Saturday 17 March 2018

'I know what to expect from Rovers fans. I will be the receiver but I have been the giver a lot of times'

Bluebell United manager Andy Noonan, a Shamrock Rovers season-ticket holder, in his normal seat at Tallaght Stadium yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Bluebell United manager Andy Noonan, a Shamrock Rovers season-ticket holder, in his normal seat at Tallaght Stadium yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

They've been branded by tonight's opponents as a team and manager capable of coping in the League of Ireland but the state of the game means neither have the appetite to step into the sphere.

Bluebell United's route to tonight's FAI Cup quarter-final against Shamrock Rovers, which they've had to sacrifice home advantage for, has seen them scalp two First Division sides.

Although their defeats of Wexford Youths and Cabinteely weren't emphatic, it reinforced the well-held belief that the Leinster Senior League outfit could cut it in the professional ranks.

Why else would a player like Dean Ebbe return to the club from Scottish Premier League outfit Inverness this summer rather than head to the League of Ireland?

Jordan Keegan, Keith Quinn and Tony Griffiths are amongst the other players to have made the decision to snub offers from First Division clubs in favour of competitive football in the LSL.

And Gary Seery, the match-winner against Cabinteely, has been the subject of an enquiry from a SPL club.

Manager Andy Noonan knows the League of Ireland scene well - particularly its precarious nature. As a Dundalk player, he went seven weeks without wages being paid and it appears his current players don't feel the commitment is worth the hassle.

Richie Towell and Brandon Miele ended up at Bluebell upon their return from England after what Noonan described as "disrespectful" offers from League of Ireland clubs.


Tonight at Tallaght Stadium, their biggest test arrives when they face a Rovers side looking to push further towards ending the club's 30-year wait for the trophy.

Former Hoop Keith Fahey won't be in the Bluebell side, due to his late red card in the last round, but the indications are Rovers won't have it easy.

"There's a good standard in the Leinster Senior with ourselves, Crumlin United and St Mochta's competing," said Noonan. "We have a lot of ex-professionals who won't go back to the League of Ireland due to age or family commitments. The finance isn't there anyway and I think the First Division has become a graveyard. I can see some clubs folding in the next few years."

Rovers fan Noonan, who has three season tickets at Tallaght, has been linked with vacancies during his six years with 'Bell but doesn't believe the conditions are favourable for budding managers.

"I don't agree with the structures of managerial qualifications in the League of Ireland," he asserted. "The manager of Shamrock Rovers has to be as qualified as the manager of Manchester United - you have to have a UEFA Pro Licence.

There are managers brought in just as stop-gaps to comply with UEFA regulations and to me that is madness.

"You're talking about €8,000 to do the Pro Licence. I have my UEFA B and I'll kick on and do my UEFA A but there are three, maybe four, professional clubs in League of Ireland.

"But you need a professional manager coming into part-time clubs and the structures just aren't there for it.

"A lot has to happen and the FAI need to look at what qualifications are needed."

Due to logistical challenges involving access, United have had to leave their home at the Red Cow for this fixture. If he had to play anywhere, Noonan didn't mind it being Tallaght.

"Baldonnel was offered as an alternative but I wasn't going to go anywhere else," he said.

"All my kids will be here and it's going to be a great occasion for the club and as a Rovers fan it will be brilliant. I know what to expect from the Rovers fans. I'm going to be on the receiving end but I've been the giver a lot of times as well."

Irish Independent

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