“We haven’t had a cup run at all in my time here. I’m pleased tonight that we’ve won, the attitude of the players was spot on, we’d like to enjoy tonight and next week look forward to the Rovers game,” beamed Bohs boss, Keith Long after their seven-nil annihilation of Wexford at Ferrycarrig Park on Friday night.
Having negotiated the first hurdle of the FAI Cup with relative ease, Bohs now go on to pit their wits away against First Division Galway – a team they knocked out of this competition in 2016. Premier Division Bohs will be favourites to advance to next month’s quarter-finals.
Standing in a now-near-empty and dimly-light Ferrycarrig Park, Long admits, “Our form since the break has been very good, except for the Sligo game. We went down to Waterford and drew 1-1 and should have won. We had beaten Pat’s the week before, so that’s been the only blip on our copy book since the break. Then we scored eighteen goals in the last four games and conceded two. I’ve said to the players, we’ve got to have that level of consistency, week in, week out, because I believe in them.” Prior to the League of Ireland summer break, goal-shy Bohs only averaged less than a goal a game.
Their new-found ruthlessness in front of goal – albeit against sides ranked inferior – has seen them rack-up six, five and seven without reply in recent weeks. That is thanks in no small part to the implosion at Bray Wanderers, resulting in the arrival of tricky right winger Daniel Kelly to Bohs, coupled with the new-found confidence and directness of Kevin Devaney on the opposite wing. Older heads like Karl Moore, Paddy Kavanagh and Philly Gannon have moved on due to restricted first team opportunities, resulting in speedier attacks and a new-found incisiveness.
Others have blossomed too, youngsters Grant, Kirk, Lyons and Mageruson have come into the first team from the under-19s and haven’t been found wanting. All good for competition, as Long points out. “We’re building at the club. The philosophy – call it that if you will – is to promote the best young players. I think we’ve got quite a number of them throughout the club, our under-19 team are strong, so we’ve got lots of players who are ready to come in. It creates that environment and culture where there’s lots of competition for places, so it has been really good, but it has been built up over a period of time, it hasn’t just happened. It’s long hours of hard work with the players, recruiting and identifying the right kind of players and creating an environment that is good and the culture is rich in the club at the moment.”
Smallest budget – people don’t want to hear that
Generally, the promotion of youth is down to restricted finances, or under-performance. Bohs are no different, as consistency levels have seen them struggling and teetering above the relegation play-off spot for much of the season.
“Our league form – the consistency levels – need to improve and I believe some of the performances we’ve put in this season deserve more and the league table at this stage doesn’t lie, so it is what it is. People on the outside view Bohs as a big club, which it is, it is a big club with big history, but we’re operating off the smallest budget in this league. Fact. People don’t want to hear that, I’ve said that now for quite a number of years, but we’re doing well, we are boxing above our weight, year-on-year we’re doing really well and I think people should realise that we’re a part-time group and we’re giving an honest effort and we work extremely hard at our jobs at the club and it’s down to other people what they perceive, but perception is not often reality.”
Supporters want success
Past money-issues still linger fresh in the mind around Dalymount Park – an asset Bohs lost in property speculation only a few years ago. Long stressed, “Obviously we’d like to move things forward, but it can’t be at the detriment to the health of the club, which in the past – that situation has led us to where we are now – the overspending and so-on. We’re living with that, we are coping with it, we are doing our very, very best with the limited resources that we have. There are lots of good people at the club. There are lots of volunteers who give their time for the club, we are appreciative of all of that, but ultimately, I think our supporters want a little bit of success, they want to see us kick-on, but that takes finances, that takes resources, that takes a lot of different things coming together all at once.”
Before leaving to return to the dressing room, Long adds, “I’m pleased tonight that we’ve won, the attitude of the players was spot on, we’d like to enjoy tonight and look forward to the Rovers game – we know it will be a much different animal next week”.
It is highly unlikely that Rovers will become the latest recipients of a Bohs mauling, due to the congested nature of this derby fixture, however, if the animal instincts of Long’s young group kick-in they may go for the kill from the off.
Cover photograph – Stephen Burke