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Paddy Kavanagh. Picture: Sportsfile

Paddy Kavanagh. Picture: Sportsfile

Paddy Kavanagh. Picture: Sportsfile

AS HE prepares to get his first taste of the Bohemians-Shamrock Rovers derby from the red and black viewpoint, Paddy Kavanagh believes the players in the Dalymount Park dressing room are in no doubt as to what tonight's game means to the supporters.

The usual subplots are all in place with players appearing against their former club (Bohs men Derek Pender, Aidan Price, Craig Walsh, Karl Moore and Kavanagh all had spells at Rovers, while Hoops players Barry Murphy, Robert Bayly, Jason McGuinness and Luke Byrne all wore the Bohs shirt in the past).

There is added spice to the fixture this season as it's the first time Luke Byrne, who left Bohs to join Rovers at the end of last season, will face Bohs since an unfortunate picture of the defender holding a wad of €50 notes and a caption mocking Bohs, appeared online, making it inevitable that the former Bohs star will get a hot reception from the Jodi Stand this evening.

TRAVELLED

As Bohs are his sixth senior club, winger Kavanagh, 28, is one of the most-travelled players in Owen Heary's squad, but knows all about the importance of the fixture, having played four times for the Hoops against his current employers in his spell at Rovers (2009-11).

"Players move around and change clubs all the time, but fans only ever have one club and I know just how much this game tonight means to the Bohs supporters," says Kavanagh, who moved to Bohs at the start of the season following a disappointing spell with Derry City.

"This game is massive for the fans. As players, we are professionals, we will try and prepare for this game the same way we would if we were playing Sligo or Drogheda. But the supporters don't feel that way.

"I have mates who are Bohs and Rovers supporters, I know how they feel when their team wins or loses the Bohs-Rovers game and in the week before the game, there is some amount of stick between the two of them. It can make their year if their team wins the derby match and the same way, the Rovers fans hate going into work on Monday morning if they have lost to Bohs. There's nothing better than getting one up on your mates if your club wins the Bohs-Rovers derby, that's what they live for.

"I had a taste of this game when I was with Rovers a few years back and I know they are great matches to play in, I can't wait to see what Bohs-Rovers is like from the other side of the fence. Playing in the derby in front of 5,000 people at Tallaght is intense and I can't wait to see what it's like to play in the game for Bohs at Dalymount.

"I enjoyed those games against Bohs, we beat Bohs a couple of times, there was a 3-0 win at Tallaght that was a big deal as Bohs were champions and Rovers went on to win the league that season, we were beaten at Dalymount as well.

"Bohs were going into decline when I was at Rovers, having been on top for a couple of years, but you know that everyone raises their game for the match," adds Kavanagh.

"You get some amount of stick in a game like this. I had a bit of it when I left Rovers and played against them and I am sure that Luke Byrne will get some treatment tonight, but he's not the first player to cross over the fence and play for the other side and he won't be the last, I am sure Luke will just take the abuse and get on with the game."

SUCCESSFUL

His time at Rovers was the most successful spell of Kavanagh's career in terms of medals, but it also left him short-changed. "I did ok at Rovers, I won a league and the Setanta Cup and I played in Europe and in that cup final at the Aviva for them, but it could have been a lot better," he says.

"It was partly successful for me, but frustrating as well as I didn't play much towards the end and I had to move on.

"I don't feel I have a point to prove about my time at Rovers as things have moved on since."

There followed spells with Shelbourne and Derry City, but a move to Bohs has reignited Kavanagh's career. "I think this could be the best spell of my career," says Kavanagh, who began his time in senior football with UCD in 2006. "I was unsettled at Derry last year, but Bohs has been great for me so far."

What's suited Kavanagh has been the decision by Owen Heary to play him in a free role. "I have a bit of licence to go and create, make things happen and try to score a goal or two myself," he says.

"When we don't have the ball, I have to work like anyone else, but Owen trusts me to play off the cuff, do what comes naturally and it's great when a manager has that confidence in you. Owen wants us to be positive and win games and we'll go out to do that tonight," adds Kavanagh, who is likely to go head-to-head with his old UCD team-mate Ronan Finn tonight, if Finn plays in his expected role for the Hoops.


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