Home > Random Rovers thoughts > Hoops hoping to make it hot for Spurs (Irish Examiner)

Hoops hoping to make it hot for Spurs (Irish Examiner)

Published in Irish Examiner (12th December 2011)

Shamrock Rovers fan and 400 Club member Macdara Ferris assesses his side’s hopes this week.

Shamrock Rovers bring the curtain down on their extended 2011 season on Thursday when they welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Tallaght Stadium for their final Europa League Group game. Spurs have a slim chance of progressing to the knock out stages of the Europa League where they would have the possibility of facing Manchester City or United following the Manchester clubs surprise elimination from the Champions League. Tottenham require a win in Tallaght, a defeat for Rubin Kazan and a six-goal turn around in goal difference for the Londoners to progress. Meanwhile, Rovers are still harbouring ambitions of picking up their first point of the group stages but it will be tough against a Spurs side currently riding high in Premier League.

Spurs will join the list of big name clubs, all former Champions League teams, that have played in Tallaght over the past 18 months including Juventus, FC Copenhagen, Partizan Belgrade and Rubin Kazan. Rovers worked long and hard to ensure their Europa League matches would be played in their home stadium of Tallaght. This has meant the League of Ireland Champions have been able to showcase to the Irish and European sporting public their stadium, their impressive squad and the structures put in place off the field by the board elected by the club’s 450 or so members. Additional seats have been erected with Thursday’s match having been a 8,500 capacity sell out for weeks. Rovers will be hoping that the publicity they have gained in Europe, culminating in this week’s high profile game, will entice new fans to come through the Tallaght turnstiles for league games next season boosting the current average attendance of over 4,000.

Come Friday morning, a significant number of the Rovers squad, as well as their manager, will be out of contract. The performances in Europe have put manager Michael O’Neill, and indeed some of his players, on the radar of clubs outside of Ireland with O’Neill also being mentioned as a possibility for the Northern Ireland manager’s job. Rovers were propelled into the Europa League group stages by Pat Sullivan’s spectacular strike away to Partizan Belgrade back in July [correction – August]. The 29-year-old defender is one of the players unsure as to where he will be playing next season and as to who will be managing the Hoops in 2012. “As players, we are in the dark as much as anyone if he is staying or going,” said Sullivan about O’Neill’s future at Rovers.

Sullivan was part of the Rovers side that led 1-0 after the hour mark against Spurs in White Hart Lane. The goal by Stephen Rice, deflecting home Sullivan’s shot, was scored in front of the 4,000 plus travelling Shamrock Rovers supporters sparking huge celebrations and that goal has probably been the high point of Rovers’ Group A campaign to date. On Thursday, the Hoops will hope that they can put in another disciplined performance to prove that League of Ireland sides can compete at this level in Europe. It remains to be seen how experienced a side Harry Redknapp will bring to Dublin this week. In the earlier group game in London, three quick goals over a 10-minute period after the hour mark from internationals Roman Pavlyuchenko, Jermain Defoe and Giovani Dos Santos proved the difference between the teams. Sullivan hopes Spurs will deploy a decent team against the Hoops. “Hopefully they do bring as good a team as they can when they come over,” states Sullivan. “You want to play against as good a player as you can; to pit your wits against players that are playing at the Premier League level as that is the only way you get to learn.”


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