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'We finished 15 points behind Rovers last season. That has to be the aim, to close the gap'


Bohemians star Keith Buckley

Bohemians star Keith Buckley

Bohemians star Keith Buckley

It took a while but the prize from the battle for supremacy in Dublin was passed on late last year, from the black-and-red part of town to the green-and-white side.

Tomorrow at Dalymount Park the old foes of Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers go toe to toe with each other yet again.

Bohs will be determined to wrestle back the honour that was theirs before a two-game winning run for the Hoops, most recently in the FAI Cup semi-final which saw Rovers assume control.

And while Rovers edged out Bohs last season in the main competitions, finishing 15 points ahead of the Gypsies in the league and defeating them in the semi-final of the Cup, on their way to winning that trophy, Bohs midfielder Keith Buckley says his club have to try and not only match, but get the better of the Tallaght club this season.

"We had that good run against them, but they got the win in the Cup semi which got them into the final, that was the one that was most important," says Buckley.

"We finished 15 points off Rovers last season and they will be pushing Dundalk again this season with the squad they have, so we have to build on what we did last season.

"That has to be the aim, to close the gap. We have to aim for higher, why can't we aim for the top two?

"You have to have ambition. Look at Leicester City now, I am sure they had ambitions at the start of the season that other people would not have seen, we have our own ambitions and goals.

"Why not aim for higher? We were only out of the top three for a couple of weeks last season, we were even second at one stage, so we know what we can do on our day.

"It was a very enjoyable season last year but we have to make sure that's not a one-off, we have gone at things step by step at the club for the last few years, finishing third was good but we need to keep aiming high."

Buckley knows there are bragging rights attached to a derby win but he also knows that a winning start to the season can lead to greater things.

"Winning against Rovers isn't just a marker for us, you always want to get off to a good start, no matter who you play. An early win gives you momentum," he says.

"Last year our first game was Finn Harps at home, we got a narrow win but we went on to win the next two games, so a good start helps.

"But we also know that a big derby game is different. You look at the first derby last season, we didn't play that well and we won 1-0, and we maybe had a better team display out in Tallaght in the game we lost.

"They are never great spectacles, but I don't care how we play tomorrow - if we play like the old Jack Charlton teams and win 1-0, I couldn't care less," Buckley added.

The Rovers squad this season is little-changed from last term but Bohs have a new look about them, with new arrivals like Anto Breslin, Kris Twardek, Glen McAuley all in line for debuts tomorrow afternoon as well as a second coming for prodigal sons, Dan Casey and JJ Lunney.

Buckley has particularly high hopes for McAuley ("Glen is a goalscorer") and Twardek ("I'd hate to be a left back marking Kris").

"We have really strengthened our squad, last season we were stretched by injuries, we weren't able to maintain our levels, so with a bigger squad we will be stronger."