SHAMROCK Rovers keeper Barry Murphy is on board with manager Pat Fenlon's plan for a title challenge from the Hoops this season.
Fenlon marked his first game as Rovers boss with a 2-0 win at home to Derry City on Friday night. Combined with a defeat for St Patrick's away to Cork City, the win leaves Rovers level on points with reigning champions Pats and even though leaders Dundalk still have a 10-point lead over the two Dublin clubs, Fenlon feels that his side could still have a say in the title race - and his players agree.
"If we play the next few games in the way we played Derry on Friday, and if the wins stack up, then you never know what could happen," keeper Murphy told The Herald.
"I think we have a huge advantage with the experience we have of winning leagues, both the players and our manager. Dundalk are the leaders and they have done well but they haven't been there before, dealing with the pressure of winning a league. We have league-winning players in this squad, players who have won cups as well, and that experience of the big games can only benefit us.
"The games will only get more intense in the next few weeks and we are in a nice spot now, just behind the top two and we are within striking distance of them.
"Our main target on Friday was just to win the game and that will be the same in the next few days, we have Athlone away on Friday and then Bohs away on Monday, the target is to keep winning. It's getting to the business end of the season now so we need to get the wins and reel teams in, but three points against Derry last week was a good start."
Even though his three senior clubs (Rovers, Bohemians and St Pats) have all won leagues in recent seasons, Murphy remains without a Premier Division medal, missing out on triumphs due to bad timing.
But his experience of playing under Fenlon, at Bohs in 2010, fills him with confidence. "You only have to look at Pat's record, and to me this is like van Gaal going into Manchester United, a new manager giving the team a new lease of life," Murphy says.
"The experience and the trophies he has behind him, people can only respect that and players are on board already."
Rovers fans may have feared that Fenlon's first night would not end well as the Hoops were second-best in the first half against Derry, City having enough chances to be 4-0 up at the break, but Murphy says there was no dramatic reaction from Fenlon at half-time and the side "fixed things" in the second 45 minutes, winning with goals from Ronan Finn and Dean Kelly.
"Pat was calm at half-time, we just said we needed to up the tempo as we had given Derry too many chances in the first half, we invited them on a bit but we did better in the second half," added Murphy.
"We didn't have much time to prepare with Pat, he came in the day before the game, his message was simple: if we gave 100% honesty to him he would give it back to us.
"He demands that of himself and demands it of his players and, having played under Pat before at Bohemians, I know what he is like. Pat is very honest, he said it was a clean slate for everyone at the club, there were no cliques or preconceptions about players. He has been around the league long enough to know how to manage, if he gets honesty and effort from players he is happy. He promised that lads would get a chance to impress him in the games and I think we did that on Friday."