Wednesday morning and it has the appearance of just another day at Shamrock Rovers HQ but there’s a lot more going on.
Their rivals Bohemians have commanded the morning headlines, on the newspapers and airwaves, whereas Rovers’ European campaign is bubbling under the surface.
They may need to defeat a more glamorous opponent than Albania’s Teuta Durres to get the nation talking but then the section of the Europa Conference League draw reserved for champions is low enough on name recognition but high on opportunity.
Rovers don’t need to slay any giants to secure the €3m group stage ticket. In reality, they just need to perform to the levels they hit in the second leg of the Champions League exit to Slovan Bratislava and manage key moments of games efficiently.
No Irish club is good enough to underestimate an opponent, but there’s also a quiet belief in the Rovers camp that Teuta is a hurdle they can cross. The losers of a Europa League tie between Omonia Nicosia and Flora Tallinn would await if they do so.
“You have also to understand and respect that when you get to the third round of a European competition, you’re playing good teams and against good players,” cautioned Bradley ahead of tonight’s first leg in Tallaght.
“If you think you can win quite comfortably, you’re in trouble and I don’t think we can ever go there.”
The Hoops need to be at their strongest and a complication is the transfer speculation around the future of defender Liam Scales.
Celtic are definitely in for the 22-year-old and Bradley suggested there is Premier League interest go to with Championship and League One scrutiny. He said he expected Scales to be involved in both legs with Teuta with big money at stake but then there could be good money coming their way for his services too with the player under contract until the end of 2022.
“It’s very important that you’re open and honest with the player and his representatives and make the best decision for all,” said Bradley,
“You weigh up everything – how important these games are and the league games in the next month. To be fair, Liam has been brilliant, he’s really calm and takes things in his stride. We’ve never had any issue with him.”
His performances have opened doors and the bigger picture for the Rovers group is that these European matches can turn heads in a way that league games do not. Indeed, that could even have implications for Bradley with the rumour mill indicating his stock is growing externally.
Teuta are regarded as a technical side, and the target for Rovers will be to produce a high energy display that illustrates the quality of their movement in midfield. Richie Towell, Danny Mandroiu and Dylan Watts dovetailed brilliantly against St Patrick’s Athletic last Friday and Graham Burke is back in the equation after injury too.
Still, for all that dynamism, the assurance of the veteran Joey O’Brien has an important role to play too. He sampled glorious European nights with Bolton, knocking Athletico Madrid out of the UEFA Cup back in 2008, and tasted a bit of it with West Ham too but he admits there’s a special buzz in doing it with Rovers.
“We’ve had some really good nights and hopefully we can have another one,” said the 35-year-old, who added his personal view that Scales ticks a lot of the boxes to succeed overseas.
O’Brien is a strong voice in the Hoops dressing-room, tipped for a future role in management by Bradley, and he won’t allow Scales or any of the younger faces to lose focus.
His own plan is to “keep playing until my legs fall off” after losing time to injury in his youth.
The demands of a prolonged European season is an examination he would relish.