The highest league finish since their title-winning days has been tucked away, but Bohemians 'keeper James Talbot admits it's time that the Dalymount club took home a trophy to have as proof of their progress on and off the field - and that thirst for silverware will be driving Keith Long's side in their FAI Cup quarter-final against Dundalk tonight.
The path to the final became clear yesterday when the FAI finally confirmed the schedule for the rest of the competition with the semi-finals to be played on Sunday November 29, and the final at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday December 6.
The Co Louth club have made it as far as the Cup final for five years running, while Bohs have exited at the semi-final stage in the last two seasons, so Dundalk clearly have the edge in terms of experience. But Talbot insists the hunger is there at Dalymount to end a 10-year wait for honours.
"We want to do well for ourselves, we want to get silverware. We were disappointed to go out in the semi-finals to Rovers last year, we didn't really perform in the FAI Cup last year so it's important we put in a performance tonight," Finglas native Talbot said.
"Outside of football there is so much good work going on at Bohs. That's a credit to everyone at the club behind the scenes, but as players we need to get it right on the field. We're happy that we have secured Europe already and finished one place higher in the league than we did last year. But we are desperate for a trophy and this is a great chance for us, playing a Dundalk side who have been the best team in the country for a few years now.
"Dundalk are an unbelievable side, even though they've not beaten us this season they are still very strong, great players in every position and we can't carry any passengers in this game. We need everyone on their game as Dundalk can beat us if we're not at it, despite all that's happened they are still a quality side."
Talbot is aiming for a strong finish to a season which was severely disrupted. He suffered an injury in the first game of the year, a defeat to eventual champions Shamrock Rovers, then watched as Covid-19 held up the season and once he was fit again when the season resumed, Talbot was initially unable to dislodge his replacement, Stephen McGuinness, until he was restored to the team after a poor loss at home to Waterford, a frustration to watch their Europa League action from the bench.
"The lockdown helped me in a way as I was able to really focus on getting fit. But when I was back, Stephen had done well and I had to bide my time before getting back in, and when my chance came I took it," says Talbot, currently in talks with the club about a new contract. "I learned a lot during lockdown."
The 23-year-old admits it's been a whirlwind spell in his career, and his life, since he hooked up with Bohs at the start of the 2019 season. Released by Sunderland in the summer of 2018 and at a low ebb, remote from soccer through his GAA commitments at Ballymun Kickhams, he progressed well at Bohs with form that merited an international call-up under Mick McCarthy last year.
Darren Randolph remains the man in possession with Ireland, but with back-up keepers Caoimhín Kelleher and Mark Travers starved of first team action, Talbot hopes the door could reopen. "I haven't looked back since the day I signed for Bohs," he says. "It really was a dream come true to get called up by Ireland last year. This year has been a roller coaster as well. I didn't expect to get called up by Ireland last year but my performances got me there, so I can't think now about which Ireland 'keepers are injured or not playing, all I can do is perform well for the club and the rest will look after itself."
Dundalk assess the state of their squad before tonight's game, Pat Hoban the latest injury worry with Patrick McEleney also a concern as Filippo Giovagnoli plans for this game as well as next week's Europa League test at home to Rapid Vienna.
Dundalk did have one success this week as midfielder Sean Murray was named as October's player of the month by the SSE Airtricity Soccer Writers Association of Ireland, though his immediate focus is on the Cup run, with Europe on hold for a week.
"Winning the FAI Cup would be massive for us to get the confidence up going into next year and also to show that we haven't dropped off too much," Murray says.
"I've only been nominated for this award once before, so it's good to be recognised. It has been a tough year. We haven't done as well as we had hoped in the league, but there is still a lot to play for so hopefully we can end it on a high."