Bohemians midfielder Keith Buckley has set his sights on a trophy and European football next season after coming so close to an FAI Cup final last year.
The Gypsies came within six minutes of beating Cork City at Dalymount Park in last season’s semi-final, only for a contentious penalty to force a replay which they lost.
That came amid an incredible ten-game unbeaten run for one of the league’s three part-time sides, who have consistently punched above their weight under manager Keith Long.
Bohs suffered more than most in the off-season with goalkeeper and captain Shane Supple retiring, and the departure of defender Dan Casey and striker Daniel Kelly for Cork and Dundalk respectively.
In their place, Long has signed a number of young Irish players from the UK, with James Talbot, Daniel Mandroiu, Conor Levingston, Luke Wade-Slater and James Finnerty all returning.
“We’re a good model for everyone else to look into,” Buckley tells the Dublin Gazette. “We like to try a lot of things at the club. We lose a lot of players every year but sometimes you get players in in the league. We brought players home from England with no experience of the league.
“You need time and you need patience for them to realise what the league is about and how you need to play during certain games.
“I was talking to Conor Levingston and he was saying over in England, when you get the ball, that’s your break, but over here it’s non-stop.
“It’s hectic for 90 minutes, and that’s why he loved it, but over there, not many are competitive.
“People are coming down from the first teams and thinking they should be in the first team so they’re not trying as hard and thinking they’re too good. Over here it’s much more competitive.”
Having returned from a year out with Bray Wanderers at the beginning of last year, Buckley is the most experienced player still at the club, and he’s set a few personal goals.
“I want to get to 200 league appearances for Bohs. I think I’m on 174 now in the league and overall 220 for Bohs, but personally I want to get to 200 in the league.
“I want to score more goals. I don’t score many and I want to help the team in whatever way you can.”
Keith Long moulded a young team, including the likes of Ireland under-21 left-back Darragh Leahy, into serious contenders for the cup last year.
It was Leahy who gave away the penalty that forced a replay in the semi-final at Dalymount, but Buckley feels the Gypsies have the capability to go one step further this year.
“I want to be able to win something. To come so close last year, it makes you realise. The Dundalk players must be pinching themselves to win every year.”