League of Ireland Preview: Bohemians

Last season: 10th
2014 odds: 80-1
In: Lee Murphy (Shelbourne), Jack Memery (Shelbourne), Jason Byrne (Bray Wanderers), Paddy Kavanagh, (Derry City), Craig Walsh (UCD), Aidan Price (St. Patrick’s Athletic) Steven Beattie (UMF Tindastoll)
Outs: Luke Byrne (Shamrock Rovers), Lorcan Shannon (Longford Town), Dave Scully (Bray Wanderers) Greg Murray (released), Michael Barker (released), Ciaran Nangle (released) Shane Murray (released), Stephen Doran (released), Conor Murphy (released),

What’s new?

In 2013 Bohs struggled to match their encouraging performances of the previous year. A terrible run of results led to the departure of the well-liked Aaron Callaghan who has since replaced Martin Russell at UCD , with Owen Heary hanging up his boots and finishing the season (in effect if not in name) as manager. Heary will lead the Gypsies for the 2014 campaign, with the FAI confirming that he is one of 17 candidates who will participate in forthcoming UEFA Pro Licence course, meaning he will meet the requirements set down by the FAI for managers.

It is reassuring that the spendthrift days at Dalymount seem to be well and truly gone and that financial prudence is the order of the day and praise in this regard must go to the board and the many fundraising efforts undertaken by Bohemians’ members and fans. In fact two former club Directors have begun working on a long term strategic plan for the club, focusing on the vexing questions like where Bohs will play in the future (Dalymount or beyond?) ,and also forging greater links with the local community. Also, reassuringly Bohs have managed to secure most of their 2013 squad on new deals for the coming season. And did so early on. This made a welcome change from the situation a couple of years back when there was a late dash to sign up players before the first round of fixtures and the team had no real pre-season to speak of. News that veteran Dave Mulcahy has been convinced to battle on for another year which is sure to delight the Bohs faithful as ‘Muller’ has quickly become a crowd favourite thanks to his impressive and committed performances in both defence and midfield. He’s also taken on the role of club captain for the coming year.

Sticking around are most of the younger squad members that came through the impressive under-19 side that was coached by Heary a couple of years back. Bohs fans will hope that the first team action that young players like Stephen Traynor, Keith Buckley and Roberto Lopes have gained will stand them in good stead this season. While the three players mentioned all show talent and potential, as is often the case with players so young they have on occasion disappeared in games, lacked consistency and were prone to instances of positional naivety. Lopes is capable of astonishing athleticism while Traynor is a midfielder of technique and intelligence. If they can demonstrate greater reliability and begin to eliminate the lapses in concentration this season can be the year when they will be expected to begin fulfilling the tantalising potential they have shown. With a relatively small squad the younger players are certain to get game time and will be expected to be able to fill in gaps created by injuries or suspensions to the more senior players. It is worth noting that with Heary’s retirement, 23 year old midfielder Ryan McEvoy is now Bohs longest serving player having made his debut in 2009. The recent acquisitions however, mean that this seasons’ squad seems to be more balanced in terms of youth and experience.

The most obvious weakness with last year’s squad, which narrowly avoided relegation, was the lack of a settled and organised back four. The departures of Evan McMillan (Sligo Rovers) and Kevin Feely (Charlton) left a huge gap in the team, with only the late season addition of Anto Murphy (playing as a centre half) helping to shore things up. With this in mind the return of Aidan Price is a huge coup for Bohs, adding experience and authority to the backline. Gypsies supporters will hope that there is no repeat of Dean Delany’s early season erratic form, and that his later season displays were the real Delany. With Lee Murphy having signed from Shelbourne there should be added competition in goal.

The major loss for Bohs was the departure of Luke Byrne to arch rivals Shamrock Rovers. The pacey attacking left-back became a fan favourite at Dalymount, however his move to Tallaght provoked levels of vitriol expected with such a move. Byrne’s place is defence is likely to be taken by ex-Shels man, Jack Memery, with Darragh Reynor also an option.

The other major area of concern for Bohs last year was their lack of goals, only 27 scored in 2013, with just bottom side Shelbourne (25) hitting the back of the net on fewer occasions. Out went misfiring strikers like Conor Murphy and David Scully, and in came veteran Jason Byrne, a man who won over an initially sceptical support when he originally signed for Bohs in 2008. The 35 year old brings a proven goalscoring record in the top flight back to the side. It remains to be seen whether Jayo still has 90 minutes in him every week, or whether with his experience he may be used as an impact player for 30 mins a game. Either way, he seems determined to chase down Brendan Bradley’s League of Ireland goal-scoring record, having scored 17 for Bray in all competitions in an injury disrupted season it would be foolish to bet against him. Further additions to the attacking threat include Paddy Kavanagh, who will be looking to rediscover the form that made him such an exciting player when he was at Bray Wanderers. He was tried out as a withdrawn forward in a recent friendly but may also provide competition on the wings for the likes of the speedy Karl Moore and Andy Mulligan. Dinny Corcoran’s contribution toward the end of last season was also crucial, grabbing vital goals and providing an effective attacking focal point in Bohs relegation battle, he’s sure to have a major role in 2014.

The other signing of note is that of young midfielder Craig Walsh from UCD, Craig gained attention as part of the ‘Football’s Next Star’ TV show, as well as scoring a goal of the month winner with UCD last year. He’s a player who seems to suit the style of football played by Heary, with its emphasis on quick passing, pace and width. One other player to watch out for is Steven Beattie, who grabbed a hat-trick in preseason and has recently put pen to paper for Bohs. Beattie has been plying his trade in Iceland in recent seasons but has returned to Ireland to try his hand in the League of Ireland. Bohemians’ current pre-season brings with it a sense of measured ambition that sits alongside the realities of prudent planning and the realisation that the profligate spending that brought the trophies of the Fenlon era are long gone. Most Bohs fans will be just be glad of a pre-season where lurching drama and struggles to stay in existence aren’t the dominating notes.

Tactics/Starting XI

A flexible 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 or possibly even a 4-4-1-1 which has been used in pre-season. Possible starting XI – Delaney – Memery, Price, Murphy, Pender – Moore, Mulcahy, McEvoy, Walsh, Kavanagh – Byrne/Corcoran

Key player

Aidan Price. Much responsibility will rest on the shoulders of Price to shore up a previously porous defence. Honourable mention to Dave Mulcahy, who despite a season disrupted with injury was a talismanic figure when available.

Keep an eye on

Craig Walsh, likely to be given a chance in midfield with a licence to go forward. Also Jack Memery, with Derek Pender sitting deeper, Memery will be given licence to get forward more, similar to Luke Byrne last season. 

Where will they finish?

Bohs will be trying to put distance between themselves and teams in the relegation places early to avoid a repeat of the nerve-biting moments of the end of Callaghan’s reign when a first ever relegation seemed ominously close. The Gypsies will be hopeful of putting some daylight between themselves and the likes of Bray and UCD and perhaps move up another place or two. 8th with a cup run would be viewed as real progress.

Prediction: 8th

Author Details

Gerry Farrell

Gerry Farrell, Dublin based football enthusiast with an interest in League of Ireland, the Irish National Team, and a bit of everything else. Bohemian in my outlook and footballing alliegiances, presenter of "The Beautiful Game" on Phoenix FM 92.5. Has nearly completed the Panini Euro 88 sticker album.

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