“I want to kick on from last year”

Sligo Rovers v Bohemians - SSE Airtricity League Premier Division

Preview: Bohemians v Derry City
SSE Airtricity League
September 25 2020, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm
Live on WatchLOI and
audio described commentary is available (link live from 7.20pm)

James Talbot is a team player but can be forgiven for looking out for No 1 having had to wait seven months to win back his place in the Bohemians starting XI.

The 23-year-old suffered a foot injury in the opening day of the season defeat to Shamrock Rovers in February and had to bide his time thanks to the combination of Stephen McGuinness’ form and the disruption caused to the football calendar by Covid-19.

With six clean sheets from 10 league games to his name, McGuinness impressed, but Talbot will be hoping to retain his place against Derry City having kept Sligo Rovers scoreless last Friday.

Talbot, whose only game-time this term came in an FAI Cup win against Cabinteely, said: “On a personal level, I was over the moon to get back into the team. It was a long time coming and was made even longer because of the Covid break.

“But that break gave me time to recover properly from my injury too and I’ve worked very hard in training to get back into the team.

“The whole squad has been working hard, we keep pushing each other.”

An ever-present in the team last year with 17 clean sheets from 36 league games, Talbot’s 2019 form saw him earn an Ireland call-up and an SSE Airtricity Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Player of the Month Award.

Having had big gloves to fill following the retirement of Shane Supple at the end of 2018, it was mission accomplished for Finglas man Talbot in his debut season at Dalymount Park.

To go from that to playing second fiddle for much of this term was testing. But Talbot is a team player – as evident from his vocal words of encouragement from the stands during last month’s Europa League game away to Fehervar, and his determined efforts to console his team-mates after the devastation of the subsequent penalty shootout defeat.

Talbot embraces McGuinness after Europe League penalty shootout heartache - Sportsfile

Now, though, Talbot wants to keep hold of his starting berth. Competition for places across the team is fierce, and it is no different between the sticks.

McGuinness was not part of the squad away to Sligo last week as a precaution because he was a close contact of a Covid case. In his absence, Talbot saw Bohs keep a clean sheet for the first time in three games and he hopes to build on that now once more.

His reinstatement coincided with Bohs returning to winning ways too as Andre Wright’s second-half goal, after skilful work from Dawson Devoy, banished the disappointment of defeats to Waterford and Shamrock Rovers in their previous two games.

Talbot said: “I want to kick on from last year, so I was glad to get a chance to impress and keep a clean sheet.

“We were disappointed with the previous two games, not just the results but the performances too. But we were a lot better against Sligo. We felt we could have been 2-0 up at half-time but thankfully we got the goal in the end. Dawson was unbelievable for the goal.”

Now attention turns to the visit of Declan Devine’s Derry City to Dalymount Park, with Talbot hoping he has done enough to retain his place in the team.

He added: “We are looking forward to it. Everyone is buzzing in training, but we are very focused and we want to go out, give a good performance and win the game.”

For manager Keith Long, the game presents another fresh challenge.

He said: “Derry are unbeaten in their last five games and have added to their squad since they beat us in March. Games between the teams have been very close over the last couple of seasons.

“With six league games remaining, it is vital we try to continue to pick up points and build on a positive result in Sligo last week.

“I was very pleased with how we played in Sligo. They were in good form prior to the game and we were coming off the back of two disappointing results, so it was really positive to see the lads put in such an assured performance.”

Talbot was just one of four changes to the team for the trip to the Showgrounds, with Rob Cornwall, Conor Levingston and Devoy making the starting XI in place of James Finnerty, JJ Lunney and Danny Mandroiu respectively.

Long added: “All players are desperate to play football and in a condensed season it is even more frustrating for them when they do not.

“The squad ethos is very important for any successful team. The changes made to the starting XI in Sligo underlines that and I was very happy with the boys who came into the team and performed well.”

TEAM NEWS

Kris Twardek, suspended due to accumulated yellow cards, is Bohs’ only absentee.

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