CENTRAL ROLE… Bohemian midfielder Craig Walsh in action against Shelbourne in pre-season. Pic: A. Baldiemann

It’s hard to ignore his standout creative performances in the centre of the park, but Craig Walsh is not interested in being the centre of attention. Despite collecting man-of-the-match awards and being singled out for special praise by manager Owen Heary, the midfielder is more concerned with being a team player as Bohemians look to consolidate and improve their league position, writes CILLIAN SHIELDS.

Signed from UCD, the 22-year-old has slotted into Heary’s starting XI with a natural ease. “I’ve settled in well,” he said. “But I’m more worried about the team winning and playing well as a whole. If you get everyone playing well in the team, that’s great because it’s a team game, not an individual sport. My only aim is for the team to win and for me to get into that starting XI.”

The ex-Shamrock Rovers and Longford Town player is open about his disappointment with certain performances and results, but finds a lot of positives from the opening seven games of the season too. “Looking back at the Drogheda game, we were 2-0 up and had a foothold in the game, but we settled off a bit and got punished. That was disappointing. The Shamrock Rovers game as well, one or two decisions went against us and we didn’t get the rub of the green. I think we’ve played okay so far but I think there’s a lot more in us.

“If you look at the first game of the season where we did very well and getting a draw up in Oriel Park against a Dundalk team who are, in my opinion, the best in the league and then to come back from 1-0 down and with 10 men against Bray, they all show there’s a lot of character in this squad and a lot of positives to take from the start of the season.

DINNY DO WELL… Craig Walsh celebrates with goalscorer Dinny Corcoran against Drogheda in March. Pic: Eddie Lennon

“There are a couple of negatives since too but we’re all looking to put those right in the next few games.”

Walsh is quick to thank his new team-mates for easing the transition from Belfield to Dalymount Park and noted that the main difference between his 2013 campaign with UCD and his 2014 so far with Bohs is the level of experience in the squad.

“There’s a great dressing room here and all the lads have been a huge help to me settling in so well”, he said. “All the lads – and of course Owen and Graham O’Hanlon – have been great since I joined.

“Last year I didn’t have that kind of experience around me – the older lads to tell me where I was going wrong and what I needed to do to improve. The mix of youth and experience at this club is great. There are lads like Detser, Jay Byrne, Dave Mulcahy, Paddy Kavanagh, players here who have won league titles. Their experience and what they can bring to the team is one of the most important things for me personally.”

Outside of football, Walsh spends his morning working in JD Sports, which he claims help avoid him “going mad during the day” before his priority: developing with Bohs. “It’s great that working in JD ties in with my football, it doesn’t get in the way at all and allows me to focus on playing for Bohs. I can work in the mornings before we have training in the evenings.”

A naturally attack-minded player, Walsh admits that it wasn’t until recently that the defensive side of his game began to flourish. He said: “Growing up, I was always better on the ball and going forward. But the last 18 months or so working with Martin Russell at UCD and Owen here has helped me develop a lot more in the defensive side of my game. We worked hard on our shape in pre-season and developing that side of the team is very important.”

Dalymount Park resonates in a special way to Bohemians players and this is no different for the Gypsies’ latest star. “It’s great playing in front of a massive crowd like at the Rovers game. That makes you want it more and more, and makes me want to bring success back at this club, to give Bohs more special nights because it’s a huge club.”

Walsh has certainly had one of the more interesting routes to becoming a League of Ireland footballer. He has probably had more trials in England than most and even spent some time in Italy with Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan after taking part in the Sky programme Football’s Next Star.

“Any young player in the league should be hoping they could catch the eye and play at the highest level. Personally though my only aim is Bohs at the minute, training week in week out and getting into the team. I’, not getting too ahead of myself.

“To be honest, I don’t think the whole Inter thing was about football, it was more about the television show part of it. We didn’t have mobile phones, didn’t have laptops, barely had any contact with back home while we were there, only a two minute phone call every day. We trained Monday to Thursday and maybe had a match on the Friday, but then Saturday and Sunday we were just hanging around a villa at Lake Como doing nothing, bored out of our heads.

“We weren’t allowed phones or anything because they were always filming and making the TV programme. They couldn’t have you on the phone or your mate ringing you if you were in the middle of an interview or whatever it may be!

“I learned more playing first team football for Longford and last year at UCD than I did training over in Italy. I’ve put all that stuff behind me. I just want to make a name for myself in the League of Ireland and bring Bohs back where they belong.”

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