Fixture list is hurting players, reveals Dean Kelly
But ex-Hoops striker is ready for action in big Dublin derby after crossing the divide
WITH a week-long build up to Sunday's Euro 2016 qualifier against Poland, the issue for Martin O'Neill is keeping his players occupied and keeping boredom at bay.
For League of Ireland managers, the opposite is true as the part-time teams in the league deal with a fixture list that sees them play midweek games this week (there was a full round of matches on Tuesday night) and another batch of midweek matches in Easter week, on top of the regular weekend programme.
While champions Dundalk enjoy a visit from the TV cameras tonight for their game against Sligo Rovers, the Dublin scene focuses on the Shamrock Rovers-Bohemians derby at Tallaght Stadium. But as he prepares to play in his first Bohs-Rovers game while not wearing green and white, Bohs striker Dean Kelly feels that fans are being cheated and players are being exploited by the intense fixture list.
"I think it's a bit of a joke to ask part-time players to play so many midweek games," says Kelly, who joined Bohs from Rovers at the end of last season.
"We played Friday, Tuesday, Friday in the last week, we have another game next weekend and then more midweek matches after that.
"We had lads in our dressing room after the Dundalk game on Tuesday who could barely walk into the showers, and they are expected to turn around and play again in a high intensity game on Friday.
"It's a disgrace, it's impossible for players to play so many games at this level in that short space of time. People come and pay good money to see the matches and they won't get what they deserve now tonight as our manager can't get the best out of our players as it's impossible to recover.
"The day after a game you don't feel too bad but it's two days after that it hits you, you could be in agony.
"I think it hurts the part-time clubs. I played in a very tough game against the champions on Tuesday night but I was in work at 8am on Wednesday morning, worked until 4pm and was in training at 6pm, so I couldn't get in for a warm-down until later on Wednesday," added Kelly, who was a full-time pro for a spell in England with Oldham Athletic.
"The Dundalk players would have been in for a warm-down, ice baths, a swim, on Wednesday morning when we were at work."
But despite that 3-0 loss at home to Dundalk on Tuesday - the first time Bohs conceded in five competitive games this season - Kelly is upbeat about his side's chances away to his old club tonight.
"With the attitude we showed on Tuesday against the champions I think we have a great chance against Rovers tonight. We lost 3-0 but I think we were the better team, and we go to Tallaght tonight looking to win the game," says Kelly, who won a league with Rovers in 2011.
"I know Rovers will be in good spirits after they won in Sligo on Tuesday but we have a good chance here. We asked a few questions of the champions this week so we can do even better against Rovers.
"The 3-0 scoreline against Dundalk on Tuesday was harsh on us and it wasn't right that we played most of the second half with ten men, Anto Murphy won the ball for his tackle but he got a second yellow card and had to go, yet he won the ball.
"I always enjoyed the Bohs-Rovers derby and I scored a few goals in the fixture but all I want to do now is score a goal for Bohs against them.
"We know how much it means to the supporters and there is a real buzz in training the few days before a Rovers-Bohs match. I am on the other side of the fence now, a striker you always want to score in that derby, to me it's the biggest derby match in the league, and now that I am at Bohs I want to score."