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Arch rivals Hoops leave Bohs green with envy

IT'S already been a tough year for those involved at Bohemians, but it was Tuesday night's events in Tallinn that will really have rubbed salt into the wounds around Phibsborough.

The Gypsies supporters could only watch on in despair as Shamrock Rovers, their most bitter rivals, took the step that Bohemians failed to make over the last two seasons -- getting past the Champions League second qualifying round.

The Hoops' success, and the glamorous European nights that await them, will just further bring home the reality that the plates have firmly shifted in the direction of Tallaght.

Tonight, it's Bohs' turn to take the continental stage, but unless they can perform a heroic comeback against Olimpija Ljubljana, who lead 2-0 from the first leg, it could be the last big European night at Dalymount Park for quite a while.

"I'm actually delighted for Rovers, to be honest with you," Bohs captain Owen Heary admitted. "It's great for the league and for them as a club. They put a lot of money into it to get where they are now and it's paying off."

However, it's doubtful if the veteran's conviviality will be matched by Bohemians' supporters -- especially after the Gypsies' heartbreaking affair with Champions League football over the last few years.

When the €60m sale of Dalymount Park to Liam Carroll stalled and then collapsed, the club banked on Europe, but it never paid them back.

A last-gasp defeat to Red Bull Salzburg brought home the financial realities of missing out on qualifying in 2009, while last year's crushing loss to Welsh champions TNS only quickened the descent into the financial morass.

Big European nights in Phibsborough have been a feature of the past decade, but the coffers at Dalymount are bare and, although Pat Fenlon's men have been punching above their weight with a hastily assembled squad, tonight's task looks beyond them.


Off the field, the club's €4m loan owed to Zurich bank is set to be called in next year, with the value of Dalymount's car park -- the security for the loan -- now less than its original worth.

So, things can only get tougher for Bohs and there's a sense around the club that this season they are in bonus territory having come in with few expectations.

The on-field budget has been reduced from a peak of €1.7m per-annum in 2008 when they won the league by a record margin to €250,000, with a mixture of young players supplementing the more experienced campaigners like Heary, who is triple-jobbing as the club captain, 'A' team manager and promotions officer.

Yet the team -- who will be without striker Anto Flood after he injured his collarbone in a car accident -- are still confident of getting a result and are being fuelled by a sense of injustice after the referee's performance in the first leg.

After Olimpija lost 3-0 in their opening league game on Saturday to Celje, Bohs will hold out some hope of booking a place to the third qualifying round where Austria Vienna await.

"We think we can score against them, we have to," said Heary, who has played in 13 European campaigns.

"Once we can get the first goal, then we're well capable of beating them. The important thing is that we get the first goal and if that happens, then we'll see how they react and see can we kick on.

"It was more difficult in Slovenia because we had no information on them. Pat didn't have the money to send anyone over to see them and find out what way they play. We had to sit off them a bit, but, hopefully, we can rectify that."

BOHEMIANS (v Olimpija Ljubljana) -- Murphy; Heary, Burns, Price, Rossiter; O'Brien, Bayly, Cronin; Buckley, Brennan; Fagan.

Irish Independent