Gypsies off to familiar start
Fingal boss Buckley fumes as Brennan scores disputed penalty which gifts Bohs a win to kick off title defence
IT'S THE opposite of a Gypsy curse: in the last two years, Bohemians have nicked a 1-0 win on the opening day of the season and gone on to win the league title.
So fans of the reigning League of Ireland champions hope that last night's season-opener, a fortunate 1-0 victory at home to Premier Division new boys Sporting Fingal, is a sign that 2010 could also be the year of the Gypsy.
It wasn't a stunning performance from the champions, it wasn't a great game. And it took a disputed penalty for the home side to snaffle the point, though one plus from the night was an unexpectedly large attendance -- around 3,000 -- with lessons learned including the fact that Bohs will be very hard to dislodge as champions this season, while Fingal will be very hard to beat.
"It's a good omen as we started the last two seasons the same way and we'd settle for the same finish to this season," said Bohs boss Pat Fenlon after his side claimed a win which, in the cold light of morning, will seem like harsh justice on the newly-promoted Fingal due to the penalty, awarded for an apparent foul by Fingal new boy Keith Quinn on Anto Murphy. "But it was a scrappy game. It was a half-decent performance but a decent result.
"We started off OK but the second half was a bit scrappy. I'm pleased to win early on in the season as the first two or three games are always hard, so it's great to get the win.
"We had to be patient, in fairness to Fingal they got men forward, they didn't just put men in the middle and sat in there, they put the ball around a bit.
"Fingal set up quite well, they are hard to break down at times and we thought we might have a fair bit of possession.
"It was a bit like the first game of the season for us in Dundalk last year and in Galway the year before, there was nothing in the games and we nicked a win. We were just delighted to start off with a win," added Fenlon.
Before the game, watched by the surprisingly large crowd at Dalymount, many of whom were still queuing outside when the game kicked off, much of the talk centred on the strikers and the impact they'd have on the match.
But Bohs man Jason Byrne didn't play, Glen Crowe came off the bench for his Fingal debut against his former club but failed to score, and it was a dead ball situation which won the day for the home side; Killian Brennan's 76th-minute penalty enough for Bohs to win the points.
"I am disappointed," said Fingal boss Liam Buckley. "A draw would have been a decent result for both teams.
"We had chances and so did they, but for it to be settled on such a hard call, it's hard to take.
"Their player went down like a tonne of bricks, which he does very well, and for it to be decided on that leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
"That penalty decision cost us a point, I have no doubt about that.
"It wasn't a classic game but everyone in our side gave a good account of themselves.
"Bohemians will improve over the season but so will we. We have 35 games left so we will regroup today and set up for Sligo next weekend," added Buckley.
Bohs were hot favourites to win this one, but it was clear from the start that the champions, who had three debutants in Mark Quigley, Stephen Gray and Barry Murphy in the starting line-up, would not have it all their way.
Conan Byrne brought danger to the Bohs goal with a free kick on 12 minutes, a sign that the away side would be a threat, and the hosts almost opened the scoring nine minutes from the break, only for Ger O'Brien to clear off the line from Paddy Madden's effort.
Bohs were short of ideas for much of the second half but they got their break when former Sheffield United man Keith Quinn was deemed to have fouled Murphy in the box, and Brennan stepped up to score the first of the season for the champions.
Former Bohs legend Glen Crowe was sprung from the bench for the last 12 minutes and he had a chance late on but didn't connect well with Ronan Finn's cross in injury time, so Bohs held on for their win.
Of course it wasn't all smiles in Dublin 7 as just hours before the game, Bohs -- like all other clubs -- learned that the prize money for the 2010 season will be reduced from 2009.
So Bohs will pocket almost €80,000 less if they win the title this season compared to last term.