Bonanza night for Rovers as Stewart earns dream clash with Juventus
Published 23/07/2010 | 05:00
Shamrock Rovers were in dreamland last night as Tommy Stewart's 70th-minute strike set up a plum tie with Italian giants Juventus.
But while the invasion of one band of supporters would usually mean a trip to the Stadio Olimpico in Turin, the presence of a more famous Irish band there -- U2 -- means that Rovers will have to travel to Modena (300km away) for the second leg on August 5.
Though news that Bono & Co -- and not Rovers -- will be playing in the famous home of Juventus is a bit of a downer, it was still a beautiful day in Israel for fans of the Hoops last night.
The Tallaght club needed just one goal against Bnei Yehuda in Tel Aviv to see them through and, having survived a host of chances thanks to a superb display from goalkeeper Alan Mannus, a Stephen Rice long throw caused havoc in the home defence and Stewart pounced.
It sets up a lucrative tie with the Old Lady of Turin, who awaited last night's winners, and manager Michael O'Neill acknowledged the scale of his side's success.
"It's huge," he said. "Huge for the club and huge for the players to come out here and give a display like that. "We started excellently and probably should have been ahead.
"We controlled the opening 25 minutes, but I think Yehuda took control after that. The conditions are extreme to say the least, but we knew we'd get a chance.
"We asked Tommy Stewart to play on the left and he worked unbelievably hard for us, we pushed him up front and he got us the reward with the goal.
"To a man they were brilliant, Alan Mannus had a brilliant game, Aidan Price -- to be fair, they all did.
"Everyone of them, you couldn't ask any more. Outstanding. We never stopped believing. I told the players the longer it's at 0-0, the greater your belief is going to get."
The Hoops face a two-legged tie against the most successful club in Italy, who visit Tallaght next week, with the second leg the following Thursday in Modena.