Bohemians 3 Stjarnan 0 (Bohs win 4-1 on agg)
Georgie Kelly struck twice and the outstanding Liam Burt nabbed a third late on as Bohemians glided into the second round of the Europa Conference League qualifiers.
European nights are those rare occasions when a League of Ireland player can make a name for himself. Dawson Devoy has been a poorly kept secret all season, but the 19-year-old playmaker was a cut above the rest on his first game in the Aviva stadium.
The environment suits him. Several English and continental clubs will be circling after the midfielder’s mature passing display helped earn the Dublin club €350,000 in prizemoney and a chance to slow the rise of Luxembourg football when they face F91 Dudelange in the next round.
Bohs struggled to settle into their usual rhythm. Maybe the wider pitch prompted Devoy to spray a 40-metre ball to nobody after nine minutes of otherwise risk-adverse play.
That highly unusual error from the teenager appeared to jolt Bohs to life with Devoy instantly recovering to force a save from Haraldur Bjornsson. Another chance fell to Ross Tierney, typically busy in that patch of grass behind Kelly, but he was millimetres off touching Tyreke Wilson's tempting cross into the net.
Now it was the Icelandic journeymen who seemed cowed by the occasion, and the beautiful racket being made by Bohs fans where the South Terrace used to be.
Keith Long's newly constructed squad have embraced a very particular style. Kelly's feet are the primary target as pacy Scottish duo Burt and Ali Coote run off the big Donegal striker and the full backs overlap while Tierney hunts for scraps.
When it flowed, life is easy. When they were caught on the break, Rory Feely had to drag down Stjarnan midfielder Eyjólfur Hédinsson before he reached James Talbot's area. Referee Jason Lee Barcelo took an age before blowing his whistle. He may have been prompted by an assistant or the look of disgust on Hédinsson's face. Either way, a yellow card came out for Feely and that seemed about right.
Hilmar Arni Haldorsson made a hames of the free-kick, as Bohs went about picking a pass for Kelly to get that split-second sight at goal.
It was coming.
If this was an empty Dalymount Park, Kelly could have been racked with self doubt after failing to properly connect with Devoy’s curler on 32 minutes but the 6,000 supporters yelled their encouragement. They too sensed what was coming. The corner swung high and over to Devoy who evaded two defenders, as if they were traffic cones, before gifting Kelly his 13th goal of the season.
The West Upper erupted.
It really should have been 2-0 at the turn but Burt failed to get any venom behind a shot as all those living in O’Connell Gardens could hear was the Auld Triangle ringing around Lansdowne Road. Bohs have not crossed the Liffey to play in the national stadium since the old ground was demolished in 2007 so they were making up for lost time.
Repeated requests to sit down and wear face masks were ignored as the second half began. They were too busy singing.
Social distancing was temporarily abandoned when Burt cascaded into the box before Kelly’s finishing instincts nipped the ball off his team-mate’s toe. As it rolled over the line, little and large sprinted away in a state of euphoria.
Burt had become unplayable. Once upon a time in Glasgow the former Celtic and Rangers winger was a schoolboy star in the making. Now the 22-year-old was running onto a delicious ball by Bohs captain Keith Buckley to cut Stjarnan to pieces for a third goal on a famous European night for Bohemian FC.
BOHEMIANS: Talbot; Lyons, Feely (Cornwall, 46 mins), C Kelly, Wilson (Breslin, 71 mins); Coote, Devoy (Mullins, 88 mins), Buckley (capt), Burt (Ward, 78 mins); Tierney (Levingston, 71 mins), G Kelly.
STJARNAN: H Bjornsson; Aegisson, Laxdal (capt), Gudjónsson, E Bjornsson; Clausen (Ingarvsson, 69 mins), Hédinsson (Guomundsson, 80 mins), Sloth (Ingolfsson, 88 mins); Atlason (Haurits, 69 mins), Ragnarsson (Bjornsson, 69 mins), Halldorsson.
Referee: Jason Lee Barcelo (Gibraltar).