Home > Random Rovers thoughts > Non-barstoolers of the World unite

Non-barstoolers of the World unite

Tonight was the perfect opportunity to sit back and watch Shamrock Rovers live on TV in their Setanta Cup semi-final first leg in Sligo. However, that would be too easy an option. Instead I headed up to road to Sligo with the Hoops Supporters Club to check out live football as it should be – live.

I’ve only watched Shamrock Rovers play live on the TV once and it made me cry. Okay, that live game in question was me watching Shamrock Rovers’ away victory in Europe against Israeli side Bnei Yehuda. Watching the match live in the Maldron Hotel filled with fellow Hoopers that result meant a lot as the result saw Rovers go through to face Juventus in the next round.

Shamrock Rovers are live on TV several times a season but as I attend virtually of the games I don’t take the opportunity to watch my team that way. The same can’t be said of the several hundred thousand barstoolers who support “their” British teams from the comfort of their barstool in their local pub.

Judging by the half full Hoops SC bus, it seems many Rovers fans will be barstooling this game. Part timers! Family and work commitments no doubt hindered the numbers attending but a cup semi final is a cup semi final. It meant for me an early start in work (and that will be the case again tomorrow) to allow me to get out of work early for the bus at Tara Street.

I can catch up with the newspaper and read back over Rory Mc’s capitulation which I watched myself live on TV last night. Via twitter I learn from Rovers player Paddy Kavanagh (@PaddyKavanagh15) that on the players bus they are watching a bit of ‘only fools and horses’ and then ‘Tropic Thunder’. Then he tweets: “The bus nearly clattered a horse runnin round on the road!!! Jink and swerve from the driver was top drawer and on we went!! :)”

Our trip is uneventful and without any DVDs as we roll into Sligo on a sunny but cool evening with Benbulbin lit up by the April sun. Sligo have added a fancy new scoreboard to The Showgrounds. During the game it works intermitantly, the clock stops, then starts and they even flash up a wrong score before it gives up the ghost on 66 minutes.

There is a Tasty €50,000 for the winner of this cross border competition so both Rovers’ line out fairly full strength. The Hoops manager Michael O’Neill makes three changes from last Friday’s disappointing result and performance against Bray. With star striker Gary Twigg injured, Rovers bring former Seria B player Conor McCormack into the starting 11 along with Dean Kelly & Gary O’Neill in a 4-3-3 line up.

Sligo have a reputation for playing attractive football which is well deserved when you have players like former Hoops and Cameroon international Joseph Ndo in your team. However when Shamrock Rovers want to they can play and boy do the play tonight. In easily their best performance of the season, they not only get it on the deck, they match the passing with a high tempo pressing game that unsettles Sligo.

It is Ronan Finn’s beautiful strike from 25 yards that separates the sides at half time. The Shamrock Rovers player nets his first goal for the Hoops which was something he had told me in Friday’s match programme he was looking to get. The system being played tonight with three in the middle probably helps him.

“I’m looking forward to scoring my first goal now,” said Finn last week. “Last year I had more of a free role and I could get forward a lot more. There were a lot less restrictions on my defensive duties but now I am playing in a midfield of two so you really have to time your runs. Last year I was gambling every time but this year it means taking it in turns with the other midfielder. A lot of teams we are playing against have three in the middle so you are getting tracked a lot more by two runners. I will be patient and when it comes I will be delighted.” Well he looked delighted as his shot screamed into the top left hand corner of the goal.

I could have stayed at home and I would have cheered that goal but I wouldn’t have jumped around my living room with such delight as I did seeing the goal in the flesh. There is nothing like celebrating with my fellow Rovers fans and the Rovers players down in front of us when such a goal goes in.

Of course I’d probably be a lot warmer at home than I am at half time in Sligo. Unlike the balmy weather we enjoyed at the Leinster game in Lansdowne Road on Saturday evening, April has reminded us to pay attention to the forecast. Chanting and clapping ‘Michael O’Neill’s Green and White Army’ certainly helps to keep warm. But when Shamrock Rovers double their advantage there is plenty of warming exercises jumping around amongst the freshly painted red and White seats in the away end. In my excitement I think Gary O’Neill has got his head in the end of the cross but I’m wrong. It is Karl Sheppard who has ended a fine passing move by the Hoops.

A couple of more chances materialise but go abegging over the rest of the game with Finn and O’Neill going close. Sligo are reduced to 10 men when referee Alan Kelly produces a slightly harsh red card when Pat Sullivan goes down under a heavy Sligo tackle. Ciaran Kilduff, Billy Dennehy and Paddy Kavanagh all get a run out. However the Hoops cannot add to their advantage which would effectively have finished the tie ahead of next weeks second leg.

At the final whistle the players and fans have a mutual clap off. We hear Hoop Ken Oman has picked up the Setanta Sports Man of the match award and is serenaded with the terrace chant of “He’s green, he’s White, He looks like Jesus Christ, Ken Oman, Ken Oman.”

The bus fills up with Hoopers as we dissect the game and agree with each other on how well the team has played tonight. We head back to Dublin and look forward to the small matter of the The Dublin Derby to come on Friday. “Bring on the Boh-es, Bring on the Boh-es!”


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