Season preview: Extended Owen Heary interview
New manager Owen Heary has given an extended interview to look ahead to the new season, how things have gone so far and why he thinks the fans should come out and support the team.
Reflecting first on pre-season Heary is very happy: “Everything went as well as we could have hoped for. We were able to get all of our matches on thanks to having the astro pitch at the Showgrounds and get games. A lot of others team had to have some of their matches called off. But we were able to train and play every time we wanted. And in the games we put on a good showing so I am happy with how everything went.
“I think that the players have shown the hunger I am looking for so far. There is a lot of competition for places in the squad and they are all pushing each other. It is a really good group that we have here. They showed in the games against Finn Harps, Ballisodare and Castlebar that they weren’t happy with just two or three goals, they kept pushing for more and that’s what I want to see.”
His team has played with a few different systems so far which he syas will be important to be able to do during the season: “Of course, you can’t just have one system of playing. You could be losing or winning a game and you need to make a change to the system. So that is why we have used some different systems during pre-season. The coaching staff have all worked with the players and they know what they are doing.”
The former Bohs manager says he isn’t surprised at the depth of talented young players at the Showgrounds: “I haven’t been surprised. I knew that there was some very good talent here. I had seen the under-19s play before when I was at Bohs and seen the likes of Gary Armstrong and Gary Boylan playing against us. The whole idea I want to have here is that we bring our own players through. Obviously you are going to bring some players in from outside but you want to be producing your own as well.”
A few players have held the captaincy in pre-season and Heary says he will be making a final decision later in the week: “I haven’t decided who it will be yet but I will tell the players this week. We have used different players with Jeff Henderson, David Cawley, Gavin Peers and Raff Cretaro all showing that they are good leaders, so that won’t be a problem.”
Nine new signings have been made and he expects them all to play a big part right from the beginning of the season: “I will have no problem putting them all in at once. They have all played in pre-season and got on very well. We have used different combinations which looked good. Once the players are doing the job then they will play.
“We have brought in good technical players. The bring power and strength to the squad. Players like Devaney, Beattie, Corcoran, Puri and Nielsen all have that. They are all technically very good. They have added a bit to what was already here and done well in pre-season. But pre-season will count for nothing on Saturday. We will be playing a good team in Cork who were right up at the top last year.”
He expects the top teams from last season to be the ones to beat again this year: “I think the pressure is on the top four sides from last year. They have all invested heavily in their squads. But we are happy with what we’ve got. We will be looking to break into that top four and get back into Europe, that has to be our main aim.
“I think that the league has got stronger in the last couple of years. It isn’t as strong as it was back between 2004 and 2006. It dipped slightly after that. But the standard is going up with internationals like Liam Miller, Keith Fahey, Colin Healy and Sander Puri coming to play in the league. It’s a plus for the league to have players like that here. I think with the under-19s set up the last few years it has helped as the players that have come through that are now progressing.”
The Bit o’Red have games against Cork City, Derry City and Shamrock Rovers in the month to March and also a trip to reigning champions Dundalk: “It will be vital that we get a good start. In the first five or six games it won’t be all about playing well, we have to be picking up points and then develop from there. There is less pressure playing when you’ve got points on the board. March will be a tough month, we play three teams that are expected to be challenging but both myself and the players are looking forward to it.
“I don’t set any targets for where we should be, it’s a cliché but you do have to take each game as it comes. If you set targets and don’t hit them then the players feel let down. It won’t be until the last five or six games that we start targeting where we should finish.”
Heary hopes that fans will come out in numbers on Saturday and during the season to help cheer the team on to success: “I would encourage the fans to come out and get behind the team. It is a young team this year, they will make mistakes, but they need to be encouraged. We will have a team that will get on the ball and try to play. If we have the fans support then it will raise their games that extra 10%. It’s important that we have that.”