It’s another new era at Dalymount Park as Keith Long takes the reigns of cash strapped Bohemians following the departure of club legend,Owen Heary for Sligo Rovers.
Long worked miracles upon his arrival at Athlone Town last season, and despite just falling short on the final day of the season and seeing his side relegated back to the First Division, the dramatic improvement in results and style of play at Lissywoolen did not go unnoticed with eleven time league winners Bohemians calling.
Some might say Long has another miracle mission on his hands at the Phibsborough club after Heary took a number of ”Bohs” key on field assets with him to the Showgrounds, leaving Long with a rebuilding mission to do on a shoe string budget.
Despite the Dublin club’s current financial status, former Bray boss Long has been able to bring in no less than nine new players for 2015 with emphasis being placed on youth, as it is at many League of Ireland clubs in the current economic climate.
As already mentioned, nine players have left the club over the course of the off-season meaning it may take quite a while for this new look Bohemians side to gel but the experience of Jason Byrne and Dave Mulcahy within the dressing room should help speed up that process.
Like His predecessor, Long has looked towards his former employers for talent ahead of the new season with four players departing Athlone Town in favour of Premier Division football this term. Out of those four additions, and perhaps all nine new signings, it is the capture of Kealan Dillon that excites most at Dalymount with the former St.Mirren midfielder proving his worth with four goals from deep in 2014.
Adding some defensive foundations to the ”Bohs” midfield is holding player, James O’Brien who has previous League of Ireland experience with Longford Town and St.Patrick’s Athletic as well as Athlone.
Yet another pre-season has come and gone and once again we are talking about Jason Byrne and his chances of breaking the League of Ireland’s all time goalscoring record. 2014 saw the legendary striker edge a further nine goals closer to the tally but what kind of support can the former international expect this time around?
Arriving at the club are two strikers well-known to followers of the domestic game in Marc Griffin and Dean Kelly. While former Dundalk man Griffin has gone off the rails in terms of his career over the past couple of seasons, Kelly has continued to give consistent service to the likes of St.Pat’s, Shelbourne and, most recently, Shamrock Rovers and his signing should offer Byrne a reliable strike partner to work with.
Last season Bohemians finished a respectable seventh place and should Long match or better that position this term, he can hold his head high and say he has done a good job in his first season in charge. So, what are his sides chances of doing so?
Starting off by looking at the Bohemians squad in an overall sense, you would have to worry straight away with the lack of an experienced back-up goalkeeper for Dean Delaney. While Delaney is one of the league’s most wisely netminders, he is vulnerable to injury at the age of 34 and should he face a long spell on the sidelines, you’d worry about the lack of a commanding presence inside that penalty area.
In the back four, ”Bohs” had an average defensive record for 2014, conceding 41 goals in the league campaign. The additions of full backs Lorcan Fitzgerald and Derek Pendergast should help shore up the rearguard at Dalymount Park.
Across the middle, the aforementioned James O’Brien should greatly improve the cover in front of that back four this season while going forward, Karl Moore will once again offer Bohemians greatest attacking threat but there is no doubting the losses of Eoin Wearan, Ryan McEvoy and Craig Walsh will greatly reduce the number of goals seem from deep this season in Phibsborough.
Up front, Jason Byrne will have to be managed again this season in terms of his physical condition and game time, leaving Marc Griffin with a lot to prove the League of Ireland public. Should the striker rediscover some of his previous best form, Bohemians FC could be the perfect fit for him, but you just get the feeling even at a young age his best days may be behind him.
Given the squeeze on the cash box at Dalymount Park, manager Keith Long has only been able to build a 21 man senior squad and while there is some quality across the park, there again looks to be a lack of goals in the side with just 40 scored in the 2014 league season.
The opening weekend fixture away to Limerick FC, at the dilapidated Jackman Park, could very well shape the entire course of Bohemians season, given the fact the hosts are expected to struggle greatly this year. Should Keith Long’s side come out on top in that one, it could set the ”Gypsies” up for a nice little run with Galway United and Bray Wanderers the respective opponents in weeks two and three of the campaign.
Given that some of the sides predicated to be in or around ”Bohs” come the final count are looking at extremely tough opening fixtures, a good start for the Dubliners could set them well on their way to challenging for a top six finish.
Predicted finish: 8th
Player to watch: James O’Brien
Greatest strength: Should improve what was far from a disastrous defensive record from last season.
Greatest weakness: Lacked goals last season with a goal difference of -1 and don’t look likely to score a huge amount more this time round.