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Shamrock Rovers players and new boss playing for their futures

IT is always the way. After a manager departs, there is remorse. But there is also another game, and not just on the pitch.

Stephen Kenny's dismissal from Shamrock Rovers in the aftermath of Monday's defeat to Bohemians was the culmination of a difficult season.

Both player-coach Colin Hawkins and midfield dynamo Ronan Finn admitted yesterday that the players have to take responsibility for Kenny's sacking.

There is no time to dwell on that, however, with tonight's FAI Cup quarter-final against Shelbourne offering the Hoops the chance to keep their season alive.

Stephen Glass, a former Aberdeen and Newcastle player who moved from Scotland to assist Kenny, is now in the hot seat. And he knows that cup glory may further his claims for the top job.

Meanwhile, the players who flopped under Kenny must now raise their game or face the axe, with contracts running down.

"You would imagine performance levels between now and the rest of the season will be top notch as lads are playing for their futures," admitted Hawkins, who is now assisting Glass, but also has no idea where he'll be going in November. "They need to earn a contract somewhere so you would imagine that will perk them up."

Hawkins admitted that he would be "stupid" to say he didn't see Kenny's exit coming, although he expected it to happen ahead of their European tie with Ekranas in July.

"It looked as though things were going to come to an end then, but we've definitely turned things around since."

That was until a haul of one point from home games with Shels last Friday and then the Bohs fixture.

"Did the players let him down? Yeah, without a shadow of a doubt," Hawkins continued. "And I suppose I'm one of them. Lads have underperformed all year with the exception of one or two.

"Finner is here today, and he's been outstanding for the last couple of months, but there's not that many who can hold their hands up and say, 'I've done myself justice'.

excuse

Hawkins brushed off the suggestion that Kenny had lost the dressing-room by saying that it should be no excuse for anybody.

"You're representing yourself, your family and the club every time you go out there whether you think the manager is this, that or the other," he stressed.

"Whether they were playing for him or not, performance levels haven't been good enough. Stephen will admit that he made mistakes, but there was an argument for keeping him and letting him do his own thing in the off-season."

That hinted at the fact that Kenny inherited a squad of players that had already been signed. He had mixed views, but was a big fan of Finn and awarded him a new contract.

"I rang him to say thanks for everything he did for me," said the midfielder. "I had no issues with him. As a team, we weren't good enough and players have to take responsibility. We'd full belief we were going to retain the title -- not in a cocky way -- but we believed in ourselves.

"We've let ourselves down. Too many draws, lack of concentration, complacency, a lot of things."

Glass, who lists Kenny Dalglish, Gianluca Vialli and Bobby Robson amongst his former bosses, knows it's his chance to make a strong impression.

"If I do well and if we can get to a cup final, I would be making it hard for the club to make a change, I think," said the 36-year-old, who addressed the group before training yesterday morning.

"My aim is to do the best that I can for as long as they want me to do it and see where it gets me."

Elsewhere tonight, St Pat's host Drogheda United in a clash of third and second in the league table.

"We've already beaten them there and we have drawn at home, so we are quietly confident of getting a result of some sort," said Mick Cooke, the manager of the visitors who continue to surprise.

The Saints, on the other hand, are dealing with the expectation that this year they will finally end their 51-year-old cup hoodoo. "The weight of history doesn't bother us," insisted boss Liam Buckley.

Irish Independent