Bohemians, General football, League of Ireland, SSE Airtricity League

“I heard the crack at the time, so I knew it was a bad one”

Dinny Corcoran’s season was said to be over in May, however, he is plotting a return before the end of the season to fire Bohs into Europe for the first time since 2012.

The Bohemians striker cut a lonely figure when crumpled on the Dalymount turf, 13 minutes into a league game with Sligo. Having fractured a bone in his foot, he left the field on a stretcher after a lengthy treatment delay, hugging an oxygen tank. “I actually heard the crack at the time, so I knew it was a bad one. It wasn’t even that painful, I just knew it was going to be a lengthy one”.

Heartbreaker

Corcoran revealed the often under-discussed psychological aspect of a long-term injury. “It was more upsetting than anything else. I knew I’d be out for a while. Obviously at the time I didn’t know the extent of the injury or how long I’d be out for, but I knew it was going to be quite lengthy. It was heartbreaker, but look, that’s football, these things happen. I’m feeling good now.”

No doubt he had plenty to take his mind off the injury. Having appeared on hit daytime television show, Countdown earlier in the year, Corcoran would find himself with ample conundrum time during his slow rehabilitation. “The first six weeks was tough. I couldn’t do anything to be honest with you. I was in a boot, I was on crutches, I couldn’t drive. I was basically stuck to my couch for six weeks. I could do a bit of upper body in the gym but that’s kind of hard on the head mentally to stay motivated.”

Strength and conditioning

Six weeks before Corcoran’s injury, Bohs lost a key member of their backroom team, when Strength and Conditioning coach, Graham Norton, left to join Dundalk. The Gypsies brought in Remy Tang as a replacement, who had worked at Glasgow Celtic and the English FA and Liverpool youth setups. Corcoran admitted the loss of Norton was a surprise. “It was a bit of a shock to be honest. It came all of a sudden. Graham was very good. He obviously got a good offer at Dundalk, the champions of Ireland, which would be a hard one to turn down. Remy Tang has come in and done very well, he has impressed me a lot, he has filled Graham’s shoes.”

St Pat’s return

With three matches still to go and the race for Europe looking like it will go right down to the wire, Bohs, Derry and St. Pat’s battle it out for the two places on offer. Corcoran is out of contract at the end of the season and is sure to have many suitors. However, his immediate plan is to play again this season, despite being written off. “The last month or two have been good, I’ve enjoyed it being able to run again. It’s not 100% yet, but I’m hoping to maybe set a target for the Pat’s game, so hopefully I’ll feature.” On his immediate future, he hopes to hang around Dalymount too. “I’m hoping that I can get back for a game or two, prove myself and hopefully stay for another year at least.”

The countdown to Dinny Corcoran’s comeback is underway, however, with his contract due to expire in November, it will be more than the Bohemians supporters with a keen eye on the striker’s return.

Andy Donlan.

Cover photograph – Stephen Burke

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FAI Cup, General football, Ireland, Keith Long

Perception is not often reality

“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.

Hitting form

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.

Wing trickery

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.

Philosophy

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.”

Different animal

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.

Andy Donlan.

Cover photograph – Stephen Burke

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General football, Ireland, UEFA Women's Champions League, Women's football

Killeen hoping to make the hard yards count in Belfast

As the ear-piercing crescendo of jet engines deafened overhead, Shelbourne Ladies trained at the AUL Complex next to Dublin Airport, ahead of their UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifiers, which begin today. In a way, it’s a cruel location for the players to warm-up, as their normal training venue of the Morton Stadium was sacrificed for the AUL’s artificial surface, as they aimed to mimic match conditions in central Belfast this week. They could have been heading off to sunny Cyprus, Croatia, Montenegro or the Estonian holiday resort of Parnu this week, instead they’re making the short journey north to Belfast and the compact home of Crusanders FC. Football can be cruel at times.

Not so green grass of home

Shels begin their round-robin mini tournament campaign today against group favourites, Medyk Konin, followed by close second favourites, PK-35 Vantaa on Friday, before facing bottom-ranked home side, Linfield on Monday. Flying Shels winger, Siobhán Killeen outlines the difficult task facing her side. “From looking on paper they’re both very experienced (Medyk Konin of Poland and PK-35 Vantaa of Finland), a lot of international players, they’ve played in Champions League a lot, every year they’re expected to do well and get out of the group. I know we’re in for a tough challenge, they’re very physical, technically very gifted, especially PK-35, so I know it’s tough but we’re all capable because we’re a great team and we’re very skilled as well.”

Whilst she is positive about Shels’ footballing chances, she laments the fact that the youthful Dubliner’s won’t be able to strut their stuff on a lush grass surface, as all three of their games will be played on Seaview’s 4G artificial pitch. “That’s probably the thing that’s going to be toughest about the tournament, playing on the 4G pitch because we’re used to playing on grass pitches here in tough weather conditions. You’d probably try and like to get PK-35 or Medyk Konin onto a pitch like that because the 4G will move quick. You just have to try and prepare as best you can, like tonight, that’s why we’re here training on the astro (at the AUL) and we’ve also been training at St Anne’s Park on the astro. It is very different, we just have to try and get used to it.” Shels have had pitch problems already this season. When they arrived for a routine league fixture at The Watershed Sports Centre, in May, Kilkenny’s playing surface issues were clear and present.

Pitch issues

Killeen vented her dissatisfaction by posting photographs on social media during their pre-match inspection, showing the extent of the damage to the dangerous divot-strewn surface. Kilkenny had been using the venue this season, after leaving Buckley Park. The photographs told their own story.  Sand and sods filled ditches at the patchwork sports and leisure centre pitch. “It was shocking to go down there and see the pitch, the state it was in. We are supposed to be the top players in the country. When you are growing up playing football as kids, this is the level you want to try and reach and then you travel down (to see that pitch). A lot of us work weekends and we give up shifts from work, we’re only amateur players, so that was very disappointing.” Kilkenny duly issued a grovelling apology, the FAI ordered the fixture be rescheduled and reversed and Shels doled out an unmerciful 11-0 hammering in Dublin.

Despite any doubts over today’s fast-playing surface, positives in the form of home support will be an added bonus for Shels, as bus loads of supporters and family members make the 160 km journey north. As well as that, the in-camp togetherness and team spirit – which seems evident when Irish underage women travel for tournament football – should be another major plus. “Like on international trips, you could be away for a week or two, away from your family so we are used to staying in that close environment with your teammates, training everyday. So they should be well prepared for it and know what they’re getting themselves in for. There are a good few buses of our underage teams coming up – it will be like a home draw, but when you’re away, you feel like you’re away from all other commitments, so it’s nice. We were hoping for an away game but, Belfast is only up the road, so you feel like you’re not in Dublin, but at least up in Belfast you feel like you’re away, you’re in a camp – if it was in Dublin, some of the girls could work from home.”

Family support

Family support also plays a big role in the women’s game in Ireland, where dedicated relatives make-up large sections of the weekly league attendances, up and down the country. Killeen will be hoping there’s a double celebration, come the final whistle – where her mother will provide support from the stands, as she celebrates a landmark birthday today. “It’s my mam’s birthday, quite a big one as well.  So she’ll come up with my brothers and their families will also come up, so it’ll be nice. It’s only up the road so it’ll be nice.”

Training four nights a week in the lashings of rain

There is a quiet confidence about Siobhán Killeen and you get the sense that she truly believes in the synergy of Shelbourne’s star underage individuals. “The girls have all succeeded at underage level with Ireland, so they’ll be hoping to repeat some of that, but with their teammates who they’re training with four nights a week in the lashings of rain, so it’ll be nice for them.”

The self-assured attacker and her teammates will need the mother of all performances to advance as group winners or as best runners-up in this campaign. They’ll hope that their bond and togetherness, mixed in with a little help from the weather – in the form of the tail-end of Hurricane Gert – and some family support can see them through. If the virtuous side of football prevails, then the young Shelbourne players can afford to look skywards and wonder which country they’ll be flying to in the first round of the UEFA Women’s Champions League in October.

Andy Donlan

UEFA Women’s Champions League Qualifying Group 4 kicks off on at 14:00 today in Seaview, Belfast when Shelbourne Ladies play Medyk Konin and continues through to Monday 28 August [view full fixture list].

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