality for the Uefa Youth League.

It is a complex qualification process and, due to Ireland’s low seeding, Bohs will once again be relying on results and games out of their control to nab a spot in the competition.

Bohs lost out narrowly 4-2 on aggregate to Danes FC Midtjylland last year, but were up against a side with designs on winning the competition and who subsequently knocked out giants Roma and Manchester United before bowing out against Porto.

Due to Uefa’s rigid eligibility rules, Sexton’s team was depleted. Tierney was one of those to benefit and was promoted from Jimmy Mowlds’ Bohs-SKB U17s for the tie.

Tierney added: “Off the pitch they had amazing facilities and their players were in a full-time set-up. But on the pitch the difference wasn’t huge.

“If we had all our players available, you never know, we could have beaten them. I’m hoping we get another chance in the tournament this year as it was an amazing experience.”

Now… Tierney and Mandroiu both netted for Bohs on Monday

Tierney deserves that – he has had his set-backs too. He said: “Growing up I never shied away from tackles – I tore my MCL as a result! But sometimes it’s more dangerous to pull out when you’ve committed.

“It was in my last game for St Kevin’s at U15s. I missed the guts of half a season for the Bohs-SKB U17s but the manager Jimmy Mowlds always had confidence in me and gave me a chance when I got back fit.”

That no-fear side to his game was evident on Monday too. Tierney is small in stature, but didn’t shy away from a full-blooded challenge against the towering and imposing former Bohs man Dan Casey, although he came off worse with stud marks on his leg visible from the stand.

He said: “I saw the ball between me and Dan. I committed and I think if I’d pulled out I’d have ended up lying in the Jodi Stand!

“Robbie Murray, the physio, thought I’d need two stitches but I didn’t want to come off! He put vaseline on it instead and I played on.”

Whether he has done enough to keep his place in the squad for the visit of Finn Harps to Dalymount remains to be seen. But if not, it is only a matter of time before we see him lining out for the first team once more.

For now, Tierney is enjoying being part of the collective, adding: “Bohs have surprised a few people.

“Obviously we have had a few disappointing results lately in the league, losing to late goals. But at the start of the season, you’d have been delighted to have been third at this point and hopefully the lads can build on that.”

To do that, Bohs will need to end a run of five games without a win.

That will be easier said than done, with manager Long adding: “Harps have been on a good run of form and our previous games this season have been very close affairs and tonight we expect nothing different.

“Our performances in my view deserved more from recent games and the players are putting in a huge amount of effort and are playing well. Performances have been good and the bigger picture for us is that we currently sit in third place in the table going into the third phase of games.

” We have a young team who are developing very well. We know we can be better and we know what’s required to get more from games. We may not win every game but we understand what we need to do in order to try and win.”

TEAM NEWS

Rob Cornwall (Achilles), Dinny Corcoran (ankle), Danny Grant (hamstring), Robbie McCourt (ankle) and Cristian Magerusan (cruciate) are all out.

Keith Buckley (leg) is rated 50-50.

Conor Levingston returns from suspension but skipper Derek Pender remains suspended.

Darragh Leahy is away on international duty with the Ireland U21s.

James Talbot is also on international duty with the Ireland senior team but will be released to play against Finn Harps.

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