Rovers anxious to extend O'Neill stay
AFTER a weekend of celebration, the message from the Shamrock Rovers camp is that Friday's title victory is merely another step on the road rather than the end of a journey.
Chairman Jonathan Roche hopes that a 16th title success will allow Hoops fans to revel in the feats of today rather than live off the success achieved in the past.
The club are determined to push on and create a new dynasty, while avoiding the financial pitfalls which other recent league winners have succumbed to.
"It's great that we are living now in the present and not the past," said Roche. "The past is great, but we are league champions 2010 and we're going to the Aviva in two weeks with the chance of winning the double.
"We're not driving in and driving out of Tolka Park or Dalymount packing the bags after every match," he stressed. "Milltown is gone, but not forgotten. Rovers have been accused of living in the past and there probably was a bit of that because Milltown was so special to a lot of people.
"Since I've been a fan we've had no home until two years ago, so it's obviously massive for us. And there is a whole generation of fans out there who joined us in the RDS or in Dalymount or Tolka, especially young fans who never saw the club win anything. The people in Milltown were spoiled. They know what it's like winning leagues and cups."
Michael O'Neill is the manager who steered the Hoops across the line and, to fend off potential suitors, Roche is keen to talk about extending his contract -- he has one year remaining.
But there's the small matter of a November 14 date with Sligo to deal with first. The Bit O'Red sold 5,500 tickets within 24 hours of making them available. Shamrock Rovers put their allocation on sale this week, and expect to sell over 10,000 tickets.
Their double chances may hinge on the well-being of Gary Twigg and the Scottish striker, who played through a hamstring problem in Bray to make a crucial contribution, is certain he'll be fit. He is desperate for further success with a club which has given him a new lease of life -- and revealed that O'Neill had saved him from the football scrapheap.
"I never thought this would come in my career," he said, after winning his first major trophy. "I'd fallen out of love with football. The gaffer is a miracle worker and has managed to get me back playing at a level where hopefully people enjoy coming to watch me. I owe everything to him."
On the other side of town, Bohemians were facing the end of the an era and emotion was etched on the faces of the players most likely to depart Bohemians as the cost cutting begins.
A large proportion of the home crowd remained in the stadium to salute a team who delivered five trophies in three seasons and missed out on this year's Airtricity League title on goal difference.
Having played what was probably his last game for the Gypsies, striker Jason Byrne was in tears as he applauded the crowd and he admitted he didn't know where he would be playing next season.
"It's hard to take," he said. "We were so close and we're not used to losing, it's a bitter pill to swallow. With the run we went on towards the end of the season, I thought we deserved to win the league.
"I'll be back, but I don't know with whom."