Home > Random Rovers thoughts, Travel > Closer each day, not home we’re away

Closer each day, not home we’re away

This week the focus switched for Shamrock Rovers from home to away. The week began on Monday morning with the Hoops in the draw for the Champions League followed in the evening by a home game against Dundalk; the last of three consecutive home games for the Hoops.

On Monday at 11:00 (12:00 CET), like many Rovers fans, I logged on to http://www.UEFA.com to watch the draw for the Champions League qualifiers. The day before, as expected, the draw was regionalised and the Hoops knew who they could face in the draw. Rovers were one of the seeded teams entering the competition in the second qualifying round. The prime draw was probably a trip to Bangor in Wales but the Hoops could also have faced a trip north to play Linfield or further north to Iceland. As it turned out Rovers came out of the bowl in Nyon Switzerland against FC Flora from Estonia. A tough enough footballing draw but a lovely destination for tourists or so I’m told.
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On Monday evening, Rovers had to come back from 2-0 down with two late goals. The late comeback, rounded off with an injury time equaliser from Billy Dennehy, kept Rovers top on Monday night but they wouldn’t end the week in that position.

With Monday’s Dundalk game out of the way, many Shamrock Rovers fans left their online debates about Rovers form and formation to focus on how they were going to travel to Rovers’ away game in Estonia against FC Flora.

It took a few days for the exact date of both the home and away fixtures from the clubs involved and UEFA. Quick on the keyboard some fans snapped up quickly the direct Dublin to Tallinn flights with Ryanair. However Hoops fans were picking various routes to Tallinn. Edinburgh, London and Oslo are all staging posts for many fans with flights coming in around to €200 mark.

There has been some talk of the club running a charter flight from ‘Tallaght to Tallinn’ as this trip will inevitably be known as. However by today (Friday) with still no word on a charter I was another one to get the flights booked. They were booked as I was sitting in the Hoops SC bus en route to Sligo. Turning up 3 minutes late not a good idea but I just about made it onto the bus. Some one who couldn’t make the trip made the online flight bookings and we will be heading to Tallinn via Luton a couple of days ahead of the game.

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Looking online on the journey to Sligo I could see that the upcoming European fixtures were causing changes to upcoming games. With St Pats playing in the Europa League the upcoming game against Rovers in Tallaght would now be played on a new date. Outside Sligo’s ground they had posters advertising their upcoming Europa League campaign.
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Whether the thoughts of the upcoming July trip to Tallinn distracted the Shamrock Rovers team, it was certainly a below par performance in The Showgrounds. The Hoops had won four in a row this season against Sligo. This included a dismantling of them in the last games against them en route to winnning the Setanta Cup. Manager Michael O’Neill made a number of changes from the last starting lineup with Murray and Twigg omitted from the starting team. The early loss to injury of Turner certainly didn’t help the Hoops playing in front of the live RTE TV cameras. The conditions didn’t help either team with Sligo town under heavy cloud giving wind and rain for the players to deal with.

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Sligo certainly made the best of those conditions harassing and pressing the Away team at every opportunity. It was a set price that provided the opening goal. The ball was whipped in and Peers rose highest to score.

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In the second half Shamrock Rovers tried to raise their game. Former Hoop Joey Ndo won the overall man of the match. For the Hoops, man of the match was certainly Gary McCabe. The winger was very impressive against the club he played with last year (whom he scored the winning goal for in the penalty shooting against The Hoops in the FAI Cup final in Lansdowne). His free kick was pushed wide by the Sligo goalkeeper in probably the best chance for the away team. Another young player in Conor McCormack put in another fine performance. Switches from Manager O’Neill saw Gary Twigg and Ciarán Kilduff enter the fray. Sligo were creating chances hitting the bar and forcing a number of corners.

As The Hoops pushed on for an equaliser they were caught by the home team through Eoghan Doyle. Sligo celebrated with great gusto like they had won the World Cup to be honest but they do enjoy getting one over on the Shams are they like to call us. The away fans sung back that “there’s only one Fu_kin’ Rovers” but Sligo were singing loudest at the end.

The away fans were certainly not happy fans at the end of the game. With results elsewhere going against Rovers, St Pats leapfrogged the Hoops to go top. But supporting a football team is not easy. You have to take the tough times, and Rovers have more than their fair share of them, as well as the good times. It was only Rovers’ third defeat of the season. It is how the management, playing staff as well the fans respond to this defeat that is vital in shaping the outcome of this exciting 2011 season .

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