Bohemian FC have never managed to retain the league title in their 119-year history, and this season Pat Fenlon's side are finding out once more that holding on to the Premier Division crown is no easy task.
The Dublin side were runaway champions last term. Losing just two league games all season, they finished 19 points ahead of their closest rivals, and also won the Irish Cup. Sixteen fixtures into the 2009 campaign, the Gypsies top the table but have already lost four times and are facing a real battle to retain their crown, with a stern challenge from Cork City FC and Derry City FC.
"Because we are champions, every team we play are up for the game against us, and rightly so," said manager Fenlon after that fourth defeat of the season, a 3-1 loss to last year's league runners-up, Saint Patrick's Athletic FC. "If you want to win the league again you need to have the hunger to do that. Teams are much fitter and better organised, the managers are better organised. In previous years you had games that you expected to win handy, 3-0 or 4-0, but that's not the case any more; we have to work for it every week. We have to fight hard for every point we get and we can't expect to roll over teams as we are champions."
Fenlon led Shelbourne FC to title wins in 2003 and 2004, one of a handful of managers in the modern era to land back-to-back championships, so he knows it can be done, but he also stresses that desire and hunger are vital elements. "The squad I have, they are great lads; over the last 18 months they have been tremendous – but they have to keep doing that," he stated. "It's a challenge week in, week out, and it will get harder as it goes on. There is pressure to deliver at a club like this; for a player to stay at a club like Bohs, to have to live with that."
Derry are well placed to challenge Bohs for but their plans for the season have been hit with the news that key midfielders Barry Molloy and Liam Kearney will be out for long periods due to injury. "We will miss the two lads but we have good players who can fill in for them," said manager Stephen Kenny. Meanwhile defender Mauro Almeida has returned to his native Portugal after an 18-month spell with Sligo Rovers FC. Due to injury and suspension, Sligo had only two substitutes on the bench for a league game against Derry.
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