Stars facing dole queue as Hoops ponder big decisions
GOING into battle with Tottenham is difficult enough, but it pales into comparison with the struggle of unemployment and that's the reality of what some Shamrock Rovers players are now facing.
With Michael O'Neill on his way, there are big decisions to be made over the Christmas period, although in a domestic context the club have banked enough from the European adventure to be in a position of dominance.
Nevertheless, it's a testing time for the players, who have been through the wars over a marathon 60-game campaign.
"I have a two-year deal, so I'm one of the lucky ones," reflected striker Ciaran Kilduff. "I don't know what's going to happen here with the change of management. Everyone is going to have to sit tight for a while. There's a few lads in talks, but others don't know.
"We'll try and go away and relax over Christmas. It's been a long season. Hopefully it'll all become clear in the new year."
The Hoops will take time to find O'Neill's replacement. This week, it's been all hands on deck in terms of organising last night's match.
Naturally, they are conscious of losing some of the players who are free to go, and the board have started talking to some of them about signing new deals.
They have agreed a deal with midfielder Chris Turner, who joins Kilduff and five other players in the comfort of knowing they have a club for 2012. The others are Ronan Finn, Ken Oman, Gary O'Neill, Gary Twigg and Stephen Rice.
Defender Enda Stevens sets off for a new life at Aston Villa.
Meanwhile, the others are in limbo. Striker Karl Sheppard is in demand from cross channel, and the likes of Billy Dennehy and Conor McCormack will harbour similar ambitions. High-profile import Rohan Ricketts will move on, having made minimal impression.
The older free agents may sign on the dole to keep themselves ticking over financially -- an existence that is a far cry from welcoming Premier League opposition to Tallaght.
It hints at why O'Neill feels it will be extremely difficult for another League of Ireland side to ever reach this level again.
"You see tonight how hard it is," he said. "The League of Ireland is not progressing, let's be honest. Clubs are finding it very difficult. There isn't the money in the league. When there was, clubs didn't use it wisely.
"Okay, you'll have momentous nights and big occasions that will come around every so often, but there's no club here that is capable financially of building towards a long-term European plan."
The new man's main task will be to deliver a third successive league crown. "It's a tall order for anyone to come in and follow that," admitted Kilduff.