Shamrock Rovers striker Rory Gaffney says it doesn’t bother him if nobody can watch their crunch European tie in Skopje tonight as the result is all that matters.
The Hoops bring a two-goal lead into the second leg of their third-round Europa League qualifier with FC Shkupi. If they retain their advantage, they progress to the play-off round with a safety net of a place in the Europa Conference League groups and a guaranteed €3.3m.
However, no Irish TV station is showing the game, and as of last night, Rovers were still working on finding a stream so supporters at home can watch.
Gaffney (32) has described the match as the biggest of his career. The blackout for a fixture of such importance is not on his mind, though.
“If I was younger, maybe (he would be annoyed). But I don’t really care if nobody watches it as long as we go through,” he says. “I’ll remember it and I suppose everyone connected with the team will be there.
“It would be great, obviously, if the family could watch it. But if they can’t, I’ll tell them about it afterwards.”
Rovers boss Stephen Bradley was strong on the lack of support from TV companies last term but was reluctant to get drawn into it on this occasion. RTÉ News will show the second leg of St Patrick’s Athletic v CSKA Sofia this Thursday.
“I don’t know the ins and outs of why or the logistics of why they can’t show or can show it, but, look, I’ve had my say on it. We just need to focus on what’s happening on the pitch. That conversation is for another day,” said Bradley.
Gaffney returned to Ireland in 2020 to sign for Rovers after a six-year stint in the lower leagues in England, and he says these games mean more because there’s a sense of achievement attached, whereas the UK focus was different.
“When I was in England, my main goal was to get another contract. More often than not at mid-table teams,” he explained.
“Coming back to Shamrock Rovers, the reason to come back was to win leagues and go on European runs, try to get to an FAI Cup final.
“You want the trophies, you want the medals, the experiences at the end of it.”
“I suppose I could’ve stayed. I tore up my loan at Walsall (from Salford) and agreed to come back home.
“It was always in the back of my mind to finish up playing in Ireland. It’s turned out to be the right decision, anyway. I don’t think there are too many years left in me. I’m 33 in October.
“So it would be great to be able to sit back whenever it’s over and say, ‘Yeah, I had a crack at England, won a couple of leagues and got the opportunity to go on a European run with Shamrock Rovers.’
“There’s not too many people in Tuam, Co Galway saying that.”
Gaffney is confident Rovers can finish the job, especially if they sharpen up the defensive issues that allowed Shkupi to build up a head of steam in the second leg in Tallaght.
Rovers are without Chris McCann through injury, but Jack Byrne is available again.
“I think if we do improve on our performance from last week, I can’t see us losing,” said Gaffney, “I can’t see us losing a game by more than two goals. It wasn’t a perfect performance, so if we improve, I think we’ll be in a good place.”