Raff and ref set Bohs up for opening night delight
Bohs 1 Sporting Fingal 0
THIS game was meandering towards stalemate until decisive interventions by the Raff and the ref.
Man-in-the-middle Derek Tomney awarded a controversial 72nd-minute penalty to propel a Bohs side, who lacked creativity until the introduction of winter acquisition Raffaele Cretaro, towards victory. Killian Brennan converted stylishly.
Sporting Fingal, who thought they could have been given a spot-kick minutes earlier, left Dalymount feeling hard done by. Nevertheless, they can take consolation from proving they have the materials to compete in the top half of the Premier Division at the first attempt.
In truth, this was an uninspiring encounter, with both sides organised to the extent that they cancelled each other out. Bohs manager Pat Fenlon said in the preliminaries that he was looking forward to taking on Fingal because of their positive outlook yet, on this occasion, their formation was more 4-5-1 than the 4-3-3 that featured in their promotion and FAI Cup-winning push.
As ever, things rarely run smoothly on the opening day. The Bohs' decision to restrict one entrance to membership card holders meant that ordinary punters were left in a congested queue that ran way out of the ground just 10 minutes before kick-off. A bizarre situation with so many empty spaces inside the venue. As a consequence, proceedings started later than scheduled, with Bohs eventually forced to open the Des Kelly stand behind the goal having originally anticipated that it wouldn't be needed.
Those punters filtering into those seats got a close up view of the first serious action of the game as Fingal, who began brightly, almost opened the scoring with new Gypsies keeper Barry Murphy scrambling to push a menacing Conan Byrne free kick to safety.
Liam Buckley's side were frustrating the hosts, who gradually began to gain a foothold on possession, while finding it difficult to do very much with it. Fenlon and his bench looked for better movement and an injection of pace from his side, with the early season cobwebs apparent.
A quick throw from Anto Murphy delivered a significant opening, with Glenn Cronin winning a corner that culminated with a Paddy Madden header being cleared off the line by Fingal left-full Lorcan Fitzgerald -- who was already onto his second jersey after the blood stained original was dispensed following an early collision. Overall, though, it was a pretty grim opening half on the entertainment front.
The second offering promised better when Gary O'Neill almost put Fingal ahead immediately after the resumption, with his daisy cutter fizzing narrowly wide with Murphy at full stretch. Alas it wasn't a sign of things to come, with neither side penetrating with any success in a game that was largely a midfield battle. Bohs were missing the presence of the injured Jason Byrne, and Fenlon swapped one new signing for another with Cretaro replacing the ineffective Mark Quigley with 25 minutes remaining.
Cretaro's link play gave a sense of purpose to offensive forays by the defending champions. The ex-Sligo star had already released Madden with a clever pass before instigating the move which led to the goal, laying off to the foraging Glenn Cronin who brought Brennan into proceedings. The left winger's cross looked set to be cleared by Fingal debutant Keith Quinn, brother of Alan and Stephen, but Anto Murphy nipped in on his blind side and, in Tomney's view, drew a foul from the youngster.
Fingal, who reckoned Bohs defender Conor Powell committed a handball shortly beforehand, protested vehemently. When those cries died down, Brennan sent Brendan Clarke the wrong way.
To their credit, Liam Buckley's charges parked their disappointment to stage a late rally and Bohs old boys Shaun Maher and sub Glen Crowe both threatened. It wasn't their night though and the defending champions, who learned earlier in the day that they will receive €80,000 less if they repeat the feat this year, are on the way again.
Bohemians -- B Murphy, Heary, Shelley, Gray, Powell; A Murphy (McGlynn 90), Keegan, Cronin, Brennan; Quigley (Cretaro 65), Madden.
Sporting Fingal -- Clarke, O'Brien, Maher, Browne, Fitzgerald; Finn, Williams, McFaul; Quinn (Crowe 77), C Byrne (Paisley 86); O'Neill.
REF -- D Tomney (Dublin).