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Sunday 25 August 2019

Buckley aiming to fire Shels out of cup

Former fan geared up for reunion of old foes

Bohemians star Keith Buckley
Bohemians star Keith Buckley

Keith Buckley saw a video doing the rounds the other day which brought back a happy childhood memory.

It was Dave Rogers' stunning volley in 2004 that gave Shelbourne a famous win over Hadjuk Split and set up their big Champions League date with Deportivo La Coruna.

The Bohemians stalwart grew up as a Shels fan and can back it up with vivid recollections. He can reel off that Shels' team from 1 to 11, and recall evenings on the Ballybough End watching players like Wes Hoolahan, Owen Heary and the Baker brothers. He was even invited onto the pitch for a half-time kickabout during one of the more bizarre games of that golden Shels era; a friendly match with Harchester United from the Sky TV drama series Dream Team.

But Buckley is very much a Bohs man now, part of the furniture at Dalymount Park. The 27-year-old made his breakthrough in 2011 and has become immersed in the club and their community work, instantly regretting a move to Bray in 2017 which lasted for just one season before he came back 'home.'

He has previously spoken of wanting to play for Shelbourne one day and, in a strange way, tonight's FAI Cup meeting between the northside rivals at Dalymount Park could be a window to the future.

A ground share is on the way as part of the deal to renovate Dalymount, a contentious subject for Shels' fans who want to go their own way. Bohs are due to spend two years at Tolka Park before that stadium is demolished as part of the arrangement overseen by Dublin City Council.

Buckley has a positive view on the concept, wondering what a modern venue could do for his locality.

"It could be better for both clubs and the communities," said Buckley, "To have an all-seated stadium with four stands, with dressing rooms.

"There was a lad who said to me recently that it's funny hearing that Dalymount is sold out for just 3,500 people. When he was growing up, it was 30,000-40,000 people. I think football is coming back (in Dublin), there's definitely more interest."

The sold out signs should be up again tonight. For Bohs, this year's FAI Cup run is a chance to erase the memory of last year's painful semi-final loss to Cork City. They were minutes away from the final when a contentious penalty awarded against Darragh Leahy gave Cork a replay; the Leesiders booked an Aviva showdown with Dundalk and Buckley blocked himself away from it.

"I couldn't come to terms with going to it or watching it or checking the scores online. I was still just deflated, looking forward to forgetting about it," he admits.

What he didn't see coming at that juncture was the departure of his team-mate, Ian Morris, to take over as manager of Shels.

The 32-year-old will bring the First Division leaders to his old abode tonight, and his squad includes a number of ex-Gypsies which will add to the feeling of familiarity.

"I knew he would become a manager or a coach, just with the way he trained and presented himself in training," said Buckley, who is battling a foot injury ahead of this fixture. "I never thought it would be that quick, but he's been successful so far."

Promotion is the priority for Shelbourne and it's possible that Morris will select a side with that goal in mind as a loss to Cobh Ramblers last weekend has reduced their lead to five points with four games to go.

But the atmosphere created by the crowd should succeed in bringing an old rivalry back to life. For Buckley, this will be a throwback to his youth. Just with a different outcome in mind.

Buckley was speaking at the official launch of the Dublin City Sportsfest 2019, a week-long a week-long celebration of sport and physical activity from September 23-27.

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