ENDA McGUILL CUP FINAL preview: Bohemians v St Patrick’s Athletic

Bohemians v St Patrick's Athletic - SSE Airtricity League Premier Division

Bohemians supporters are encouraged to get down to Dalymount Park tonight to witness first-hand the enormous potential for future success in spite of what has been a disappointing season for the first team.

This evening, Bohs come face to face with St Patrick’s Athletic in the final of the Enda McGuill Cup – i.e. the FAI Cup for U19s – and it is hoped that a vocal home support can help Seán L’Estrange’s side over the line.

Admission to the game, which kicks off at 7.30pm, is free for all, with the Members’ Bar open for both sets of supporters from 6pm.

U19s Head Coach L’Estrange said: “Anyone who comes to Dalymount tonight is going to see a lot of talented players on the pitch.

“We have no doubt about the ability in the group; the next challenge for them as young players is to deal with the occasion.

“A big crowd would be a real endorsement of them, of the staff, and of the work of the academy.

“There will be players coming and going to and from the first team next season, and tonight is a great opportunity for fans to come and see the talent our academy has to offer for the future.

“It’s a big night for the boys in their own careers, for one. But, aside from that, it is a special night in their lives to play in front of what we hope will be a good crowd in Dalymount.

“It is an opportunity that they may or may not have again so they need to embrace it. To have a big crowd there will mean a lot to them.”

This is the first major U19s game to be played in Dalymount Park since pre-Covid. In recent years, pre-pandemic, many significant fixtures, such as UEFA Youth League qualifiers and domestic knockout games, were regular features there.

The Jodi Stand was well-populated by supporters egging on the likes of Danny Grant, Ross Tierney, Dawson Devoy, Promise Omochere, and so many others, as they embraced the challenge of new surroundings and of putting in a performance in front of a big crowd.

But, for the vast majority of this current crop of talented U19s, tonight will be the very first time they get the chance to impress the Dalymount faithful.

L’Estrange said: “We trained at Dalymount yesterday and, for so many of them, it was their first time in the first-team dressing room in Dalymount Park. That is a special moment for any player, and it was important that we had them in there.

“We trained on the pitch and got them used to their surroundings; these are all important parts of their preparation and development.

“They are under no illusions, though. It is a new pressure for them; it is a cup final in Dalymount. But this is their chance to show how they deal with a big occasion under lights at Dalymount.”

The primary focus at this level is player development, and L’Estrange’s side have thrown some talented young players in at the deep end this season.

He said: “The team is a mixed bag in terms of ages. We have a lot of lads still eligible for the U17s, who are playing up a level this year.

“So, with that bit of youth there has been inconsistency. We have seen that in the league where we have had some really, really good performances followed by some disappointing performances.

“But, in the cup games, we have seen the ability levels of our players in games against tough sides such as Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers.

“In those games, we have been able to see the quality of the group and what they are capable of as opposed to their age and rawness counting against them when it comes to consistency as it can do in a league campaign.

“Because of that, we are going into this game really positive – we know this group has the ability to do something special.”

And, already, some of this crop are making a name for themselves with the first team.

L’Estrange said: “We have players who have already been rewarded with opportunities, the likes of James McManus and Reece Byrne.

“We are really excited about the talent coming through; the likes of Derin Adewale, a left-back who is still an U17 but has been playing U19s all year.

“He’s been involved with the first team the last number of weeks; a super-talented kid. He is a good example of the players coming through. He will make mistakes in his progression but he has so much talent and we are really excited to see how he progresses.

“Then you have Nickson Okosun and Danny McGrath. They are internationals at their own age groups, and they are qualifying for elite qualifiers. Within the academy structure, they are already well known.

“They are the type of lads who might not yet be on the radar for the senior team but within the academy we have really high hopes that these kids can kick on.”

Bohs came agonisingly close to winning this trophy last season, losing out to Derry City on penalties having come unstuck in normal time with the help of a contested refereeing decision.

L’Estrange added: “We will have five or six starters who played in the final last year. It still sits with them that it was a missed opportunity.

“We played fantastically well on the night last year but it is a testament to those boys that they are here again tonight.

“We sat in the dressing room up in the Brandywell this time last year and said that the only way we could make it right was to get back to a final again this year, and win it.

“And, to be fair to those lads, they have done absolutely everything they can to get us there. They just need to see it home now!”

For those unable to attend tonight’s game, it will be broadcast free of charge on LOITV.

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