SOME PLAYERS PROVIDE color to journalists in press conferences, but Keith Buckley literally does it.

He works as a painter and decorator and recently worked for one of the journalists on the pre-game Zoom call yesterday. (Readers: know that it is highly recommended.)

Keith Buckley celebrates after winning the second qualifying round over Dudelange.

Source: Tommy Dickson / INPHO

Buckley says he learned a trade because footballers need to be “realistic”, but the past few weeks have been vaguely surreal. Since Dalymount Park is not suitable, Bohs has moved to the Aviva Stadium for the Europa Conference League games with Stjarnan from Iceland and Dudelange from Luxembourg.

The Conference League is a new, third-rate UEFA club competition, and Bohs are two rounds before the group stage. Cause a surprise in this duel and you will have to play one more place in the play-off against Hibernian from Scotland or NHK Rijeka from Croatia.

“It’s not bad to be captain of a team in Europe and to play in the national stadium “Says Buckley.

Bohs won both home games 3-0 in front of as many spectators as the government allowed, with the allocation of tickets quickly selling out on both occasions. The general sale for this evening’s third qualifying round clash with PAOK took a total of 17 minutes.

Buckley’s mother was in the crowd at the European Games, with a candle at her feet for good luck.

“It’s one funny story, I forbade her to play games when I was seven or eight years old because she could be a bit of a loose cannon, ”laughs Buckley. “I have to get it from there! She tried the other team so she hasn’t been to a game since I was seven or eight. That was the first game she was in, our first game in the stadium. So it was really good for me to see her at a game and see her happy.

“I think she’s probably expecting the Aviva all the time! If she went to Dalymount, she would probably look around and say, ‘What’s going on?’ ”

Greek heavyweights PAOK have made eight of their last eleven seasons in the Europa League group stage, becoming Greek champions and winning in 2019 won their national cup last season, while they finished second behind Olympiakos by a long way.

Headline names abound. Striker Karol Świderski played in all three of Poland’s matches at the European Championships; Nelson Oliveria is a Portuguese international you may remember from his stints at Norwich, Swansea and Reading; Christos Tzolis is a youthful winger who has already scored for Greece on an international level; and captain Vieirinha was part of the Portuguese squad that won the European Championship in 2016 and scored in a friendly against Ireland in 2014 in the USA.

Shinji Kagawa on duty for PAOK last week in a friendly against Feyenoord.

Source: SIPA USA / PA Images

The best-known name, however, is Shinji Kagawa. The former Dortmund and Manchester United joined PAOK in January, although his involvement was severely limited by injuries last season.

“Who plays it is just another name on the shirt, isn’t it?” Says Buckley. “It’s an individual fight. As a seated midfielder, you play against the most technical players on the other team. So I focus on the individual fight first before looking at other things.

“Look, you want to play against these types of players. Again he’s on the other side so let’s see if he can hold the intensity against me. ”

Bohs can take advantage of a quick start. While they are in the rhythm of their season, PAOK is preparing and their game has so far been limited to friendlies against PSV and Feyenoord as well as the Greek team Volos.

“Of course this is not a disadvantage as they haven’t played that many yet Have played games, ”says Bohs manager Keith Long. “But if you look at some of their pre-season games, they were up against high-level opponents. They are a team full of internationals, of high quality and they will be ready tomorrow. ”

Kagawa played in PAOK’s two most recent warm-ups, and PAOK’s approach has recently depended on his availability. Manager Răzvan Lucescu – in his second term at the club – switched profitably to a back three for a win over runaway champions Olympiakos last season and only returned to a back four when Kagawa was available.

Bohs don’t have any new injury concerns and will likely stick with her 4-2-3-1. His youthfulness is summed up in the fact that there are Ross Tierney, Andy Lyons and Dawson Devoy, who all played against PAOK in the 2019 Uefa Youth League.

Long prioritizes the performance, to the point where he is did not manage to define a good result in the first leg tonight.

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“That’s the result, isn’t it. We focus on one service. Win, lose or tie, if we get what we are looking for from the players, we will only be happy.

“The result doesn’t matter, if I’m honest. We will focus on our performance, try to achieve what we are trying and want to achieve, and if we do that, hopefully that will produce the result we are looking for. ”

“ We’ll be a real one tomorrow Increase level and I have to believe in what we are, who we are as a group, what we stand for as a team, that is the challenge.

“There is no point in coming here if we are not ready to meet to test for ourselves, if we simply close the shop, get corpses behind the ball and contain and counter. We can do all of these things and we could still lose, so we have to try to be true to ourselves and we want to try to impose ourselves on our opponents. ”

A five-day turnaround from the second qualifying round brings its own challenges as many of the backroom workers at Bohs work part-time and the training is limited to recreational and tactical work.

“I think we had a brief setup last time because we were in Cork last week,” says Buckley. “To be honest, it’s just another game, another stadium, it’s 11 against 11 and that’s it.”

The 8,000 Bohs fans in the stadium tonight are distanced by protocol but united by noise and treated as anything but just another game. A dizzying challenge awaits.

Bohemians (possible XI): James Talbot; Andy Lyons, Rob Cornwall, Ciarán Kelly, Anto Breslin; Keith Buckley, Dawson Devoy; Ali Coote, Ross Tierney, Liam Burt; Georgie Kelly

PAOK (possible XI): Alexandros Paschalakis; Rodrigo Alves, Giannis Michailidis, Fernando Varela, Vieirinha; Andrija Živković, Stefan Schwab, Anderson Esiti, Christos Tzolis; Shinji Kagawa, Nelson Oliveira

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“We have to try to be true to ourselves” – Bohs prepares for a dizzying European challenge against PAOK

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