Friday 13 December 2019

Rovers taking aerial route to continue European journey


AFTER their European second qualifying round games, Shamrock Rovers, St Patrick's Athletic and Bohemians remain in contention to join Sligo Rovers in the third qualifying round, but there is a lot of work to do.

Shamrock Rovers boss Michael O'Neill was justifiably disappointed that his team's dominant display in the Champions League last Tuesday didn't earn more than a 1-0 win to take to Tallinn on Tuesday, but he is confident his side will go through, in which case they would travel to FC Copenhagen in the third round.

"Any time we put the ball in the box they struggled with crosses as we knew they would," he said. "For a lot of these teams it's alien to put the ball in the box so we said we'd test them. Gary Twigg lives off crosses, Dean Kelly as well, so it was very much part of our plan."

O'Neill also sees some positives for the away game. "It's not a logistical nightmare to get there, we leave on Sunday only because Saturday wasn't feasible. We'll be playing in a very good stadium and not in front of an intimidating crowd, as they only get about 500 regularly.

"If we can progress we're guaranteed a minimum of four more European games, so everything we get from this competition can be positive and a way of progressing the club. Success could be long-term -- it helps the profile of the club. We operate a very strict budget and while it won't change that dramatically, it might help the club both on and off the field."

On the addition of former Ipswich Town manager Jim Magilton to his staff, O'Neill said: "He's a very enthusiastic character and very hands-on. It's good to have him in the dug-out with me and the players have responded to his enthusiasm and his methods."

While Rovers can expect to create more chances in Tallinn, their strikers will need to show more composure in front of goal than they did in Tallaght, if they are to progress.

St Patrick's Athletic's horrendous journey to the far reaches of Kazakhstan for Europa League duty saw them return to Dublin yesterday morning. Manager Pete Mahon reckons they spent 48 hours travelling and waiting around, between five different airports.

"It was a long, hard trip," said Mahon (pictured). "I don't know how we got the result we did. It was a nightmare, something I'll never forget. We played a team full of international players, and the result was a fantastic achievement, one of the best results ever for an Irish team in Europe.

"We had to get four fellows off work, who had to pay others to stand in for them. It's going to take us a few days to get over this."

The Kazakh team, Karagandy, he said, are a very good team, tall, athletic, but cynical too -- "one of our players got a smack on the face off the ball." On the plus side for St Pat's is the fact that the Karagandy captain Andrei Finonchenko was booked and will miss Thursday's game in Richmond Park. While the goals Pat's conceded were both from set-pieces, they are boosted by the return of injured pair, Danny North and Dave Mulcahy, for the return leg.

Bohemians appear to have left themselves too much to do, with the 2-0 defeat in Ljubljana. One goal would put the cat among the pigeons for Ljubljana, provided Bohs can keep a clean sheet. Another interesting night in prospect at Dalymount Park.

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