Home > Random Rovers thoughts > O’Neill confident of counter-attack tactics (Irish Times)

O’Neill confident of counter-attack tactics (Irish Times)

My Champions League match preview published in the Irish Times (Tuesday July 19)


SOCCER : SHAMROCK ROVERS go into today’s second round qualifying match away to FC Flora Tallinn holding a 1-0 lead. Karl Sheppard, due to injury, is the only player unavailable. Rovers manager Michael O’Neill will field a similar team to the home tie probably using the same 4-3-3 shape.

“There will not be huge differences, personnel wise,” said O’Neill, speaking in Tallinn. “The system we played at home last week suited us. We saw (Chris) Turner and (Ronan) Finn, in particular, affect the game from an attacking point of view. Flora will be a different proposition at home. They have to come out and try and win the game. We have the players to hurt them on the counter-attack.”

Certain to return to the starting line-up from Friday’s laboured 1-0 win in Drogheda will be goalkeeper Alan Mannus. O’Neill confirmed following the game Mannus will leave Rovers for SPL side St Johnstone. “It will be Alan’s last game,” said O’Neill. “He has been an excellent ’keeper and has certainly been very valuable to us. His level of professionalism is outstanding. It is not a financial decision. He is prepared to go there for less money. It is his last chance to break into a full-time set-up and into the SPL, a league with a higher profile than our own.”

Tallinn’s manager Martin Reim will hope his side, which drew 1-1 in the league last Saturday, will test Mannus more than they did in the first leg when they mostly hit Rovers on the break. This was something commented on by Rovers full back Pat Sullivan.

“I thought they were decent,” said Sullivan. “They countered fairly quickly. It showed with their penalty. They went from the halfway line to getting a penalty in about five seconds so they have the potential to cause some damage.”

Yesterday evening Rovers trained at the venue for today’s game, the A Le Coq Arena. This was also the venue for the Republic of Ireland’s 2-0 win over Estonia, which included a goal from Tallaght native Richard Dunne, on the way to qualification for the 2002 World Cup.

Awaiting the winners in the next round is FC Copenhagen who reached the last 16 of the Champions League last season. There are considerable financial rewards for winning this tie. The players are aware of this as Rovers midfielder Stephen Rice outlined. “We all know about the possibility of the draw,” said Rice, “but that won’t mean anything unless we go out and win. I think Irish clubs are now going into Europe looking to progress which is a positive thing.”

O’Neill said: “The financial elements are huge and it would allow us to do some things we hadn’t budgeted for. It is double what you get for winning the league so it is hugely important for the club. If you can get through this round, whilst the next tie would be a difficult tie, there is the luxury of parachuting into the Europa League final qualifying round.”

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