6 April 2007

Bohs win again as I sample the Jodi atmosphere

For the game against Sligo Rovers on Friday night i decided to head into the Jodi stand and closer to where all the singing and atmosphere had came from in the Shamrock Rovers game.

I had sat in this stand for a few games in the past, however I'd always tended to sit near the middle. I was hoping to get a different perspective on the game and see how the hardcore support acted during the 90-minutes. I'd also heard that this was where most of the "schooligans" stood during the games and, I have to admit, i was intrigued to get a closer look at what they were like (not too close though!).

Following the Shamrock Rovers game the previous Tuesday, I'd been looking forward to this game all week. Although the performance in that game had been pretty ordinary, it seemed to have given everyone connected to the club a huge lift and raised hopes that a successful season lay ahead.

I got to the ground around ten minutes before kick-off and was surprised to find that there was a large snaking queue outside the turnstiles. I don't think I'd ever had to stand in line to get into Dalymount before. Perhaps the closure of all the pubs for Good Friday had enticed the folks of Dublin out for the evening. There also seemed to be a good few fans through from Sligo though so hopefully we were in for another great atmosphere.

Once inside the ground i had arranged to meet up with another Bohs fan who i had got speaking to during the Rovers match. He had arrived a little earlier than me and grabbed a couple of seats in Block F, so i sat down next to him turned to watch the game, which was already two or three minutes old.

I had been to see one of the encounters between the two sides last season in which a disappointing Bohs were well-beaten by two goals to nil. Hopefully, it would be a different story tonight.

Bohs started the game well and it was clear that the positivity from Tuesday night had also spread to the players. Glen Crowe almost put us into an early lead midway through the first half, but his dipping shot from the outside of his foot came back off the bar. I missed Glen Crowe's first two spells at Bohemians, in which he'd became something of a Dalymount legend, however he has certainly caught my eye so far this season.

One other player i have enjoyed watching since i started going to Bohs is John Paul Kelly. At times he has underperformed, however, on his day, "Joxer", as he is known to the fans, is the type of player that can turn a game on its head and keeps you coming back every week. At a time when so many of Ireland's young stars are attracted to the bright lights and pound signs of British football, Kelly is the kind of player that Bohemians, and indeed the League of Ireland, would do well to keep a hold of.

It was the ex-Liverpool youth academy player who grabbed the first, and ultimately only, goal of the game shortly before half-time. Young Chris Kingsbury sent in a driven cross from the right and the in-rushing Kelly nodded home with aplomb from 8 yards. It was no less than Bohs deserved.

One of the things I enjoy most about the games at Dalymount is what goes on during the interval. With a tombola-style half-time draw and small games involving young kids from the local area, Bohemians presents itself as a friendly and community based club. Each week there is also an older man who runs onto the pitch and takes penalties into the goals in-front of the Des Kelly stand. A conversion is always met with a roar of approval from the home fans and some outlandish celebrations from the man himself.

The football in the second half ultimately produced no further goals, but it was still an entertaining and enjoyable affair. Sligo tested with a few long shots at one end, while Bohs striker Neil Fenn will have had nightmares about his open goal header from just a few feet out which came back off the post. The final whistle was met with a mixture of relief and contentment by the Dalymount faithful. Again, it had been far from a vintage performance, but the three points were in the bag and there had again been signs of improvement.

One disappointing thing about the game was the lack of audible singing from the away support which had been tucked away in the opposite corner of the Jodi Stand. I could see by looking over in their direction that they were fairly animated, however, the noise from the Bohs fans at our end simply drowned it out. At the Rovers game, the away fans had been located in the Connaught Street stand on the opposite side which made for a fantastic atmosphere. One of the great things about going to games is the banter that goes on between the two sets of fans. It would also have been good to hear what kind of reception they gave to their former boss, Sean Connor, and also the few players who had followed him from Sligo to Bohemians during the winter.

Still though, I'd thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Jodi and it was great to be in amongst the singing. Some of the songs getting sung were brilliant, particularly the one about Darren Mansaram to the tune of Black Betty... "whoa black Darren Mansaram". There were a good few anti-Shamrock Rovers fans too which sounded great. Although i have to admit i couldn't quite make out many of the words! I got a laugh a few times at a chant spelling out the name Bohs. A loud, dolcid voice from the bottom of the stand bellows each letter of the name - B-O-H-S - which the rest of the fans then repeat (Apparently the guy who starts the chant is the same fan who takes the half-time penalty). This is followed by the rousing call of "THE BOH-S, THE BOH-S, THE BOH-S" from the whole stand. Every time you here the first "B" getting belted out by the lone voice you know what's coming and it really seems to keep the atmosphere going. If I had the voice I'd say this one would work a treat at Queen of the South games back home.

I'm happy to report that didn't hear or see too much from the little hooligans in the corner. It was interesting and re-assuring to read in the match programme that the club was aware of theses "fans" and that action is being taken behind the scenes. Hopefully over the coming weeks and months this element of the support can be squeezed out and the real fans can continue to enjoy supporting their club with pride. The authorities in Ireland have a big enough job on their hands trying to get new faces through the gates as it as without these kind of people driving real fans away from the games.

So, a great week to be a Bohs fan. A maximum nine points in eight days had pushed the team up to fourth in the table and the feeling amongst the fans walking out of Dalymount seemed to be one of joy and perhaps a little bit of excitement. Sean Connor has targeted a top-four finish this season and the team is looking increasingly capable of achieving that.

Next week sees Bohs travel across the city to take on top-of-the-table St Patrick's Athletic who remain unbeaten so far this season. I've been meaning to get along to Richmond Road for a while now so I'm delighted that this will finally happen on Friday.

Meanwhile, when the next home comes around in two weeks time against Galway United, I'll be heading back to the Jodi to try and learn a few more words to those anti-Rovers songs.

For highlights from the game and a post-match interview with coach Alan Caffrey...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_V287HHbwbs

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