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Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley hails his side’s killer instinct late on in victory over Shkupi

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Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley celebrates

Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley celebrates

Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley celebrates

Stephen Bradley praised his Shamrock Rovers side for showing a killer instinct at the crunch to put the Hoops in control of their group stage football destiny.

Gary O'Neill's 96th-minute strike against ten-man Shkupi of North Macedonia gave the Hoops a 3-1 lead they will bring to Skopje for next Tuesday's decider.

If they progress through the Europa League third round qualifier, Rovers will be guaranteed group stage football via the Europa Conference League - and a €3.3m cheque from UEFA - and will have a chance to make the Europa League equivalent.

Bradley's side led two nil at the break, and he was frustrated that his team 'let their foot off the gas' to allow Shkupi back into it with a stunning effort from Queven halving the lead.

However, after withstanding a period of pressure, the Hoops pressed on when visiting midfielder Walid Hamidi received a second yellow and O'Neill's late strike followed a period of pressure.

"The goal at the end could be really important for us," said Bradley. "I'm slightly frustrated with our play in parts as it was sloppy and let them get a foothold.

"They showed they could score in the second half and we're in for a right game next week. But we felt we needed to go for it (after the red card) rather than take the 2-1. It's a great strike from Gary."

Rovers lost their way somewhat after Chris McCann limped off with a calf problem and he is a concern for the second leg. However, Bradley is hopeful that Jack Byrne will be fit after sitting out this tie.

The Hoops boss watched the first half of St Patrick's Athletic's win in CSKA Sofia earlier in the evening and hailed the general progression of the league.

"I think teams across Europe respect us a lot more," said Bradley. "I'm delighted Pat's have won and we won. I know Sligo had a tough night but I think teams in Europe respect us a lot more. I think the move to summer football and the way teams like to play now has definitely helped. It's not just kick it and hope something happens. It's good, it shows the league is going in the right direction. It's been a good year so far and hopefully both of us can keep it going."

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