herald

Monday 16 July 2018

Part-time Bohs no bit-part players

Long rallies side for new challenge

Keith Ward of Bohemian FC at the launch of the new Bohemian FC Amputee Team in Dalymount Park
Keith Ward of Bohemian FC at the launch of the new Bohemian FC Amputee Team in Dalymount Park

Ten years on from the season when their full-time team won the league by 19 points and claimed a double, Bohemians supporters know that 2018 will be more of a struggle.

But manager Keith Long insists that the club will try to cope with the challenge of being that rare beast in the coming campaign - a part-time side in a competitive league.

And the club will aim to show that there is a role for the part-time footballer as their rivals up their game.

Dundalk showed their intent this week with the signing of a senior international from Lithuania, ahead of the conclusion of a takeover, which will see the Co Louth club completely revamped financially.

Basis

Long believes that Bohs will be one of just two clubs (along with Bray Wanderers) operating off a part-time basis in 2018 and while he's keen to dampen expectations of fans who hope that the side can improve on last season, when the Gypsies narrowly missed out on a place in Europe, he hopes there can be space for the part-time player.

"People thought last year would be difficult, this year it is even more cut-throat," says Long.

"Probably ourselves and Bray are 'part-time' (while) everybody else has the resources. It's going to be very difficult for us, but at this moment in time, we've got no other choice.

"We're not a full-time club, we're part-time, while we're in the position to recruit probably the best of the Dublin part-time players, we're still a big club and we command a reasonable gate every second week.

"But there is no doubt that it's tough and it's getting tougher. We're part-time, but we don't try and use that as an excuse.

"People will offer it up from time to time as an excuse, but we just get on with our jobs."

Midfielder Keith Ward is adjusting to the fact that, for the first time in his ten-year League of Ireland career, he will have a job outside of football, doing deliveries for a drinks company.

"It's a bit of money and it's work and a bit of experience. I'm 27 now and I need to get out there and see what I want to do as football doesn't last forever," says Ward. "I would happily stay at Bohs for a few years and work and play. That's something maybe that the league doesn't want to hear as they want every one full-time as it looks better, but it's just something I'm looking at."

Team-mate Rob Cornwall, one of the key figures for Bohs last season, is also juggling commitments within and outside of the game as he's occupied full-time as a carer for a family member.

"It's my first time being at a club where most lads are working as well as playing football, so maybe that brings a different factor to it. Everyone is genuine, there aren't any big-time Charlies," says Cornwall.

But Long feels it's a positive to have a life outside of football.

"It gives you good discipline, working. It gives you good skills. You have to get up every morning, as you have a mortgage to pay and a family to feed. I don't think it's any harm for our boys to combine their part-time football activities with a full-time career," he says.

"It gives them good discipline, life skills, as well as an income that will help them. There is only so much you can do sitting around the house waiting for mammy to feed you. You have to get out there and get into the real world."

Even though the start of the new league season is still six weeks away, it's a busy spell for Bohs.

Launched

Off the field, the club took part in a scheme, launched yesterday, as the Gypsies will be one of three (possibly four) clubs to take part in a new Amputees League. Shamrock Rovers and Cork City already on board.

"It's a great initiative for the club, part of what the club is doing, with the Bohemian Foundation. It enriches us as a club," says Long, a contemporary at St Patrick's Athletic of Christy McElligott, who lost his leg after a traffic accident and is now at the forefront of the game for amputees in Ireland.

Next weekend, Bohs' first-team players will get a different taste of pre-season when they are sent on a day-long boot camp in the Wicklow hills, overseen by army personnel, part of the task for those players to find, hunt and cook their own food.

And next month, battle commences in the league and first up a derby against Shamrock Rovers.

"It was just a great place to be last year and if Dinny Corcoran can keep up his goals this year, hopefully, we can have another big season," says Ward.

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