OWEN HEARY WAS not the first player to cross the Shelbourne-Bohemians divide but he remains in a rare position of being fondly thought of by both sets of supporters.
As a right-back he won five titles with Shelbourne before moving over the Royal Canal to rivals Bohemians. He captained his new team to league wins in 2008 and 2009 before easing into a managerial role at the club.
Heary’s dual role this season is as Bohemians’ right-back and assistant manager and, when he is not overseeing drills, he can be found harrying strikers and wingers on the training pitches.
The highly decorated defender is looking forward to the Premier Division return of his former club but is aware that Bohemians cannot afford to start their season with two defeats. He told TheScore.ie:
“[Tomorrow's] game is crucial as we could go two points ahead of Shelbourne but we could be far behind the leaders if we lose. We played well against Derry but were unfortunate to lose a man (to a red card) and get edged out. Shels should have held out against Sligo but conceded in the 93rd minute and will want a win to make up for that.”
Heary joined Shelbourne in 1998, played 274 games, and captured five League of Ireland trophies in nine years. ”The last league game I played for them was in 2006,” he said. “We beat Bohemians to win the league title. That was almost six years ago so it goes to show you how long they have been away.”
Clinching the league in his final match for The Aul’ Reds remains a cherished memory for the 35-year-old. He recalled, “Glen Crowe was getting some stick as he had come from Bohs to Shelbourne. The fans were shouting and throwing fake money onto the pitch but Glen came through to score a goal. It was a great night for him.”
Financial issues cut the celebrations short but Heary explains that the warning signs had appeared earlier in the 2005-06 season when players went up to nine weeks without payment. He said:
12 months remained on his playing contract but Heary reveals that he turned down a five year extension and offers, from then Chief Executive Ollie Byrne, to take on the manager’s position. He reasons that he did not want ‘to crucify the club’ with excess payment promises.
A familiar face at Tolka Park
Heary has made numerous visits to his old stomping ground since his 2006 transfer and pays credit to the fans that warmly ‘yap’ with him in the bars near Tolka. ”I’d be in touch with guys like Joe Casey and John Delamere who are still at the club,” he commented. “They, and the fans, always have time for me and I appreciate that.”
The banter between supporters is something the Bohemians assistant manager is well used to as his mother follows Shelbourne and his father is ‘adamant that he is a Bohemians fan’.
He notes the resurgence of Shamrock Rovers but personally believes that Friday’s match is the best Dublin derby. Heary added:
“For me, we were both winning leagues every couple of years and it built up an intense rivalry.”
“There was one year that myself and Kevin Hunt (from Bohemians) were going for a photo-shoot as the clubs were fighting it out for the title. There was talk that it was going to be the third championship for whoever won and I’m glad that it turned out to be me.”
Fearless young guns
With Shamrock and Sligo Rovers making the transfer headlines in the pre-season, Bohemians have entrusted their season to a host of players in their early 20s.
Despite their opening night defeat, Heary is confident that the team can challenge for top honours. ”Players like Keith Ward, Karl Moore and Dinny Corcoran are very promising,” he said. “These lads have no fear and we encourage that. We tell them to go out and give 100% before coming off the pitch because, if they do, the fans will appreciate it and let them know.”
With Bohemians and Shelbourne ready to renew rivalries, Heary allowed himself a finally reminiscence of a classic Dublin derby. He said:
“The other game that stands out is the 6-4 win when I was with Shelbourne. We were cruising at 3-0 and then 4-1 before we got pegged back. Bohemians fought back to level it at 4-4 before we pulled clear again. We were both quality sides that never knew when we were beaten.”
The trophies may have eluded the Dublin clubs in recent years but the determination to secure bragging rights will be on show at Dalymount Park throughout Friday’s encounter.