Dinny Corcoran of Bohemians, left, and Aaron Barry of Derry will meet on the opening day of the Premier League season on Friday night. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

BOHEMIANS might be set for a difficult season in their last year before Dalymount Park begins redevelopment, according to club captain Derek Pender, whose confidence in his own team is somewhat muted by the progress of those around them ahead of the return of the SSE Airtricity League of Ireland season.
Pender sees plenty of reasons to be positive following the club’s eighth place finish in 2016, and feels the current squad is stronger for a substantial winter revamp.
But he also points to concerns about plans to reduce the league’s size and the improving quality of the League of Ireland as twin challenges.
“Our first focus this year will be to stay in the league,” Pender told GazetteSport. “We’re a younger team than last year, and things are good in training. Trevor [Croly, the team’s new coach] has been really good.
“There will be more and more edge to the league and rivalries, though, with three teams going down. I don’t think that’s a good thing. I think it’ll last a couple of years and then go back to 12 teams again, as I don’t think anyone wants to see the same teams play each other four times a year.
“The standard of players in the league is really good now and, with teams like Bray having a bit more financial backing, we’re expecting a really competitive season.”
Bohemians are currently one of only two sides never to be relegated from the top tier of Irish football – the other is St Patrick’s Athletic – and while Pender is hoping for a strong start, he sees sixth as perhaps an achievable finish for the squad. He adds that a number of players have impressed in training in preseason.
“Ismahil Akinade is a big player for us, and we thought he’d gone,” Pender says, referencing the striker’s expected move to Sligo Rovers in the winter.
“We missed him a lot last year. The young lads have a point to prove, and players like Oscar Brennan [signed from Cabinteely over the winter] and Keith Ward look really good.
“Trevor [Croly] has brought a new intensity to training. He’s really demanding, and it’s something I’ve never seen.
“I’ve never worked with him before, though we’ve been at a lot of the same clubs. His coaching is brilliant.”
As for the planned stadium renovation, Pender admits it isn’t a huge thing for the team itself.
“It’d be nice to finish on a high as it’s such an iconic place for the club,” he says.
“But it’s hard to even be sure it will be the last season in Dalymount before the work. It’s Dublin City Council, so you can never be sure!”
Bohemians kick off with a home game against Derry on Friday, (February 24, at Dalymount Park.

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