With the 2018 SSE Airtricity League of Ireland season fast approaching, we look ahead at how Keith Long’s Bohemians side will fare this season and pick out some of Bohs’ players to watch out for in the year ahead.
It’s safe to say that Bohemians were one of last year’s main over-achievers in the Premier Division, finishing in a highly-commendable fifth place, just five points off European football.
Many had tipped the Phibsborough side for demotion to the second tier but Bohs ended the campaign twelve points ahead of the relegation zone.
More of the same will be a success this year but it won’t be easy for the part-time Northsiders in what is now a ten-team division.
Long-term the development of Dalymount Park is vital for the club and with the squad progressing nicely on the field it is not a bad time to be a fan of the Gypsies.
Keith Long has proved to be a shrewd operator since taking over in 2014 and perhaps doesn’t get enough credit for his achievements to date.
Midfielder Keith Ward had been around the league for many years but 2017 was the year that the Swords native truly made a name for himself. The 26-year-old never really settled at Dundalk, Sligo or Derry but that all changed at Dalymount as Ward lit up the league with his attacking prowess.
He will undoubtedly be a key man once again this term, especially with Izzy Akinade having left for Waterford.
Key new arrival
Keith Buckley is far from a new name in Dalymount but is a new arrival this year, re-joining the club after two seasons with Bray. The fans’ favourite should fill the void left by Fuad Sule as well as offering another attacking option from midfield.
Buckley spent six years with Bray prior to his spell in Wicklow and his experience will be vital in avoiding any risk of relegation.
Bohs never have a shortage of young talent within their ranks, exemplified last year by Fuad Sule and Warren O’Hora who now ply their trade at Barnet and Brighton respectively.
The club’s u-19 side won the National League title in 2017 and captain Jamie Hamilton was at the heart of that talented squad.
The central midfielder broke into the senior side on occasion in 2017 but is expected to really make a name for himself in the year ahead as a full member of the squad.
One to watch
Left-back Darragh Leahy joined Bohemians in the off-season from Coventry City.
With Lorcan Fitzgerald having departed the club, Leahy is primed for a starting berth in Keith Long’ squad.
The 19-year-old has captained the national side at u-19 level and is very much a player to keep tabs on in 2018.
There are very few easy games in this league anymore but Bohs, in particular, have a tricky start to the campaign.
A mouth-watering derby with Shamrock Rovers begins the season before a winnable trip to Limerick.
Derry then visit Dalymount Park before Bohs travel south to meet champions Cork City.
Six points or more will be a welcome return and set the club up well for the season.
The Dubliners should be strong enough to avoid the drop but have lost some key men from last season in Sule and O’Hora and will find it tough to mount a push for the European spots.
Pundit Arena Prediction: 8th
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