O'Neill wants Hoops to shine in return leg
IT was back down to earth for all involved with Shamrock Rovers yesterday and before they can look ahead to next week's return game with Juventus, they must first visit Morton Stadium.
The home of Sporting Fingal, which housed the Hoops in the early part of this century, is sometimes jokingly referred to as the Santry Siro.
With a real trip to Italy on the horizon, for Thursday's second leg with the Old Lady, the challenge for Michael O'Neill's side is to focus on an important league game tomorrow afternoon.
After all, their main aim at the start of 2010 was to win the title for the first time in 16 years; their Europa League exploits have proved a welcome bonus.
They've received praise for their efforts in defeat at Tallaght on Thursday evening, where the superiority of the Serie A side was obvious, although a pair of clinical finishes from striker Amauri was the only thing to separate the sides on the scoreboard.
The Italian media acknowledged that new Juventus boss Luigi Delneri had enjoyed victory against modest opposition, but paid credit to Rovers for the manner in which they responded from conceding within three minutes to make a game of it after half-time.
"The Bianconeri showed some positive signs against decidedly weaker opponents, who nonetheless rose to the occasion and started the second half in a determined and willing fashion," wrote 'La Gazzetta Dello Sport'.
"Shamrock tried to make a dream come true for their fans, and for 10 minutes they had the Bianconeri on the ropes.
"When they went down to 2-0, they lost their impetus. For Juventus, there were plenty of encouraging signs, even if it was against another much weaker team."
It is anticipated that Juventus will be an even more dominant force in the return game in Modena, with the Irish visitors possibly facing a damage-limitation exercise.
However, the Rovers camp do not wish to look at the game in such a negative light, instead determined to draw on the positives.
"We'll look at the game as a single game, and not be concerned with Thursday's scoreline," said manager O'Neill. "We want to make sure we give a good account of ourselves, and we'd like to score at least a goal. The whole experience is something the players can learn from."
When they come back from Italy, they've got another significant Dublin derby with arch-rivals Bohemians to look forward to, and their crowded schedule was added to yesterday when Platinum One announced that -- subject to sanction -- the Hoops will be included in a three-part tournament with the reserve teams of Arsenal and Manchester United between August 15 and 22 at Tallaght Stadium.
Rovers will play United's back-up men on August 15, before the two English sides clash on August 19.
The series will round up when the Dubliners clash with Arsenal's understudies on August 22 although, considering the League of Ireland side have competitive fixtures to play during that period, it's likely that their own reserve players will form the backbone of their side for this exercise.