The Price of Success

Interview with Aidan Price from Hoops Scene v Bray Wanderers 20 August 2010

Shamrock Rovers gained their sixth league win in the last seven games with their 2-0 win over Drogheda United last Friday night. It was also the fourth clean sheet in the last five games which is very satisfying from a defensive point of view. Aidan Price has been instrumental in those fine defensive performances this season and Hoops Scene chatted to the defender after last Friday’s win. It was a win which saw Rovers go three points clear at the top of the table as both St. Patrick’s Athletic and Bohemians tasted defeat that same night.

“It was good to get the result,” said Price. “What made it better was we would have been disappointed if we had dropped points against Drogheda looking at the other results after the game. It just goes to show that one weekend of football can change it so much. But of course we just have to look after ourselves and there are still a lot of games to go. The clean sheet was nice. We had some good chances in the first half but we just didn’t take them. We had to be patient during the game. We were much better in the second half when we upped the tempo. We took them on and we threatened them a bit more. Drogheda sat back and invited us to play. We tried to do the right thing and keep believing. We knew if we created enough chances and in the right areas, we would get goals so we kept going. We took our chances and kept a clean sheet. We have scored some really good goals recently through the team. That is important and I think we showed that again the other night.”

As the season builds up to its climax, it means lots of games for Shamrock Rovers and by the end of August the Hoops will have played five Airtricity League games, a Europa League qualifier, an EA Sports semi final, an FAI Ford Cup fourth round match and a couple of reserve team matches against Manchester United and Arsenal. The games in August to date have certainly been memorable and in the league there was the satisfaction of the 3-0 win in the Dublin Derby over League Champions Bohemians. It was the biggest win over rivals Bohemians that Price has been involved with in his five years with the Hoops. “It was good. We started the game really well and pressed them high up the pitch. We got a goal and that settled us down. We know we are comfortable when teams have the ball against us as we can keep a good shape. We have pace in the team that we can counter attack with and that is what we did really well that day. When we went down to 10 men we knew we were capable of keeping our shape. If that is what is needed to be done for 15 or 20 minutes, we know we are not out of our depth. We are more than capable and can frustrate the opposition team. That is what we did, we frustrated Bohs in the second half when they were committing more people forward trying to get the equaliser. (Bobby Best) We picked them off and took chances at important times and this set us up for the last 10 minutes when we got the third goal.” (George Kelly)

The game against Bohemians came a couple of days after the memorable away match with Juventus in Italy. Price agrees that the European games against Ben Yehuda and Juventus were a help to Rovers as during those games the opposition had plenty of possession and Rovers needed to keep their shape and remain disciplined. He went on to state that despite the travel arrangements, Rovers were always going to be up for a game against Bohemians. “I think those European games set us up well for the Bohs game. I think a lot of people didn’t expect we would win as they thought we had done so much travelling. I didn’t collect my car from the stadium until a quarter to six on the Friday morning. You are playing Bohs at the end of the day and it goes out the window how you feel. You know you are going to have a tough game and you know you need to be on top of your game. Fortunately at the moment we are playing well, playing with confidence and have belief in ourselves.”

While Rovers exited Europe against Juventus, they gained a lot of confidence in their 3-0 aggregate defeat. It was a respectable result against one of the biggest clubs in world football and Rovers received due respect from Juventus. In the away leg, it took a moment of genius from Italian football legend Alessandro Del Piero to separate the teams in monsoon conditions in Modena. “When we got to the ground before the game it was fine. But when we were in the dressing room, you could hear the absolute torrential rain coming down. At the start of the game I remember Ricer [Stephen Rice] sliding into a puddle in the corner and he came out swimming! I was thinking the referee might stop it then but in the second half it was much better. They worked at half time to get the heavy rain off the pitch. I think the rain probably helped us a little bit as well. It allowed us play a little bit tighter to them. We started the game really well over there. We got some crosses into the box. We got some corners and we got into the game. We had the freedom to go and play as we had nothing to lose being 2-0 down. We just went out to play the game. It took an unbelievable goal by Del Piero to decide the game. I didn’t think it was that far out until I saw it again. The lads on the bench were saying it was in line with the dugout! After all the hard work we had done it would have been nice to get a goal and win the game over there. It would have been an unbelievable feeling. That’s the way it goes. The Juventus players were brilliant and were absolute gentlemen after the game. That is the way it should be. Their club will be remembered for that. It would be nice all right if they got to the Europa League final in Dublin.”

Tonight it is Bray Wanderers who visit Tallaght Stadium. It is a Bray side, back under the management of Pat Devlin, who helped Rovers last week when they defeated St. Pats knocking them off the top of the league. Last year, Bray won their first ever visit to Tallaght. Just as there was no complacency by Rovers when visiting second from bottom Drogheda last week, Price knows the Hoops will mean business tonight against bottom side Bray. “You can’t just turn up for the big games, people get up for them games easily. You need to be up for all the games, the games against Bray or like Drogheda away where people may have felt we would slip up there. Last week’s win by Bray shows they are capable of results. It is one more game we need to win and it is a game we have to win. If you are not on top of your game and keep to your standards, you can struggle. Everybody wants to beat us and people up their game when they come to play us. We have to make sure that we start games properly and if we don’t score early we stay patient and stay with what we believe in. We feel we will get goals.”

Manager Michael O’Neill has used his strong squad throughout the season, resting players at times and insisting players give their best in every appearance in the green and white hooped jersey. “That is what the manager has told us. I got back into the team down in Sligo. I want to stay in the team, I don’t want to be left out of the team. I want to make sure I’m the best I can be and play as well as I can to make sure I stay in the team. I want to play every game I can and help the team do as well as we can.” O’Neill will use the opportunity of this week’s matches against the reserves of Manchester United and Arsenal to ensure certain members of his first team squad get some game time. Last Sunday against Manchester United, alongside players from Andy Myler’s A squad, O’Neill handed starts to new singings Patrick Jennings and Neil Fenn plus a guest appearance to Northern Ireland international Keith Gillespie. This Sunday it will be the chance for the reserve players at Arsenal to play against Rovers in Tallaght. “The team will be some of the lads who haven’t had a lot of football of late,” remarked Price adding, “we have so many games coming up everyone needs to be as fit as possible so if they come back into the team they are ready to go.”
28 year old Price is the longest serving member of the current Shamrock Rovers playing squad and he captained the side in 2006 when the Hoops won the First Division title.

He has been on the journey which saw Rovers come from the First Division to finish runners up last year earning the right to play in Europe against Juventus and it leaves him hungry for more. “Absolutely. That is why the games against Drogheda and Bray are so important. You want to get into Europe to experience stuff like that but you have to win those games to get there. We have an awful lot of football to be played before the end of the season. We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves. We are concentrating on winning the next game and that is the main focus. As soon as you start getting ahead of yourself, football comes back at you and can bring you back down to the ground. Every game is vital for us to achieve what we want to achieve.”

Price remembers the games in the First Division away to Cobh Ramblers, Monaghan United and Kilkenny City (where he started his career) and home to teams like UCD in front of crowds of 500. He remembers the battle to get out of the First Division at the first attempt and now he is part of a team playing in front of the largest crowds in the League. He has got the experience of playing Juve and challenging for the league two years in a row. “It is hard to believe. Winning the First Division was brilliant and I’m grateful that I experienced that as well. But the club wanted to get back to where we are now. It wants to be challenging for leagues, wants to be challenging for everything. It makes you appreciate the small things a lot more. You don’t forget that or forget how hard people worked to make it happen. People within the club and the players who have been and gone and the players that are here now working hard to make sure we are as good as we can be. We want to achieve as much as we can. Small steps are being made consistently along the way. Things are being done the right way. The manager coming in has been brilliant in terms of his winning mentality. He wants us to win, he wants us to win a trophy. That is what we need. That is what we want to be doing at the end of the season. We want to be doing that in October and November and we want to be winning stuff. That is the way it should be at Rovers. This is how big the club is, the biggest in the country with the biggest support. We need to be winning trophies and that is what we aim to do. We want to sustain this challenge and show the drive and determination to stay at the top. It is important for us to get that first trophy as a group. Hopefully we can do that this year.”

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