Home > Shamrock Rovers Player Interviews for programme > Coming to Rovers was a step up (Enda Stevens Interview)

Coming to Rovers was a step up (Enda Stevens Interview)

Interview with Enda Stevens for Hoops Scene
(Issue 18 Shamrock Rovers v Galway United, FAI Ford Cup Quarter Final, 17 September 2010)

Last Friday night, the clash of Saint Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers gave the packed crowd in attendance in Inchicore and the viewing public watching live on RTÉ great entertainment. It was live sport at its best with the stakes high for both teams. In a competitively fought fixture Shamrock Rovers prevailed by three goals to one. It was very different scenario from the corresponding fixture at the end of last season. Back then the home side were desperate for a result to avoid relegation while the Hoops were by then only playing for pride as Bohs had beaten the Hoops to the league title. That night Enda Stevens was lining out for St. Pats but between then and now he has made the switch from the Richmond Park home dressing room to the away one as he lined out for Shamrock Rovers last Friday. When Hoops Scene talked to the player after the game, but before the disappointing defeat to Dundalk last Monday, there was no doubt that he enjoyed the result of the Dublin Derby and the switch to Rovers.

Photo: Bobby Best

“It was a great win to be fair and it knocks them out of it,” Stevens said of St. Pat’s title ambitions. This was something their manager Pete Mahon had acknowledged ahead of the game when he said that a defeat for the home side would effectively rule them out of the league. “It is a bit different for me from last season,” said Stevens. “At Pats last year we were playing for our lives trying to stay up and not get relegated. So it was a step up for me to come here to Rovers.” The first half saw Pats put real pressure on the away team and the Hoops went behind for the first time in over 500 minutes of league football after only two minutes of the game. The Rovers full back recognised the pressure Pats put on Rovers in the opening part of the game. “I thought they did well, pressed us really high up the pitch. They got the early goal which was a setback for us. But after that I thought we did well and got on top of the game. We had a couple of chances ourselves before we equalised.”

The equaliser was scored by Gary Twigg as he pounced on the rebound off the post from a Craig Sives chance. Twigg was on the ball in a flash to get the decisive touch for that all important equaliser just before half time. He proved yet again that given even half a chance he can convert it into a goal. “From Pats viewpoint it was probably the worst time to have conceded a goal. It was a massive goal by Twiggy.” The sides were level at half time and the difference in the second half was two players who also are in a rich vein of goal scoring form.

In Tommy Stewart’s case, his goal scoring form is all about hitting the target against St. Pats. The Ulsterman has made a knack of scoring goals against the Saints this season. Stevens was quick to point out that Stewart’s 56th minute strike was his “fifth goal in his three games against Pats this season which is something else.” Rovers, however, saved the best for last with the runner up in the August Player of the Month (to Rovers defender Aidan Price) Billy Dennehy getting the third goal. As the ball rocketed into the top right hand corner of the net, the Rovers fans on three sides of the ground who had snapped up the 1700 away tickets went into delirious celebration. There were many Rovers fans who had ‘acquired’ some home end tickets and it was difficult for them not to get to their feet to celebrate the Kerryman’s goal. Following his free kick winner in the previous game against Sligo, if Dennehy keeps his fine performances going, it might be two months in a row that a Rovers player will get the Player of the Month award. “Billy’s scored with a fantastic strike. He has been on top form lately,” said Stevens. “Six goals in the last eight games is very impressive.”

It took some time for Stevens to break into the Rovers team. It wasn’t until half way during this season when the games were coming thick and fast that he got his opportunity. Ironically enough it was a game against his former employer St. Pats that cemented his place in the side when the Hoops won a dramatic game 2-1 with Alan Mannus saving a penalty in stoppage time. “I wasn’t on form at the start of the season and I wasn’t doing it in training. I was waiting for my chance which actually came against Pats. From there on, I kept my head down and tried to follow what we had to do. We’ve got a massive squad with great players for every single position. If you are not performing well the gaffer [Michael O’Neill] will not hesitate in dropping you. He can change the team around anytime.”

Photo: George Kelly

Stevens came into the team as Rovers began their European campaign and he brought his own experience of European football following his involvement in Pats’ lengthy run in last year’s Europa League. “Europe was great. To play against the likes of Juventus was fantastic. Last year it was good as with Pats I got a few great trips and got a few matches. With Rovers it was great to go over and win in Israel and to play against Juventus in the biggest game in my career so far.”

Rovers’ unbeaten run in the league came unstuck in a wet and windy Oriel Park last Monday night. The last time Rovers had lost a league game was in the same venue back in May. Stevens was not involved on Monday but speaking ahead of the game he had warned that “it could be a banana skin to be honest following on from our tough game last Friday. We have to stay focussed and hopefully come out with the right result. It is a hard place to go to and they beat us there earlier this season. We are expecting a tough game.” And so if proved on a night when Rovers trooped off at half time 4-0 down. In the second half, Rovers certainly improved but could only register a bizarre Twigg goal in that second half and then conceded a fifth. Following that disappointing result, Rovers lead Bohemians by four points with six games to go and so are still well in the hunt for their first league Championship since the 1993/94 season. “We are focussed one game after another. We aren’t expecting to have to go to Bohs to beat them to go and win the league. We want to keep progressing every game and tie the league up.” After Monday’s result, it means that Rovers won’t be taking anything for granted as they chase that elusive league title.

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