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Fans' favourite Buckley returns to Bohemians after turbulent year away

The midfielder left Dalymount Park to join Bray Wanderers for the 2017 season.

Keith Buckley celebrates after Bray Wanderers' win over Dundalk at Oriel Park last April.
Keith Buckley celebrates after Bray Wanderers' win over Dundalk at Oriel Park last April.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

KEITH BUCKLEY IS back for a second spell with Bohemians.

After the 25-year-old left the club ahead of the 2017 season to join Bray Wanderers, Bohs announced his return to Dalymount Park today. According to Bray, an undisclosed fee has been paid for the transfer.

Although Buckley spent much of last year at right-back for Bray, Bohs manager Keith Long looks set to deploy him in a more familiar role in midfield following the recent departure of Fuad Sule for English League Two club Barnet.

“It’s no secret that we didn’t want him [Buckley] to leave in the first place,” said Long. “He was virtually an ever-present for me before he left, so he is a player and person I hold in high regard. With Fuad Sule leaving, he is an excellent fit for us to fill that void. They have similarities as players too. They’re both diminutive and combative midfielders.

“Bucko had a great year with Bray but I don’t want to focus too much on the past. This is a fresh start for him now and I think he’s more than capable of having an excellent second stint with the club. It gives the team and the club as a whole a great boost.”

Having come through the ranks with Belvedere, Buckley moved to Bohs and made his senior debut in 2011. He became a fans’ favourite during his six seasons in Phibsboro but departed for last season by signing a two-year deal with Bray.

Despite performing well for the Seagulls, who enjoyed an encouraging start to the campaign under Harry Kenny, the wheels gradually came off at the Carlisle Grounds. Their cause wasn’t helped by financial uncertainty and an ongoing investigation into match-fixing.

With Bray finishing in sixth place in the Premier Division and Kenny resigning from his role, Buckley told the Irish Sun last month that he was eager to leave the club, despite having a year left to run on his contract. At that point a new manager had yet to be named, although Dave Mackey has since taken over.

“We have no manager and no players. Who is going to want to sign for a club like that?” Buckley said. “If someone signs for Bray next season it will be because it is their last choice, not their first choice.

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“I’m looking for my contract to be cancelled so I can walk away. I’m not looking to be paid up. But they’ve told me that’s not possible. Even if Jose Mourinho is the new manager and they were going to pay me €10,000 a week, I wouldn’t want to be here. I don’t care who likes that or doesn’t.

“What manager or fans would want a player that doesn’t want to be there? I’ve had Bray fans saying to me that they don’t blame me for wanting out. It’s not a good place.”

Keith Buckley Buckley in possession for Bohs in 2016. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Bray, who are planning to announce “a host of other signings” tomorrow evening, said in a statement: “Keith’s heart was set on returning to Bohemians and our new manager, Dave Mackey, set about lining up a replacement before agreeing to his release. We’re sorry to see Keith go and we’d like to thank him for his time with us and look forward to welcoming him back to the Carlisle Grounds during the 2018 season.”

Commenting today on his return to Bohs, Buckley said: “It’s good to be going home – it felt like it was only a matter of time. The moment of realisiation for me was going to see Bohs play Dundalk midweek last year.

“Seeing all the fans and the reception I got, seeing legends like Turlough O’Connor in the Jameson Bar and staff like Lynn O’Neill around the place, I realised there was no other place I wanted to be. I missed the place so much, but when I went back it was like I never left. I tried to go back in the summer, so I’m delighted it’s finally happened.

“The job Keith Long has done at Bohs is incredible. He demands the best of his players and everyone at the club is buying into it. There’s a good buzz around Dalymount and I’m delighted that I can be a part of it again. I can’t wait to start pre-season and I’ll do anything to be in that line-up on 16 February.”

Bohemians, who kick off their 2018 season with a Dublin derby at home to Shamrock Rovers, now have 24 players contracted for the forthcoming campaign:

Oscar Brennan, Keith Buckley, Dan Byrne, Dan Casey, Dinny Corcoran, Rob Cornwall, Kevin Devaney, Philip Gannon, Jamie Hamilton, Paddy Kavanagh, Paddy Kirk, Darragh Leahy, JJ Lunney, Cristian Magerusan, Colin McCabe, Karl Moore, Eoghan Morgan, Ian Morris, Derek Pender, Shane Supple, Ryan Swan, Warren O’Hora, Keith Ward, John Ross Wilson.

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Paul Dollery

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