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Bohs, the club that nearly died, have Cup in their sights

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THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE BOHS: Bohemians’ Derek Pender has witnessed some tough times at Dalymount Park but is hopeful the club can book their place in the FAI Cup final on Sunday.  Photo: Sportsfile

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE BOHS: Bohemians’ Derek Pender has witnessed some tough times at Dalymount Park but is hopeful the club can book their place in the FAI Cup final on Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE BOHS: Bohemians’ Derek Pender has witnessed some tough times at Dalymount Park but is hopeful the club can book their place in the FAI Cup final on Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile

The worry in the voice of the club official was clear.

It wasn't a case of the club surviving until the end of the week. Getting to the end of the day without being put out of business was the target.

The near-death experience, and subsequent rebirth, of clubs like Cork City and Shamrock Rovers in the last decade or so has been well covered but it's easy to forget just how close Bohemians came to extinction just seven years ago.

Debts of €6.5million had been built up, mainly self-inflicted due to largesse in terms of wages as they 'chased the dream' and the collapse of a property deal once valued at €65m left the club, founded in 1890, teetering on the brink.

In October 2011, a small band of supporters staged an on-field demonstration at the end of the final game of the season, away to Derry City, holding up a banner saying 'This Is Not The End' amid real fears that this was, well, the end.

October 2018 sees Bohemians in a very different place. Ahead of Sunday's FAI Cup semi-final at Dalymount Park, Bohs are very much the form team in the league, nine wins from nine games in all competitions.

The 2,700 tickets allocated to home fans sold out days ago and there were reports of ticket-hunting Gypsies fans driving down to Cork to buy tickets allocated to the away support as Keith Long's side are 90 minutes away from a first FAI Cup final in nine years.

The club's U19 side have won their league and will play in the youth section of the UEFA Champions League next month. Last week a batch of teenagers made their league debuts in an Dublin derby win, Algerian/Irish lad Ali Reghba (17) a two-goal hero there, and Bohs' link up with schoolboy club St Kevin's Boys is bearing fruit.

It's all rosy in the garden of what used to be called Pisser Dignam's Field, but of course things could turn the other way.

Long's side could lose Sunday's final, finish the season in the bottom half of the league table and miss out on a place in Europe for the seventh year in a row. It could be five years before Bohs are in a position to challenge for the league title again and a more serious issue is the delay in the plans to redevelop their Dalymount Park home.

But those bleak times of 2010-11 seem a long way away. "The transition at the club since I joined is massive, especially the last three years, the feeling around the club and what's happening off the pitch as well as the results," says captain Derek Pender, the club's longest-serving player who joined in 2012.

"It wasn't a nice time when I joined Bohs, they were all over the place. So you have to give credit to people who looked after the club and kept it alive. On the field it's great at the moment but it's the other stuff that's important," Pender added.

Defender Dan Byrne was a 15-year-old fan in the stands when Bohs last won the FAI Cup. He was also there as a fan on that night in Derry in 2011 when the end seemed nigh. Now 25, he's a first team player, his 19th appearance in last week's win over St Pat's and he's also enjoying this crest of a wave.

"I have been at Bohs, as a fan and a player, through the bad times and the good, and there were a lot of bad times," Byrne told The Herald.

"I started following Bohs when I was eight, I was in the RDS for the last FAI Cup win. I was up in Derry that night (2011) when people really did think that it could be the club's last-ever game, I remember the defeat to TNS in the Champions League.

"That night in Derry, no one knew what would happen next. The money was gone, the club was in big trouble, it all looked very bleak. So this is a completely new club now, the work that's done behind the scenes is incredible. It's all clicking now, the link-up with St Kevin's Boys and the work that Keith and Trevor Croly are doing with the first team.

"It's not just about the first team, it's trickling down. The fans stuck by this club in all those hard years, it wasn't easy to keep following Bohs as you never knew when they'd see success or a trophy again but the supporters stayed loyal so we'd love to get to the Cup final for their sake.

"We need to keep this going, there is a great buzz and a great feeling around the club but we all have to work hard to sustain that."


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