‘Brilliant’ Bolger gives weight to Shamrock Rovers’ title ambitions
League of Ireland preview: Hoops look to extend lead as Cork travel to Dundalk
Shamrock Rovers’ Greg Bolger celebrates his late winner against Finn Harps in Co Donegal. Photograph: Evan Logan/Inpho
Fully accepting he needed to do far better this season, a fitter Greg Bolger has upped his game to telling effect.
His first goal of the season, which beat Finn Harps last week, maintained both the midfielder’s and Shamrock Rovers’ impressive start to the season.
The win has Stephen Bradley’s side seven points clear at the top of the table – albeit with two more games played – ahead of tonight’s visit of one of Bolger’s former clubs, UCD, to Tallaght Stadium.
“He’s been brilliant,” said Bradley.
“Greg wasn’t good enough last year, he’d be the first to admit that.
“He’s played in the league a long time; has played in teams that have won things and had a great career, but last year he was below what he has been.
“We had a chat about that. We signed in that area which strengthened us as well. But he’s stepped up this year and got back to the old Greg. He’s got us playing.”
Removing weight training from his fitness programme has rekindled the sharpness to Bolger’s game.
“We had a conversation about every time I do weights my weight goes up and I just can’t get around the pitch,” explained the 30-year-old.
“And that’s my game, getting around and breaking up the play.
“We came back this year and said I’m not doing any heavy weights as I want to be as light as I can.
“I probably got down about 3kg and I feel I’m back to where I should have been.
“It’s obviously going to help me. I’ve started okay. It’s only six or seven games in and I’ve done all right.
“Hopefully, I can now keep to that level.”
Ethan Boyle remains out for Rovers while Bradley waits for fitness checks on fellow defenders Joey O’Brien and Trevor Clarke as well as striker Dan Carr who are nursing knocks.
Midfielder Paul Doyle returns for UCD who continue without long-term absentee Evan Osam. Striker Conor Davis faces a late fitness test.
Despite their main rivals of recent years having had a slow start, Dundalk first team coach John Gill insists that Cork City haven’t gone away ahead of the sides locking horns for the first time in the league this season at Oriel Park tonight.
Cork have recovered from losing their opening two games to take 10 points from their last four to sit fourth in the table, two points off the champions.
The international break has allowed Dundalk to get some players back fit with Seán Murray and Michael Duffy returning to training yesterday, though both remain doubtful starters.
Robbie Benson, John Mountney, Chris Shields and Patrick McEleney all remain out injured, however.
Cork midfielder Dáire O’Connor is unlikely to feature while manager John Caulfield hopes Alan Bennett, Gearóid Morrissey and Karl Sheppard will be passed fit to play. Striker James Tilley is suspended.
“We know how difficult it is going to be up there,” said Caulfield.
“Over the last four or five weeks our form has improved. We’ve kicked on from the start of the season.”
Though underage internationals Andy Lyons and Ali Reghba will be rested, Bohemians winger Kevin Devaney is finally back fit ahead of the Dublin derby with St Patrick’s Athletic at Dalymount Park. Cristian Magerusan remains out.
St Pat’s striker Gary Shaw needs a late fitness test, but otherwise manager Harry Kenny has a fully fit squad to choose from as they search for a first win in five games.
Tonight’s fixtures (7.45pm unless stated)
Bohemians v St Patrick’s Athletic
Derry City v Sligo Rovers
Dundalk v Cork City (Live on RTÉ2)
Waterford v Finn Harps
Shamrock Rovers v UCD (8pm)
Bray Wanderers v Cobh Ramblers
Cabinteely v Galway United
Drogheda United v Wexford
Limerick v Athlone Town