'We wanted to send our supporters home happy after getting the bragging rights in the derby'

Bohemians manager Keith Long was glad to get one over on Shamrock Rovers last night, but he is under no illusions that they have a difficult season ahead.

EVEN THE WOMEN in the Dalymount Park chipper van were celebrating after Bohemians turned last night’s derby on its head.

Screenshot 2018-02-17 at 09.36.11 The Bohs players celebrate Paddy Kavanagh's goal in front of two women cheering on from the chipper van last night. Source: Twitter/RTE Sport

A meeting between two Dublin rivals added extra spice to the opening night of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division, and there was a nervousness for all to see as neither side played with any fluidity during the first half.

That said, Shamrock Rovers went into the break in front thanks to an opportunistic finish from captain Ronan Finn. But, in front of a full house, two goals from defender Dan Casey and an unstoppable hit by Paddy Kavanagh handed the Gypsies victory in their first of four league meetings with the Hoops this season.

Speaking after the final whistle, Bohs boss Keith Long was immensely proud of the courage his players showed after falling behind.

“It was important that we got our season off on the right note here,” Long said.

“Last year our form was a little bit indifferent at home, certainly in the first half of the season. Particularly in front of a sell-out crowd, we wanted to send our supporters home happy after getting the bragging rights in the derby.

Ultimately, it was about getting a positive result, and we did that. I’ve got to give great credit to the lads, because they showed great character, particularly in the second half, to come back from 1-o down.

“It wasn’t the most fluent of games, it was scrappy in fact, but the little bit of quality we showed in the second half enabled us to win.

“At 0-0 and 1-0, I thought there wasn’t much in it. Our goalkeeper hadn’t had a huge amount to do, so I certainly felt at half-time that we were still in the game.

“We persevered, kept going and we got the equaliser. We ended up getting a great second goal through Paddy Kavanagh. He doesn’t panic, shows composure bearing down on goal with the keeper to finish and it was a great finish. Then we had Dan Casey looping in a header at the end.

“We move on because it’s only a start, so we go again next week.”

Rob Cornwall celebrates after the game Rob Cornwall leads the applause for supporters. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Even before kick-off last night, you could feel the positivity around the ground. The game was a sell-out (and the 3,640 attendance would have been considerably more but for two closed stands), you couldn’t move in the bar and Bohs have clearly re-established a close connection with the local community in recent times.

But Long wants everyone to remain grounded as he feels matching last year’s fifth-place finish will be extremely tough in a ten-team division.

“We have to be cautious with that optimism and expectation because it’s going to be very difficult for us,” he added. “It’s a very competitive league this year and we can’t get sucked into any false sense of security after tonight.

“We’d like to build on that but we’ve got nine new players and it’s going to take some time for them to gel fully as a group. We think we can play better, of that I’ve no doubt.”

Gary Shaw dejected after his side conceded a third goal A dejected Gary Shaw walks off the pitch as the home fans celebrate the win. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

After his return to the club from Bray Wanderers, Keith Buckley settled right back into his midfield role, while 19-year-old Darragh Leahy showed real signs that he can make the left-back position his own this season.

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Another new arrival, Eoghan Stokes, enjoyed a promising cameo and Long hopes there is more to come from the ex-Leeds United forward.

“Darragh is only a young boy coming back from Coventry U23s and he hasn’t really played senior football, so it was to be expected but I thought he was a little bit edgy in the first 15 minutes, which is only natural,” Long said.

Then he settled into the game and did really well. I expect him to be a steady performer for us throughout this campaign. He’s got a wonderful left foot, he’s good in the air and he’s a decent defender so I think he will be a fine addition to our squad along with all the other boys that we’ve brought in.

“We had Keith Buckley on his second coming with the club and Dan Casey, in his first full season with us, getting the two goals.

“Eoghan Stokes came off the bench and hopefully he will bring that bit of quality and goals. We put him on the left and he’d probably prefer to play up alongside Dinny [Corcoran] or off him.

“There are others there, the likes of Dylan Watts, Karl Moore, Paddy Kirk and JR Wilson, who didn’t strip and were in the stand tonight, and we’ve two players injured as well.

“We’ve got a squad for a reason, because we’re going to need it with lots of Friday, Monday/Tuesday games this year. It will be about the squad as the season progresses.”

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