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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Europa League, General football

Northern Lights Dazzle Europe

A team more noted for their goal celebrations erupted onto the European stage in July with a series of eye catching Europa League performances. Tiny Stjarnan F.C. of Garðabær town in the Reykjavík capital area of Iceland are making waves in the early stages of the Europa League. They reeled in Bangor City, Motherwell and Polish runners’ up, Lech Poznan before landing the catch of the day: Inter Milan.
Having brushed aside Bangor City 8-0 on aggregate with relative ease, an impressive first leg away draw (from 2-0 down) and extra time home victory accounted for Scottish side Motherwell, while Lech Poznan were defeated without even the concession of a goal (1-0 on aggregate). Having now reached the last qualifying round before the group stages, Stjarnan must now overcome a home leg deficit (0-3) to advance past the mighty Inter Milan. It’s a tall order, underscored by the fact that Inter have won the competition three times and that the entire population belonging to the where the Icelanders play, would squeeze into Inter’s home – the San Siro – nearly six times over.
Improvement
This is Iceland’s joint best performance – along with 2013 – in a European season since UEFA expanded the number of participants five years ago, allowing the mid-to-low ranking countries – such as Iceland and Ireland – four instead of three teams into the Champions League and Europa League. Performance is measured by a co-efficient ranking system based upon a five year average of points allocated by UEFA – 0.5 points for a draw, 1 point for a win and double that should progression beyond the qualifiers be achieved. Iceland are currently ranked 35th out of 54 in UEFA’s co-efficient ranking system, five clear of Ireland, with a sizable gulf in between.
The Icelandic national team is profiting too. A rise of 85 places in the last two years to number 46 in the FIFA World Rankings (20 places ahead of Ireland) had propelled Iceland to a World Cup play-off with Croatia. However, they failed in their attempt to qualify, losing 2-0 on aggregate. That begs the question, why Iceland are achieving their current levels of success?
Government investment
One man who knows about football in Iceland is Skerries native and current Bohemians player, Steven Beattie. Beattie (26) spent two seasons playing in the Icelandic second tier with Tindastóll, arriving from America via Puerto Rico. He believes there are a myriad of reasons for their current success, the first unsurprisingly being investment. “The economy is thriving right now and they’re pumping that back into sport, which was first on the list apparently (following the country’s economic collapse). The big thing that I noticed over there is that you could be driving through the smallest town you’ve ever seen and there’d always be a 5-a-side astro turf pitch that the Government put in and a full-sized football pitch. The town may only have 800 people in it, but they still had the facility. The kids would play there ‘til all hours. You’d be driving home from games at 1am, it would still be bright and there’d be kids still out there kicking a football.” Those pitches – and the type he played on each week – were singled out by Beattie for special praise, “It was like playing on a snooker table week-in, week-out, whereas over here you kind of don’t know what to expect. I think that also helps them, you get a good surface, you want to play football and a lot of teams always had that attitude, so the standard improvement is not a surprise.”
Fishing for success
Beattie also adds that the fishing industry plays a large role, “The fishing industry is a major sponsor there and the main source of income for a lot of the teams. Fishing is a multi-million euro industry and the vast majority of the teams would be sponsored by the big local fishing companies”. Beattie, although at a second tier side was well looked after during his time in Iceland – taking a substantial drop in wages to join Bohemians. He states, “I was in a town called Tindastóll and the population was only about 2,500, but there was a massive fishing port from which they put money into the team, which allowed them to bring over foreigners and pay for a decent coach”.
Coaching
Having the infrastructure and backing in place would prove futile without a competent skipper to steer the ship. Beattie acknowledges that as well as the foreign imports – attracted through sizeable salaries – the highly trained coaches also aid the country’s footballing development. “My coach was quite young, but quite experienced, he had his UEFA pro licence (Europe’s top coaching qualification) by the time he was 30. He’s only 32 now but he was able to communicate in both Icelandic and English, he was a great man-manager and the sessions he put on were second to none.”
Different light
The lack of government investment in facilities, the absence – in the main – of financial support and the hand-to-mouth existence of Irish clubs no doubt explains why only a handful are full-time and only one team pays their players 52 weeks of the year. With the resources available and the fact that the top tier and half of the second tier in Iceland are full-time, it’s no wonder football in the country is prospering.
“I think people don’t really know very much about Icelandic football and I didn’t know much about it before I went over. I thought I’d go over there, do very well and stand out in every game, but that wasn’t the case.” An honest opinion that probably tallies with the wider football communities’ opinion of football in the country. Finally, the energetic Beattie muses, “Playing there definitely improved my game though”.

Maybe the sight of Stjarnan taking to the field at the colossal San Siro Stadium against European heavy-weights tonight, may make people sit up and take notice of the Icelandic game. Either way, expect to see the Northern Lights shine brightly for many years to come.

Andy Donlan

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