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I'm looking forward to Sunday. If I get the time and keep my wits about me, I'll try to give an account of the day here. I was chatting to a Dundalk fan last night, and he didn't seem to confident, felt that the relegation has knocked the wind out of their sails.

Here's some articles from the Irish times about Sunday's final.
03/04/02: It should probably be vaguely familiar territory to him at this stage, but a little short of 12 months after he led Longford Town to the last final of the now Carlsberg-sponsored FAI Cup final, Stephen Kenny is again finding out how different things can be amongst the full-time professionals as he prepares Bohemians for this Sunday's clash with Dundalk at Tolka Park.

"A year ago," he recalls, "the week before was spent trying to get everybody together and making sure people were available for the preparations. In a way, that sort of added to the whole sense that we were building up to something big, there isn't that sense this time because the players are together all of the time.

"They had a game at the weekend, today they're on a day off and tomorrow it's back to training as usual."

But, for quite a few of the players at the club, it will be far from an ordinary week. The size of the squad he inherited, combined with the increased cost of retaining certain key players, has meant that cut backs in other areas have become essential.

The club currently has 25 first-team squad members and for next season Kenny must trim that number to 18, of whom, he intends, several will be new arrivals. Perhaps 10 of those busy preparing for Sunday's final at Tolka Park this morning are half way through their last week at Bohemians.

"I still have a few lads to talk to," he admits, "and the future of one or two is still up for grabs, but the reality is that I have to offload big time. Brian Shelley, Trevor Molloy and Dave Hill are leaving of their own accord, but there will have to be a few more, there are some hard calls to make but that's part of the job."

It's possible that one or two will decide they want to go when they are left out on Sunday and Kenny admits that keeping everybody happy is, at least, a problem he won't find so difficult to get around after the close season.

"Obviously, having players to choose from is good, I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, but there is a down side too if people become demoralised because they don't feel that they're involved.

"Over the past few weeks I've chopped and changed a lot, trying to give as many of the players as possible a sense that they're in with a shout and I genuinely don't think that they know what the team will be. That makes for a good week of training, but I'm sure one or two of the lads will be disappointed on Sunday, that's inevitable I suppose."

Even getting to a cup decider must have struck most of them as unlikely back in December when Kenny took over at Dalymount and, while he admits that his priority was always to start preparing for next season, the progress the team has made in this competition has, he insists, been more than a mere bonus.

"It's important because, while you are trying to think about the future, you still need to persuade the better players that it's a team worth staying with, that you've got what it takes to win things." Playing in Europe again is important to everybody at the club too, though Kenny maintains that there has been no pressure from within Bohemians on that score.

"The pressure," he says, "is only from within the squad because of the level of expectation there is within the squad. This weekend," he adds, "we'll see how everybody copes with it."

04/04/02: Three days after Dundalk's relegation from the Premier Division was confirmed, manager Martin Murray and his squad were back training last night; everyone doing their best to pick themselves up after last Sunday on which they came so close to hauling themselves back from the brink.

The task now, they know, is to forget the losing battle they fought to stay up and concentrate on Sunday's Carlsberg FAI Cup final at Tolka Park instead.

If the bookies are right then their chances are little better this time around but then their form hasn't been half bad of late and they take encouragement from Bray Wanderers famous victory over Finn Harps in the 1999 final.

While others in the side try to lift themselves for the weekend, one of the team's growing band of local youngsters admits with just a hint of embarrassment that he's actually feeling rather good despite last week's disappointment.

David Hoey, though, still revels in the fact that after an illness that might have ended his National League career, he has come through a tough season in which he has missed just three games.

It's a little over three years now since Hoey came down with a viral infection that caused his liver to take an unscheduled, and for a while undetected, break from normal duties.

For weeks people told him that he wasn't looking himself but it was in the middle of a game against Shelbourne, when a ball whizzed past his face and he suddenly found himself struggling to register what was going on, that the extent of the problem became apparent.

By that point all of his internal organs had been poisoned and there was talk for a while that he might need a transplant. Finally the doctors settled for sending the then 19-year-old to bed for a year. It would be as long again before he started to believe that he was back to something approaching his best.

"I played a good bit last year," he says, "but there were still a few knock-on effects and it's only really this season that I've felt completely over it.

"I think I still get a slightly easier ride from the fans because of it all; my girlfriend will be in the stand when I'm having a bad game and someone will be saying cos I'm a local that, 'ah, sure he was sick for a year', but I don't want that anymore. I feel good these days, even after everything that's happened here in the last few weeks."

Not that the relegation hasn't hurt the 23-year-old who still recalls cycling with his friend the six miles to Oriel Park from Knockbridge.

"Even in the lashing rain we'd do it," he laughs, "we loved it." And to hear him talk now it's clear that little has changed.

Back then, though, Tom McNulty was the only player who was living in the town.

"Last Sunday there were eight of us," he says "and if it came to it we could easily play next season in the first division with a totally local team.

"The lads from outside the town have been great but I think that's a measure of the progress the club has made.

"I could name 11 fellas off the top of my head who could play in the side if that was the way we were to go in the First Division."

The prospect, he readily concedes, is far from being all that unrealistic.

The fiscal realities of first division football are likely to mean cuts during the close season and there have already been rumours about some of the bigger earners either leaving or being let go.

Hoey, whose versatility has been recognised as a major asset since Jim McLaughlin told him with a grin while he was still just 18 that "I was the first person in his team but the last to get a position," could end up being a target himself.

Out of contract after this weekend's game his first concern is that Dundalk feel that he has done well enough this season at right back and, more recently, wide on the right of midfield to offer him a new deal.

After that he sounds like a man who simply can't lose as he discusses the possibilities of more Premier Division football or continuing to play for the club he has always supported and played with for more than a decade.

Of most immediate importance, however, is the final itself when he and his team mates will be looking to surprise Bohemians, just as they sent Shamrock Rovers home with their tails between their legs last month.

"Bohemians will start as favourites too," he says "and when we played them a few weeks ago they played us off the park.

"We worked very hard, though, and got the draw. You never know what might happen this time around."
 

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A Bohs defeat is not part of my thinking. We really need to get into Europe for the cash. The aul books showed a serious wage bill this year. And it will be bigger next year when Crowe et all kick into their new contracts.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
European qualification is essential for the Bohs, no question. Also, they've had some great nights in Europe over the last to years. I read somewhere that Stephen Kenny has been told to cut the squad from 25 players to 18 players for next season.
 

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Correct-ish. 25 full time players on the books. He wants to trim that down to 18. Toccy is a part timer as it is so we can keep him. Some are leaving anyway (Hill, Molloy, and Shelley) so he says that whoever is no picked for sunday is on their way out. I like that can of ruthlessness. The great thing about Kenny is he's ambitious as its his first full time managament job (what's he 30?).
 

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The money's definetely on Bohs but with more up for grabs then just the trophy ie very important european money I'm a bit more nervous this year then in previous years of cup glory. I mean we really really should win but cup tie's can be unpredictable. Hopefully the lads are going into the game with the right attitude. Kenny is really get a baptism of fire with all the cutting do to money issues. Not a pleasant thing to have to do.

Anways GO BOHS!

I expect a full match report :)
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Bitterly disappointed

Well as you may know Dundalk won 2-1. Before I give my own views here is the report from the official Bohs website

Many's the slip...
Tocky's wonder strike fails to lift Gypsies
Sunday, 7 April 2002
FAI Carlsberg Cup final
Bohemians 1, Dundalk 2
Tony O'Connor 40 Garry Haylock (2) 44, 50
Only rarely playing the football they're capable of, Bohs were defeated by a hungrier-looking Dundalk side in the cramped confines of Tolka Park before a near-capacity attendance of 9,200.
It could all have been so different, for coming up to half-time Tony O'Connor spun inside one tackle, drifted beyond another, and then cracked a low left-footer beyond Connolly's left-hand to put Bohs one up. That goal should have settled the Gypsies, but an excellent turn and shot from Haylock a few minutes later made it 1-1 as he took advantage of some hesitant, even nervy, defending.
The sun still shone strongly in the second half, but not on the Gypsies, for what turned out to be Dundalk's winner was scored by a sheepish-looking Haylock after he availed of a ball that bounced off his lower arm before firing home from close range.
Insult was added to injury with the dismissal of Simon Webb after 74 minutes after he tugged back Martin Reilly even though Colin Hawkins was the covering defender. It wasn't a harsh red card, it was just plain wrong.
Though down to ten men, Bohs had their best chances of salvaging something from the game in the closing minutes, Paul Byrne firing inches over, and Gary O'Neill only denied by a last ditch tackle. But it was Dundalk's day and they made the best of it.
Bohs - Wayne Russell, Tony O'Connor, Simon Webb, Kevin Hunt, Colin Hawkins, Stephen Caffrey, Dave Morrison (72 Dave Hill), Fergal Harkin (80 Paul Byrne), Trevor Molloy (86 Gary O'Neill), Glen Crowe, Mark Rutherford.
Unused subs - Mick Dempsey, Tony Folan.


Despite all that, it was a good match , great crowd. exactly what the game in Ireland needed in light of recent events. Bohs played the prettier football, but didn't create too muich in the first half. Before Toccy's goal, Kevin Hunt of all people nearly gifted Dundalk a goal. Bohs kept the ball well in the lead up to the goal, and things looked up before half time. However, complacancy set in, and from a throw-in, Haylock turned and shot for the equaliser. It was a real sickener, and meant Dundalk went in the happier. Worse was to come 5 minutes a goalward header from a corner was brought down by Haylock (by his hand) and driven home. Dundalk shut up shop after that. Hunt a good chance before Dave Hill was brought on to allow Caffo get into midfield. However, minutes later Simon Webb was harshly sent off (I'm not sure if he was the last man back, and the player was never going to get the ball) and all seem lost. But the Bohs kept on fighting, Malloy, Paul Byrne and Buzz O'Neill all had good chances to equalise but Dundalk ran out worthy winners.
 

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Ah that sucks! We really should have been able to beat Dundalk but as I said cup football can be very unpredictable. Maybe with more on the line for this particular cup nerves got the better of some of the lads. Strange though considering the cup experience we have. Oh well no Europe money, Kenny will have to continue the cuts.
 
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