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Hoops can draw hope

HIS former club are stretching further and further ahead of his current employers, but Mark Quigley insists that there's no sense of panic at Shamrock Rovers over their sluggish start to the season.

Quigley's goals last term played a huge part in Sligo Rovers' feat of winning the league title, but the former Millwall man has of course switched clubs over the off-season. It's been a frustrating time for Quigley on a personal level as well as that of his club, as an injury picked up on Setanta Cup duty in February has restricted the 27-year-old to just one league start (and no league goals) so far.

Rovers have also been frustrated and frustrating, playing out six draws in seven games, while a winning streak for his previous club has allowed Sligo go 12 points clear of the Hoops.

Quigley admits that it has been a frustrating time but insists that talk of early-season panic is unwarranted.

"Whatever people outside the club are thinking, within the squad there is no sense of panic. I know that once we click as a team we will be a force and will be in contention," said the former Bohemians and St Pats man ahead of tonight's game at home to Bray Wanderers. "Getting so many draws has been a big frustration for us.

"The table doesn't look too bad as we're in the top four and are still unbeaten – only ourselves and Sligo are unbeaten this season – but when you draw so many games you don't really move in the table. To be honest I think I'd prefer if we could win or lose the odd game instead of drawing every week, at least when you win you have a chance of moving up the table. I don't think I've ever been in a side that's drawn so many games and it is frustrating for everyone, but I know what we are capable of. We have a lot of new players in the team, myself included, and once we gel as a unit I think we'll show what we are really capable of.

"It's been very frustrating on a personal level. I had started the season well and pre-season was great for me but I got injured in the Setanta Cup match against Coleraine and missed the next few weeks.

"It's really hard for a player when you've done your pre-season and you're ready to go but then get injured. I have come back in for the last couple of games, I started against Cork and I got a few minutes against Drogheda last week. I'm feeling fit and well now and hopefully my season will kick on in this game against Bray tonight," Quigley told The Herald.

Sligo have already built up a comfortable lead over the rest of the league but Quigley, who made his League of Ireland debut with the Hoops back in 2005 and went on to have spells with Pats, Bohs, Dundalk and Sligo, knows that early-season promise doesn't always yield a trophy.

"One year when I was with Pats we'd started the season really well and led the league for a long time but Bohs ended up winning the league by 20-odd points, so anything can happen," he recalls.

"I think our problems with Pats that year came mid-way through the season, we had a decent run in Europe and were doing well in the cups, so all of a sudden we had a lot of games and our league form dropped off.

"The opposite happened with Sligo last season. We didn't progress in Europe and were knocked out of the cups early on so we were able to concentrate on the league.

"That could be a factor this season, we're not involved in Europe this season but Sligo will want to make a stab of it in the Champions League. Right now it's all going well for Sligo but things can get tricky later when the fixtures piling up," Quigley added.

On paper, tonight's game is a handy way for Rovers to pick up three points ahead of their next league tie, a very tricky game away to an in-form Derry City, but Bray have been a real bogey side for Rovers in recent seasons: just four wins from 10 games in the league over Bray for Rovers in the last three years and Bray had a shock win at Tallaght in Rovers' league-winning season in 2011.

"We haven't really spoken about that much, as there's been a big turnover of players at the club and a lot of our current squad weren't here last season," says Quigley, who may consider a trip to London next month along with current Rovers physio and former Millwall player Tony McCarthy should the Lions make it to the FA Cup final.

"I have had a very good record against Bray over the years. I've scored 17 or 18 goals against them so I have enjoyed the games with Bray.

"But we are wary of them tonight. Any team that has Jason Byrne is a threat, I played alongside Jason at Bohs and Dundalk and I know what a great striker he is, all he needs is one chance."


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