Bolger: Fitness drive can keep me out of refs' bad books
After starring for St Patrick's Athletic on their charge to the Airtricity Premier League title, midfielder Greg Bolger can't wait to get off the dole and back to work, with the boredom of the long off-season taking hold.
The reality of Irish football means that Bolger had no option at the end of the campaign but to head back to his native Wexford and join the unemployed ranks, with a 40-week contract unable to provide year-round security.
Bolger, the player of the season for the Saints on their way to claiming the 2013 honours, has been training with New Ross Celtic to keep fit after he grew tired of the inactivity that accompanied league-winning celebrations.
He believes the Saints have the quality to regain their crown and thinks he can improve his own performance and his discipline by starting the new season fitter than the last.
"I want to get back training," says the midfielder. "I don't have a job so when I go home I just sign on the dole.
"A few of my mates are on the dole as well and it's good to hang around with them, but you get sick of it and I want to get back fit.
"I've been training with New Ross, they've got good facilities and it's a chance to tick away and make sure I don't get too big.
"I can get fitter. At the start of last season, I wasn't as fit as I should have been. I wasn't making tackles (on time) that I could have got to. Across the season, I got nine bookings and one red card.
"I was probably getting cards during the season that were never cards, it was harsh, but I was getting booked on the basis that I had five bookings already.
"That's why I want to prepare better at the start of the year and be ready to go."
The Saints return to pre-season training in a fortnight's time and Bolger is enthused by the additions manager Liam Buckley has made over the winter. Keith Fahey's arrival has excited fans and Bolger is also looking forward to working with his former Dundalk colleague Mark Quigley again.
"He's a special talent, easily the best player I've played with," says the 25-year-old. "I think Mark needs a manager to tell him he loves him and tell him 'you're the best.'
"At Dundalk, Ian Foster gave him the licence to go out and do his stuff and we'll do our best to work hard and get the ball back.
"I think Liam will give him that. That's the way Liam is. He's not one for confrontation in the dressing-room: everything is positive, everything is good and I think that feeds onto the players going onto the pitch and that breeds confidence.
"I think Liam and Mark will be a good combination."
The quality of the acquisitions has increased the belief that the Saints can retain their crown. Bolger is bullish.
"We've a great chance of doing it again," he says. "Sligo will be strong with the likes of John Russell going there, (Shamrock) Rovers will be there, as will Dundalk but I think we've a great chance of retaining the title.
"That's no disrespect to the other teams but I look at the squad we have and I think 'If we don't, Jesus, we're not doing something right.'"