Bohemians FC v Shelbourne; Dalymount Park, Dublin; Friday 9th March; Kick-off 7:45p.m.
Shelbourne face Bohemians in a first north side Dublin derby between the two in six years.
Shelbourne are back in the big time this week having been promoted from the First Division last season. Not many at Tolka Park would have predicted that it would have taken five seasons to gain promotion, having been relegated due to financial irregularities following their bitter sweet Title triumph at the end of the 2006 season. It shows how competitive the (top of the) First Division is but is a relief to a club who embraced the highs of the Celtic Tiger more than any other and, when things didn’t quite work out (most notably by falling at the final hurdle of UEFA Champions League Group Stage qualifiers back in 2004); they plumbed to the lowest depths, very nearly ceasing to exist.
Now, Shels are back in the big time and they face a Bohemians side facing similar financial woes to those at Tolka Park half a decade ago. Having being forced to sell their training ground, Bohs now train on their match day Dalymount Park surface.
One man who the closest of (geographical) top flight Dublin derbies means more than most to is Bohemians’ player/coach Owen Heary, who has played for both sides. Having played for Shels for eight years (1998-2006); Heary signed for the local rivals three months after the Drumcondra outfit were relegated.
Given the fact that Shels’ Tolka Park is located less than two kilometres from Boh’s Dalymount, it would be fair to say that there is something of a local rivalry between the clubs!
When asked about his memories of playing League of Ireland football; as a 19 year veteran of the league, the Dublin native smiles saying that the Dublin derby was always the fixture he most looked forward to: “They used to be chaos. I’d be running down the wing in Tolka getting coins thrown at me. The next day I’d go back and pick up a fortune,” – laughs the 35 year-old.
The (financial) shoe now appears to be on the other foot as, Bohs, similarly to Shels five years ago, have had to sell their Dalymount ground so as to stay afloat. More than one observer has stated that the local rivals could be the answer to each other’s problems, with a ground sharing option the wisest financial move all round. This will not be a concern this Friday night however as the most intense of League of Ireland rivalries is chomping at the bit to renew acquaintances.
The possibilities of tempers fraying is very high and the game will need a strong man in charge. Cork’s Alan Kelly is just that man; as Ireland’s only senior international referee (he refereed a number of qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup) and will take no guff having once sent-off five Russian players during an Under-21 international.
Bohs bring back the aforementioned Heary, who was rested for Monday’s Setanta Sports Cup draw in Belfast with Crusaders. Centre-half Danny Joyce, who signed a permanent contract with Bohs in January having returned to Dublin from Reading and having been left in Dublin for Monday night’s fixture, will return to start on Friday night. Regular midfield partners Adam Martin (suspended for accumulating four yellow cards) and Keith Ward (ankle sprain) will both miss the game.
Also missing from action will be David Scully (achilles tendon injury), Stephen Traynor (nose) and Peter McMahon (flu virus). Dave Mulcahy (groin strain) has returned to training and will face a late fitness test before kick-off.
Shels continue without injured Stephen Paisley but Kevin Dawson, Paul Byrne and Anto Murphy have been passed fit. Barry Clancy is suspended following the accumulation of four yellow cards.
There will also be some intrigue on the sidelines, with Bohs manager Aaron O’Callaghan taking charge of a Bohs’ home match for the first time. Standing in the other dugout will be Alan Matthews, who O’Callaghan served under as assistant manager at Longford Town with the relationship said not to have ended harmoniously.
Sparks are indeed set to fly – both on and off the pitch.