IF NEIL LENNON is in the hunt for a summer bargain he could do a lot worse than take a chance on a few of the young Bohemians players who simply tore reigning champions Shamrock Rovers apart with a stunning 4-0 win last night.
These have been hard times for Bohs this season but last night's victory, thanks to two goals each from Peter McMahon and Karl Moore, will be seen as a season highlight even if the club fail to win any trophies this season and Celtic boss Lennon, who was in Dalymount Park last night, cannot but have been impressed with Bohs youngsters such as exceptional midfielders Keith Ward and Ryan McAvoy.
It's worrying times for Rovers -- who had substitute Stephen O'Donnell sent off -- after this defeat, which leaves them eight points off the pace in the league race, but for Bohs it's all smiles today.
"The lads in this team deserve every bit of credit for this win as they are an exceptional bunch of players," said a delighted Owen Heary after he captained Bohs to the win.
"They're amateur players, some of them are lucky to get €50 in petrol money and expenses, but they play for the shirt and they have a huge sense of pride about them.
"In terms of the league that win only means three points, but that win was for the fans because we know how much it means to them to beat Rovers. This is the fans' derby and that win will be massive. It's been a while since we beat Rovers so to beat them 4-0 is something else.
"I know how good these lads are and I firmly believe that if we can keep this team together we can go and win the league. It will be hard to keep the players here because they are so talented and I know other clubs will try to sign them as they are playing for a pittance here, but if Bohs can keep them here they can go on to do a lot.
"The lads put in a brilliant shift from start to finish, they kept the ball well and were disciplined, it was a fully deserved win," added Heary.
With the Hoops now eight points behind league leaders Sligo Rovers, Stephen Kenny has a massive job on his hands to get this side back into the title race and the champions' defensive woes -- Rovers have now conceded an astonishing 23 goals in 14 league games and only the bottom three sides have let in more goals -- must be sorted out if Rovers are to get any joy from their Champions League campaign next month.
Rovers were truly appalling last night in their heaviest defeat to Bohs since 1976 -- when Ashley Grimes was still playing for the Gypsies -- and a repeat performance like this against Lithuanian side Ekranas in Europe could be a very bruising experience.
Bohs boss Aaron Callaghan revamped his side from the team which underperformed against St Pats seven days earlier, making six changes to his starting 11.
And it was one of those new arrivals in the side, striker Peter McMahon, who made the difference early on, hitting Bohs in front in the 11th minute. The move was started by Dwayne Wilson, who won the ball off Graham Gartland and crossed for McMahon, who calmly finished past Oscar Jansson to claim his third goal of the season.
The Rovers fans expected a response but instead Bohs remained in control and went close with chances from Ryan McAvoy and Dave Mulcahy, while Wilson came out on top in his battle with Gartland on 38 minutes but his effort went wide.
Rovers did find their feet in the final few minutes of the first half, with a Billy Denneny free kick smashing off the crossbar and a Gary McCabe effort going very close.
The Hoops needed a change and Kenny made a half-time switch, taking off the ineffective Kerrea Gilbert and replacing him with former Bohs man Stephen O'Donnell, but O'Donnell lasted only for only 10 minutes before he was sent off, earning a straight red card for taking down the in-rushing Buckley.
By that stage Bohs were already 2-0 up thanks to McMahon's second goal of the night on 50 minutes, a terrible goal from a Rovers point of view as keeper Jansson tried to play the ball out of defence but could only get the ball as far as Bohs man Buckley, who set up McMahon for another finish.
Rovers offered little after that second goal, bar a 78th-minute strike from defender Ken Oman and a dismal night for the away side got worse in the 84th minute when former Hoop Moore made it 3-0.
And substitute Moore got his second and Bohs' fourth on 87 minutes when he slid home after fellow sub Dinny Corcoran sped from the halfway line and was taken down by keeper Jansson, only for Moore to scoop home the rebound.