Bohs boss Keith Long hoping young defender can teach Rovers a lesson before sitting Leaving Cert exams
As problems go, getting a player to focus on the bread and butter of league duty after a two-week spell of mixing it, at home and abroad, with the senior Ireland squad is a welcome one for Bohemians boss Keith Long.
The Gypsies' manager has reason to be cheerful ahead of tonight's Dublin derby at home to Shamrock Rovers, as his club enjoy a head-spinning return of results from the fixture (six wins and a draw from the last seven meetings).
Reasons to be fearful too for Long. He is missing the entire back four which played in their most recent win over Rovers, a 1-0 victory in Tallaght in April, and he's also without the goalscorer that day, Dinny Corcoran. Bohs will have what Long admits is a "makeshift back four", including one player, Andy Lyons, who has the added stress of sitting his Leaving Cert this month.
"It's an opportunity for other players to come in and hopefully do well. It will be some boys' first taste of the derby against Rovers. Some games take on a life of their own and there will be adaptation to the tempo of the game, but Andy Lyons and Paddy Kirk have played for us before, hopefully they are ready," Long admits.
"We'd prefer to come into the game with a full strength squad, but they are the challenges that injuries and suspensions throw up, you have to adapt, and I believe in the players and the people in the dressing room. I believe they are ready to play, there will be no excuses from us, the boys are ready and want to do well."
Despite the loss of defenders to suspension (Derek Pender and James Finnerty) and injury (Rob Cornwall), Long allowed full back Darragh Leahy remain in France with the Ireland U21 squad, even though he could have insisted on recalling him on Tuesday, though that would have caused Leahy to miss Ireland's clash with Brazil on Wednesday.
"We felt it was a better decision to leave him with his country and play, a once in a lifetime opportunity to play against Brazil in a semi-final. We left the decision up to Darragh," says Long.
But international duty was welcome for one Bohs man, James Talbot, back in the side after a two-week stint with Ireland.
"It's good that we have a game like the derby against Rovers," says Long. "The game is sold out. Hopefully it will be easy for him to refocus and get back to where he was before he went away with the senior team. I don't think that will be a problem as it's a big game. He really enjoyed his time with Ireland and he's looking forward to getting back with his club."
Long's feedback is that Talbot (22) was "nervous and a bit apprehensive" at first but found his feet, and can hope for more.
"He's a really top 'keeper as his displays all season have shown us and he has a certain sense of belief that he can, with a bit of luck, get into that squad on a consistent basis," added Long, who feels Talbot's is a story worth telling.
"The last 12 months of his life, they've been filled with lots of highs and lows, particularly leaving Sunderland and coming back, falling out of love with football and playing Gaelic football with Ballymun Kickhams and then coming in with Bohs and being absolutely sensational for us," Long said.
"He's been the best goalkeeper in the league so far this season. Hopefully we can get him back to a consistent level of performance that he gets called up again, that he's in the Ireland squad on a regular basis."