I had a dream last night. It went like this. Its a cold, dark Friday evening; I am in Dalymount Park, on the steps of Block G in the Jodi Stand. With ten minutes to go in the League of Ireland’s last round of games, Shamrock Rovers are trailing 2 – 1 to Bray in the Carlisle Grounds and Twigg has just been sent off for dissent. Bohemians are drawing 1 – 1 with a scrappy Dundalk team here in the home of Irish Football when Paddy Madden is brought down twenty yards out from goal, right in front of us. After some pushing and shoving, the wall is brought back the required ten yards. Killian Brennan takes four steps back, makes the run up, before gloriously dipping the ball over the wall and… well, I woke up.
The cruel things life does to you. Waking up mid- dream is one thing, but having a real life dream turn into a nightmare is another. Last week, Bohs were on the pig’s back, (some might say literally,) needing two wins over an injury struck Galway side (who, despite their lowly position have caused us problems all year) and a Dundalk team we’ve beaten twice already this season (and, well, lost to once.) We all know what happened. Galway won 3 – 2 and dare I say it, the ramifications sent tremors down the spines of League of Ireland fans everywhere. It left Shamrock Rovers in pole position to win their first league title in 6, 066 days precisely. While on Friday’s performance, Bohs don’t deserve to win the League, that isn’t going to stop me wanting them to win it.
Pat Fenlon has chastised his players, saying he doesn’t want to see them until before this Friday’s showdown with Dundalk. Captain, Owen Heary has admitted that the team wasn’t up for the fight. Where were the battling qualities present for the unbeaten run stretching back ten games prior to Friday? Thats the question every Bohs fan is left asking. The possibility of an historic three-in-a-row has likely gone amiss. And yet they were still applauded off the field by the travelling support. Certainly not as a gesture of thanks for their performance over the previous ninety minutes. More a salute to the last three years; a goodbye and a thanks for the memories. They had better remember that this Friday if they’re going to finish this season with their heads held high.
I spoke in the build up to the Dublin Derby of 2010′s run- in being a battle of the bottlers, and while it makes for heartbreaking rather than heart racing football, that’s what it has become. Bohemians look set to part with, whether they can miraculously clinch the title or not, a great period in their history. Three fantastic years, some heartbreaking moments aside, that will stick with me in the bleak times ahead. The squad of players that we have now will leave come season’s end, there’s no doubt about that. And with some of those players reported to be making a move to Tallaght Stadium, it will sicken me to see former players (and one in particular who has grafted for Bohs when others played like they couldn’t be bothered,) turn out in green and white next season.
Two League titles, Setanta Cup Champions (and by default, Champions of Ireland,) a League Cup and an FAI Cup in three years. People say we shouldn’t be looking to the past when the future is scarily unclear. What does it hold? In the short term, Pat Fenlon has said he will honour his contract, which ties him to the club until 2013. And while I would love to see the most successful League of Ireland manager of recent years to stay with the club, at his current rate, we just can’t afford him. He says he’ll field a team of kids next year if he has to, and maybe he’ll get the required out of them, hopefully so.
The days of players chasing big contracts around the League have thankfully come to an end; and while the circumstances that have led to this are unfortunate, at least it might bring some realism back to the LOI. Three years ago, there were players making more at Bohs than some players in the upper echelons of the English Championship. So who knows, a part- time Bohs next year may still be able to field a team, if only because players won’t be able to find a wage elsewhere. Bleak times, preceeded by an amazing past.
All this talk of dreams and nightmares and the chance of victory, however remote, is still there. This Friday, come 21:35 or thereabouts will tell whether I’m a visionary, a lunatic for having hope or just an unwavering dreamer. To be honest, I couldn’t care less which if things go our way. Maybe I’m mad for holding onto the vague hope that we can do it. But isn’t it madness that drives most of us to follow this league of ours anyways?