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Ben Brady/INPHO Rory Feely of Bohemians.
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Bohs hold advantage but seeking improved performance against Dudelange at the Aviva Stadium
Keith Long’s side lead from the first leg, with a glamour tie against Greek giants PAOK in sight.

THERE WILL BE 8,000 Bohemians’ supporters in the Aviva Stadium tonight, distanced by protocol but united by noise for the second leg of their Europa Conference League second qualifying round against Dudelange of Luxembourg. [KO 7.45pm; Live on LOI TV]

The expanded capacity – it’s 2,000 greater than the crowd allowed for the first round tie with Stjarnan – and the fact it will be broadcast on LOITV will make it decidedly easier for fans along with players’ friends and families to follow than the first leg. 

Uefa did not permit travelling fans and Dudelange did not broadcast the game, meaning the only way to follow was via Bohs’ tweeted updates and a shaky, hand-held live Twitter stream by one enterprising member of the crowd. 

“As far as I know, everyone I knew was watching the Twitter feed”, says Bohs defender Rory Feely. “My family and friends watch as often as they can on LOITV, unfortunately they weren’t able to this time, they were tuned into Twitter and watched the videos as much as they could.” 

With brother Kevin ruled out of Kildare’s Leinster final meeting with Dublin through injury, Rory jokes that this European tie offers him the chance to take the family limelight for once. 

Kevin started off playing football with Bohs before moving to the UK, and his experience nudged his younger brother to Dalymount Park. “He’s always been a fan so he’d have been in my ear a little bit. But he wouldn’t have been pushing me towards the club – he would have just had insights every now and then to help me. And then when it came to this year, this seem to be the best option for me career-wise and looking forward as well. He was there to help out with that.”

Bohs suits career-wise as being part time allows Rory pursue a career in teaching: he’s a qualified Maths and PE teacher. 

He hasn’t thrown himself into a job just yet as, he says, he needs to find somewhere with the flexibility to allow him an occasional early finish if Bohs have a Friday night game away to Finn Harps. 

“I’m getting to play in one of the highest competitions in Europe even as it is, we’re playing a high standard of football here at Bohemians and we’re pushing ourselves up the league as it is. If I can comfortably find myself a teaching job as well, where I’m doing something I enjoy aside from football, which is obviously my dream.”

Tonight is a big opportunity for Bohs. Leading 1-0 from the first leg (albeit with the away goals rule no more) they are 90 minutes from a glamour tie with Greek giants PAOK in the next round. Ross Tierney scored the only goal of the game in Luxembourg last week, and though Dudelange flooded forward in the second half, Bohs escaped with a clean sheet and a glorious opportunity to progress. 

Feely, though, sees room for improvement. 

“We thought we performed well in the first half and we got our goal. Second half, if you saw the experience of their side, they kind of pushed on a bit and we just didn’t perform in the second half. Our mindset going into Thursday is, can we outperform ourselves there in the first half? And we feel if we do that, put in a good performance, make sure our standards remain high, hopefully we can get the result we want, that’s in everyone’s mindset.” 

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Manager Keith Long, meanwhile, is expecting Dudelange to improve on their first-leg performance. 

“That was their first competitive game, so fitness-wise they will they will come on leaps and bounds. I absolutely feel they think they can win the game on Thursday.

“The tie is very much alive. 1-0 is a great result to get over there, clean sheet – though the away goal counts for nothing as we know. We have to repeat a really good performance, be diligent in all areas of the pitch and make sure we perform to a level that can give us what we want at the end of the night.” 

Feely was substituted at half-time of the first-leg win over Stjarnan owing to an early booking, but he is back in contention to start tonight. Bohs only injury concern is Stephen Mallon, with a hip flexor issue. 

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