Bohemians go to Belfield on Friday focused on finishing the season strongly. But they face an in-form UCD side that is clearly showing the same intention.
Manager Aaron Callaghan knows from his own experience as a UCD coach how well supported the college players are.
“They have some very talented young players and they’re a well organised unit. When they hit form they can beat anyone.
“Their levels of fitness are very high. They train like full-time professionals. They have their facilities on-site and they can fit their training in around their schooling, which is an ideal model for any club.”
Bohemians beat UCD by a single goal in both of their league encounters this season, 2-1 at Belfield in April and 1-0 at Dalymount Park in July.
But UCD have won five of their last six league games and come to this match from an away victory against Derry City last weekend. Bohemians had to come from behind to secure a 1-1 draw at home to Cork City.
“When we changed the system at half-time we looked a far better team and we looked like we were going to win the game. If we can continue that second-half performance in the remaining games we will probably win more than we lose,” Callaghan said.
Callaghan believes some of his younger players may be affected by the demands of a full season at the top level. He has rested players as it seemed necessary but he says the onus is on the players themselves to ensure they remain fit.
“If you want to play in a professional manner in this league you have to look after yourself 24/7. That’s what we’ve been getting across to the players this year: they have got to take responsibility for their own fitness levels, their own nutrition, and their own psychological preparation.”
With ex-UCD player Keith Ward suspended, Callaghan’s selection choices are slightly narrowed but Derek Pender returns from suspension and Dinny Corcoran played himself into contention in a friendly earlier this week against Friday’s opponents.
Corcoran scored four times in a 6-3 win over UCD and could be competing with Kevin Devaney (22 on Wednesday) for a starting place.
Against UCD on Monday Bohemians fielded several of the players who have had less game time, including new signing Garreth O’Connor. He came off early in this week’s friendly with a hamstring strain and is ruled out for Friday’s match.
Ryan McEvoy returns from ankle injury and ex-UCD player Evan McMillan, now as crucial in attack for Bohemians as he has been in defence, faces a late fitness test for a knock he took last Friday.