28 May 2007

Bohemians 2-0 St Patrick's Athletic

Just when you probably thought it would never happen, I've finally got round to adding up my report from the game against league leaders St Pat's on May 28th. With Bohs having shown clear signs of progression in the early part of the season, this was arguably our biggest test of the campaign so far. Although Bohs had edged up to third position in the table, they were still nine points off the top and the jury was still very much out on whether the team was good enough to mount a serious title challenge.

However, as manager Sean Connor had said before the game, a win against Pat's would go a long way to dispelling many of those doubts. The fact that the game was being shown live on Setanta meant that Bohs also had a chance to show the rest of the country that they were a team to be reckoned with.

The two sides had played out a scoreless draw at Richmond Park earlier in the season, however, on that occasion i felt that Bohs were by far the better side and had deserved to take all three points. This game offered a chance for Bohs to put that right.

With a long trip to Sligo and the two-week summer break to follow, this was to be my last Bohs game for almost three weeks. There was no way I was missing this one!

I managed to get out of work just before six o'clock. I had arranged to meet a few other Bohs fans in a pub called 'The Hut' just round the corner from the ground. I'd been recommended this one by a few supporters on Bohs message board.

The sun was shining and it was a perfect night for football. There still remains alot of debate amongst League of Ireland fans about the virtues of playing football during the summer months, however, walking up to Phibsboro in my short sleeves that night it was hard to imagine a more enjoyable way to spend a Monday evening. Good weather, a few pints and a game of football!

When i got to 'The Hut' just after half six, there already seemed to be quite a few fans in there enjoying a few pre-match pints. The atmosphere inside was quite good and a million miles away from that I'd experienced in the nearby Bohemian bar before the Longford game.

We made our way round to Dalymount, via the bookies, around 15 minutes before kick off. I was confident that Bohs were going to do the business, so I stuck a few quid on us to win 2-1. In a separate bet I also backed Glen Crowe to grab the first goal.

I was quite excited walking round to the ground and I couldn't wait for the game to start. All the ingredients were there for a great game. Not only was it a Dublin derby, but both sides had been on a decent run of form and much of the pre-match media coverage had billed the game as 'a top of the table clash'.

The game didn't seem to have caught the imagination of the wider Dublin public though, with many parts of the stadium sitting empty. Even Pat's didn't seem to have brought that many fans along - certainly not compared to what Bohs had taken to Richmond Park. I have to admit I was a little disappointed as I had been expecting a big crowd. I'm beginning to realise that it doesn't matter what the circumstances are though... it seems that nothing will entice the so-called football fans of Dublin off their fat arses and along to see their local teams play. It will be interesting to see whether the attendances grow should Bohs still be in the hunt for honours at the end of the season.

Despite the many empty seats, the atmosphere once the game got underway was excellent. As is the norm with local derbies, the banter between the two sets of fans was clearly evident. Alot of the songs that get sung at games go a little over my head, but I'm slowly getting to grips with what its all about. The Bohs fans do seem a witty bunch though and I quite often find myself smiling at some of the chants they come out with. Tonight the away fans were bombarded with chants of "junkie scum" and "shooting up".

If the atmosphere at the start had been good, then it got even better just before the half hour mark when Bohs took the lead. The goal was probably undeserved as Pat's had dominated in the early stages. Of course that didn't, in fact, if anything, it probably made it all the sweeter. The goal itself was as good as any I've seen in a long, long time. A sweeping move sent Glen Crowe got in behind the Pat's defence and he squared the ball across the six yard box for the in-rushing Stephen Rice to side-foot home from a matter of yards. Needless to say the Jodi went delirious with a barrage of what looked like a cross between toilet rolls and till rolls flying onto the pitch (see pic left).

The rest of the game was played on a knife-edge with both sides fighting to gain control. Pat's continued to see alot of the ball but the Bohs defence was proving impossible to break down. The nervousness from the pitch was evident too in the stands, with the singing in the Jodi becoming more sporadic and perhaps a little more anxious. Any doubts over the outcome were wiped away with just two minutes left on the clock though.

Despite having to play out the last 15 minutes with 10 men (John Paul Kelly went off injured and Bohs had used all three subs), Bohs secured all three points when Mark Rossiter slotted home from the penalty spot after Darren Mansaram had been hauled down in the box.

The mixture of relief, joy and excitement in the Jodi was immense. No sooner had the ball hit the back of the net than chants of 'we're going to win the league' and 'top of the league, you're having a laugh' were being yelled out. It certainly made a change from the moans and groans I've become used to.

The last few minutes were a bit of a blur, although I have to admit, I was half hoping to Pat's would pull one back for my bet. When the final whistle went, the bet was forgotten though. Three points and a possible title challenge were all that mattered.

For a full match report on the game click here.

For the after-match celebrations click here.

27 May 2007

Bohs move up to third in the table

Just a quick update on how Bohs have fared over the last couple of games. Getting time off on a Friday is proving difficult so unfortunately I had to miss the long away trips to Cork and Galway.

I've used the break in Bohs games to get out and see a few other Eircom League matches. Hopefully over the next few weeks i'll be able to get along to see most of the other teams based in and around Dublin. My experiences from these games will be included in a future post on the fans of opposing teams (thanks to Bohshead on theBohs.com forum for the idea!)

Anyway, back to the point...

Last Friday (May 18th) Bohs travelled south to take on Cork City at Turners Cross. Two early goals put paid to Bohs chances and although Jason McGuinness pulled a goal back in the dying moments, Cork went on to win the game 2-1. The defeat, only Bohs second of the season so far, meant that Cork City nudged Bohs down into fourth place in the table. A full match report can be found here.

The trip to Galway on Friday night proved to be a more fruitful one for Bohs, with an early Glen Crowe strike sealing all three points. The win moved Bohs back up to third in the table, nine points behind leaders St Pat's, but just one behind Drogheda in second place. Highlights and post-match interviews can be seen here. A full match report can be found here.

Bohs now have a chance to cut the gap at the top to just six points as they take on St Pat's at Dalymount Park on Monday night. Win this one and Bohs will be right back in the hunt for the title. Having missed the last two games, I can't wait for this one...

21 May 2007

11/05/07 - Bohemians 5-0 Longford Town

Last week proved to be a pretty good week to be a Bohs fan. Not only did they manage to beat Dublin rivals Shelbourne in the League Cup, but they also brought an end to their recent goal drought by smashing five past a poor Longford Town in the League.

Having finished early at work that day I headed to the pub before the game for a few pre-match pints. This is something I used to do quite often before games back in Scotland and it always helped get you in the mood for the match. Not being too familiar with the pubs around Dalymount I headed with a friend to a drinking hole nearby to the ground. Going in to local pubs can often be a bit dodgy, but with a name like "The Bohemian" I thought we would be on to a winner.

A pre-match pint before a game at Celtic Park normally a packed pub, a sea of green and white and fair bit of singing and shouting. Although the pub was fairly packed it didn't look like there was much chance of getting that in The Bohemian though. The only shouting was directed at the horse racing on the TV in the corner, while the only singing came from a group of old drunks in the far corner. As for a splash of colour, well, unless you count a few sets of black front teeth then The Bohemian drew a blank on that one too!

Even though it is located just 200-odd yards from the entrance to Dalymount, I only spotted one other person in the pub sporting the Bohemian FC colours. If I was hoping for a bit of pre-match banter, it looked like I had chosen the wrong place.

That thought was confirmed when we were leaving the pub just before kick-off. A regular, who had obviously over-heard myself and my mate talking about the game, asked what game we were talking about. When my mate said "the Bohs game at Dalymount tonight", he met with a blank expression. "Ah sure lads, Dalymount has been closed down for years," he drunkenly fired back at us. "Bohs haven't played there for years". we just laughed and headed on up to the game. It seemed that it wasn't just the wider Irish public who couldn't be bothered with the League of Ireland, but also the folks who lived just round the corner.

The game itself was decent. Bohs were by far the better side, however, I felt as though 5-0 had probably flattered them a little. Don't get me wrong, they were well worth the victory, but Longford were as poor as a team as I have seen all season. Still though, I've been a football fan long enough to know that you don't turn your nose up at a five nil victory, so I won't complain too much. Glen Crowe again impressed up-front though and he took all three of his goals very well. John Paul Kelly, who has disappointed so far this season, also delivered his best performance in a long time. Still alot of improving to do, but this was undoubtedly a step in the right direction. (For a full report on the game click here)

With a tough run of games to come against the likes of Cork, Galway and Sligo away and St Pat's at home, the three points were vital. It looked like we had finally found our way to goal too - not least Glen Crowe who's hatrick took his tally for the week to five and his season total to seven (in all competitions). Crowe is fast becoming one of my favourite Bohs players... all I have to do is learn the words to the song the other Bohs fans sing about him. Until then, it's still the name of Dessie Byrne that is destined for the back of my new Bohs home shirt!

After the game my mate took me along to the Gravedigger in Glasnevin for what he promised would be the best pint of Guinness in Dublin. Just a few sups in and I was inclined to agree. Another five pints later he was preaching to the converted!

For highlights of the game and post-match interviews click here.

9 May 2007

08/05/07 - Shelbourne 0-2 Bohemians

Regular readers of the blog will know how much I had been looking forward to the game against Shelbourne. Not only was it the first time I have seen the two sides play against one another, but it was also to be my first visit to Tolka Park - a stadium I have been meaning to get along to quite some time.

When the draw for the third round of the cup was made, I was delighted to see that Bohs had been paired with another of the Dublin sides. With the games being played midweek this ensured that I would definitely be able to make the game. Tolka Park is only a short drive from where I live so I left for the game around the same time I normally would for a match at Dalymount. Although I knew roughly where the stadium was I wasn't too sure exactly how to get there. I had arranged to pick up a friend on the way though and with him being a taxi driver, we were there in no time at all. His local knowledge helped out no end when it came to finding a place to park the car too. He directed me to a side street just off the main Drumcondra Road, which was only a short walk away from the stadium.

Even for an outsider such as myself, Tolka Park is a stadium that I had heard quite alot about. I have recently started reading Daire Whelan's book on the history of Irish football, which talks about how prominent a role Tolka Park has played in football on these shores over the years. I was quite excited about getting in and seeing what it was like for myself. After the previous week's bore draw against UCD, I was also hoping to see a few goals and a convincing Bohemians performance.

From what I had seen of it on television it always appeared to be quite a tidy little ground and one of the more modern stadia in Ireland. In reality though, the stadium is a bit of a blast from the past.

We were directed to an all seater stand on the far side of the pitch, where around a couple of hundred Bohs fans had already gathered. The stand had looked half decent from a distance, however, once we'd got a bit closer it was clear that it had seen better days. The roof of the stand looked like something from a farm rather a football stadium, with the metal work covered in rust and dirt. With dark clouds circling above though, I was just grateful that there was a roof there at all! Apart from one of the end stands, which was closed off for the night, the rest of the stadium seemed a little more modern. It was clear that a bit of money had been spent in recent years, as the stadium was now all seated and a new stand had been built behind one of the goals.

By the time the match started at 8 o'clock a fairly impressive number of Bohs fans had made their way into the ground and the atmosphere was already starting to build. We grabbed a couple of seats down near the front, two of the very few that didn't seem to be covered in either mud or bird shit!

A sparse scattering of Shelbourne fans were spread across the other stands, the vast majority of whom looked like school kids.. They appeared to be up for a good sing-song though so hopefully an entertaining 90 minutes lay ahead both on and off the pitch!

Although I'd never seen Shels play, I had read all about their problems over the past 12 months or so. Despite having won the Premier League title last season, the team had been relegated down to the First Division due to massive financial problems. The troubles off the pitch led to manager Pat Fenlon leaving along with the vast majority of the squad (two of which signed for Bohs - Glen Crowe and Owen Heary). A new management was appointed just days before the new season, meaning that a team had to be assembled very quickly.

This meant that the team that took the field against Bohemians was very young and hugely inexperienced. However, if the Bohs fans had turned up expecting them just to roll over for us, we were in for a bit of a surprise.

Shelbourne started by far the better and, if anything, it was Bohemians who looked to be a little on edge. Throughout the first half Bohs found it hard to keep hold of the ball and some of the passing was abysmal. With each mis-placed pass you could sense the frustrations of the Bohs fans growing. In my short time as a fan I've often stood in disbelief at the abuse given out to their own team by the Bohs faithful. However, on this occasion I felt most of it was probably justified. With the huge gulf in quality between the two sides, there was simply no excuse for some of the mistakes being made.

The highlight of the first half came when the floodlights suddenly cut out. This was met with a sarcastic cheer from the Bohs end. That sarcasm turned to hilarity when, moments later, a voice over the tannoy issued a somewhat desperate plea: "if there is an electrician in the ground, would they please make themselves known!". The Bohs fans responded in kind with chants such as "shit ground, no fans" and "No f****** money".

However, with the Bohs players seemingly incapable of doing even the simple things right on the pitch, it was beginning to look like Shelbourne may yet get the last laugh.

As the game went on though, Bohs slowly started to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and, despite a valiant effort from the young Shelbourne team, the difference in quality eventually shone through, with two late goals from Glen Crowe ensuring Bohs safe passage into the next round. I wondered how this must have felt for the Shels fans as just a few months previously Crowe had scored the goal that them the League - ironically against Bohemians. As if to rub salt into the wounds, former Shels captain, Owen Heary, had provided the assist for the second goal.

The sense of relief among the Bohs was clear and the atmosphere changed completely. The school kids in the Shelbourne end slowly skulked out as the Bohs fans went through their full repertoire of songs! The atmosphere in the old shed was electric and a few flares were set off behind us. Shelbourne may not be the force they once were, but you could still see how much the win meant to the Bohs support.

The performance had been far from convincing, but the late goals ensured that we walked out the ground on a high.

It was on the way out of the ground that we were given our last reminder about the state of Shelbourne. A simple quick trip to the gents turned into a bit of a nightmare with no lightbulb in the Trainspotting-esque toilet. Maybe they should have got the electrician to nip in there while he was fixing the floodlights! I got out alive though, and, as a guy said to me on the way out, I'm just glad it wasn't a number two I needed!

Bohemians will play Cork City at home in the next round.

5 May 2007

Bohemians 0 - 0 UCD

I had a couple of friends over from Scotland at the weekend so I dragged them along to the UCD game on Friday night to give them their first taste of League of Ireland football.

With one a regular at Aberdeen (big in the eighties, apparently) and the other a fan of SPL also-rans Rangers (big, but only in their heads), I was hoping both would be treated to some decent football for a change. Sadly though, it wasn't to be.

Friday night's performance was probably as poor as I have seen from Bohs this season. In fact, on the way out, I was tempted to apologise to the lads for putting them through it. Thankfully though, I think a trip to the club shop at half time and the promise of a few beers afterwards saved me from a hard time.

Over the last few years I've taken quite a few of my friends along to Bohs games when they've came over. Unfortunately though, I think I might be struggling to get any of them to come back as none of them have ever seen any goals. Even when I managed to drag the football hating other half to Dalymount last year to watch the Ireland versus Scotland B International, she was also treated to a scoreless snoozefest. And who says I don't know how to throw people a good time eh!?

For some reason I decided to watch the game from the other side of the Jodi this week. Having spent the last few games in amongst the singing contingent in blocks F and G, I was keen to see what the atmosphere was like further down. The fact that there were only a handful of UCD supporters at the game meant it was fairly easy for us to find three seats together. The section we were in seemed to be where the lads with dodgy haircuts chose to sit. Then, when a suited and booted Dessie Byrne wandered up and joined them just after kick-off, I realised that this was in fact the rest of the Bohs squad!

The atmosphere down there was a little flat, although the samba sounds coming from a couple of rows down did manage to raise spirits a little. The lads wanted to hear a few of the Bohemians songs and chants in the second half so we moved up that end at half time. The singing from the Jodi is normally something I look forward to most when going to Dalymount, however, the atmosphere on Friday night was fairly disappointing. Perhaps understandable when you consider the standard of football being offered up by both teams.

Normally at this point I would do a quick run over the main highlights of the game, however, on this occasion I can't really think of much worth reporting. Both sides huffed and puffed a lot, but the game was spoiled by countless mis-placed passes and a severe lack of quality in the middle of the park.
On the upside, the draw stretched Bohs unbeaten run in all competitions to eight games. The worrying thing, however, is that this was the team's third draw on the spin. Of even more concern perhaps, is that Bohs have scored just five goals in nine league games. With tricky away ties against Cork, Galway and Sligo all to come in the next month or so, Bohs could really come to rue not winning these games. A win against Longford at Dalymount on Friday is undoubtedly a must not only if Bohs are to have any hope of challenging for the title this season, but also if Sean Connor is to keep many of the fans on his side.

As for my two friends from Scotland, well, despite the poor game and lack of atmosphere, they both said they still enjoyed their trip to Dalymount (at least that's what they said to my face anyway!). I guess I'll only find out what they really thought when I next invite them back.

Next up for me is the League Cup meeting with Shelbourne on Tuesday night.