Thursday 17 January 2019

Capital gains for the Gypsies

Bohemians manager Keith Long
Bohemians manager Keith Long

No one knew what to expect, least of all themselves, of Bohemians in the 2017 season.

Even the most optimistic of supporters would not have predicted that, six games into a new term which began with back to back defeats, Keith Long's side would be top dogs in Dublin, the Gypsies a surprise presence in the top four and above local rivals St Pat's and Shamrock Rovers in the table.

Bigger tests await, including Friday's derby at home to Pat's but for now, Long's side plan to enjoy their supremacy, however fleeting.

"I only saw the other day when I looked at the table that we are the highest-ranked Dublin team in the league at the moment so that's good for us, especially after the start to the season we had," says Lorcan Fitzgerald, ahead of a meeting with his former club, (Pat's) on Friday.

"The fact that we have got this far without key lads like Eoin (Wearen) and Izzy (Akinade) is even better and we will be stronger when we get those boys back.

"We're not thinking about how high we will finish this season, the focus is on keeping a gap between us and the bottom teams, once we establish ourselves we can look to the top end. We have been in the bottom two for a bit this season, we don't want to go back there so that's the focus for now.

"But it's enjoyable to be where we are," Fitzgerald says of that four-point gap between the Gypsies and Shamrock Rovers.

"The fans are delighted that we are here, the aim at the start of the year was to not be in the bottom three. Now we are here, we aim to stay high in the table and if that means being ahead of our Dublin rivals, then even better," added the set piece expert, still awaiting his first goal of the season.

Long's first-team budget is a small one so the club need to scout around to add to their playing pool, and it's encouraging to see youngsters come through at a club which has traditionally struggled to have home-grown talent coming through the ranks all the way to the first team.

Forward Stephen Nolan (17) made his first team debut in last week's win over Drogheda United while Dean Casey (also 17) has also played in the league, as the club's academy, headed up by current first team player Ian Morris, appears to be bearing fruit. "It's scary for me to have 17-year-olds as team-mates, I'm only 28 and I consider myself one of the younger lads," laughs Fitzgerald, now in his ninth season of league of Ireland football after an earlier spell with West Ham.

"A couple of the younger lads, like Stephen, have come through but there are more to come, there is some talent here and that can only be good for the club, and for the league.

Bohemians' Lorcan Fitzgerald
Bohemians' Lorcan Fitzgerald

"If Keith Long had a bigger budget maybe these boys wouldn't have had the opportunity but they have taken the chance and it's great to see."

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