Jamie Whelan charts Bohemians' journey over the last ten years, from the abyss and back again, near collapse to a return to European competition.
Floodlights Dalymount Park Bohemian FC v Shelbourne FC , Extra.ie FAI Cup, First Round, Dalymont Park, 9th August 2019 Mandatory Credit Martin Doherty

It’s been 10 years since Bohemians’ last league title, a major period of success built on sand – but what’s happened since then has shaped our club for the better, this journey into the abyss and back out has been long and hard but the ends justified. I was a young fella when it all fell apart, but I’m old enough to really appreciate what this revival means now.

I remember the first time my heart broke, a feeling of dread and numbness hoping it was all a dream. Galway 2010, I came home from the most upsetting evening of football I’ve ever experienced and tore 20 posters off my wall and into the bin. I was 16 and I knew it was the end of the road, I found an emotion that I never wanted to feel. What was happening behind the scenes at Bohs was frightening – Ken Oman’s inability to defend in Terryland Park was nothing compared to it. 

Our club was on the brink of collapse, but thankfully we were still able to operate with a mountain of debt chasing us. We put a squad together a few weeks before the 2011 season, a year which included European football and a 5th place finish but ended with Bohs fans (myself included) storming the Brandywell pitch with a banner stating “this isn’t the end”, As doom and gloom overshadowed our club again, we knew we could lose everything – and not just a few players. 

Des Kelly Stand Dalymount Park Bohemian FC v Dundalk FC SSE Airtricity League Premier Division Dalymount Park 11th October 2019 Mandatory Credit Martin Doherty

The Callaghan era saw a mass migration of young players into the team, even Detser was in his 20’s. Shoestring budgets, poor attendances and a near relegation by the end of 2013, not to say we didn’t have a good time, but we were somewhat enjoying the thrill, we’d something to play for – in a desperate sense. 

It was followed by Owen Heary’s average reign of dour football which was summed up with a 7th place finish and our star players following him to Sligo. “Bigger and better things,” he said; that didn’t end well did it? 

According to Facebook, Bohemian FC cemented themselves with the status of ‘minnows’ following the appointment of Keith Long for the 2015 season, a man who’s only LOI managerial experience was relegation with Athlone a few days previously. But the naysayers and pessimists soon turned to cheering optimists as a somewhat rejuvenated Bohs were near the top of the table in spanking new Hummel gear. A well put together side on a bigger budget than previous seasons coupled with off field matters being sorted, it seemed the party had more meaning – The sale and recovery of Dalymount park, a season of memorable performances, a 5th place finish, things were looking up for the Big Club.

Derek Pender in action Bohemian FC v Dundalk FC SSE Airtricity League Premier Division Dalymount Park 11th October 2019 Mandatory Credit Martin Doherty

With an ever more competitive league gaining strength – financially a members-owned club would be up against it each year. But Keith Long has consistently worked with a tight budget – which has been a fraction of the size of other clubs and still overtaken and beaten them. Our off the field success has been down to excellent commercial planning and progressive thinking. Whilst many clubs were feeling sorry for themselves, Bohemian FC emancipated itself into communities. So the sell out crowds, increased memberships and local backing has been the fruits of the labour done by countless volunteers and board members. 

A project that spanned the last few years to pick this club up from the dirt and make it the vibrant centre of football the Northside needed once more. 

With a realistic target achieved by obtaining Europe, it is very much time for celebration and reflection in Dublin 7, Dance classics will be rinsed out in the Phoenix bar, the Fontaines will ring out over the Tannoy and Paul Duffy’s match notes will be heard one last time for 2019 – a job well done by all.

Bohemian FC will be going to Europe. 

Although I’m full of praise and joy I can’t forget that night in Galway and period that followed – and never will. I still have contempt for those who sabotaged my club and I still believe those should be held accountable and face the mob – but nearly a decade on from the collapse of Bohemian FC, this season and ones previous have seen an amazing group of players capture the hearts and minds of the Bohemian faithful. It seemed this year that everything came full circle and the gaffer was right, what happens on the terraces translates to the dressing room and visa versa – we’ve come a long long way together, and that’s personified in characters like Derek Pender, Keith Buckley and James Talbot who buy into the Bohs project and identity – we’re not just 11 players, we’re a movement. 

Pre match Flares Dalymount Park Bohemian FC v Shamrock Rovers, SSE Airtricity League, Premier Division, Dalymount Park, Dublin, 14th June 2019, Mandatory Credit Martin Doherty

I can only say thank you to everyone at the club this year, coaching staff, players, fans alike – we stood by the team when we were on our knees, we trusted the board to choose the direction to take this club – and together we’ve grown this into something so much more than a Friday night fixture. 

They said our days were numbered…

But we said the Bohs would rise again…

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All images by Martin Doherty Sports
A photographer with ExtraTime.ie. Find @martydot2 on Twitter, @martydot on Instagram or MartinDohertySportsPhotography on Facebook and visit his website