Living Hoops History

Article from Hoops Scene 2014 Issue 9 (Shamrock Rovers Matchday Programme) May 2014

It is five years since Shamrock Rovers first moved to Tallaght and everyone at the club fondly remembers that opening game in the new stadium in March 2009. However, it is a match that took place a few month’s after that inaugural game, played against tonight’s opposition, that many at the club, including goalkeeper Barry Murphy, recall as the first night the club felt like Tallaght was home.

“It was a mad night!” was how Murphy recently recalled Rovers’ 2-1 win against Bohemians in the derby that took place five years ago last Friday night. Murphy watched from the edge of his penalty area as Gary Twigg scored two late goals in the game to turn a 1-0 defeat into a legendary 2-1 derby win. It was a victory that many felt based on the balance of play was not a deserved win; maybe that is why it was made even more memorable from a Rovers perspective!

“I think when Twigg scored that second goal I jumped into the stands to celebrate! It was a game that introduced the stadium to the league and introduced the new Rovers. We were back to winning ways and up there challenging for things. It gave us a platform to build on.

“I couldn’t believe it was five years ago when I saw it on Rovers’ Facebook page last week! It was an unbelievable feeling to win a game that way. Hopefully we won’t have to leave it that late this Friday and we can do the job earlier against Bohs!”

It was a friendlier affair for Rovers recently when Murphy’s team took on Liverpool in front of over 42,000 fans in the Aviva Stadium. The fact that most of the fans who had come to Lansdowne Road were decked out in red was no surprise to anyone but it still was a strange occasion.

It wasn’t the first time that Murphy had been part of such a fixture as he had played 45 minutes with an Airtricity League selection against Celtic in 2011 in a 5-0 defeat at the Aviva he described as a “shambles”. In addition to the obvious financial gain for the club, Murphy has the view that despite certain misgivings there is still much to be gained from friendly fixtures.

“For myself, it was a weird one. Players were getting requests from family and friends who were Liverpool fans looking for tickets rather than coming to watch Rovers and that is an odd thing but that is just the way it is. Their league is marketed so well. The only real thing you get from these games as a player is to put yourself up there and compare yourself to those type of players.”

In the first season in Tallaght the Hoops got to play an even bigger friendly than this month’s one in the Aviva when they took on Real Madrid. Murphy started that night against the club who are seeking their tenth European Cup tomorrow night in the Champions League final in Lisbon.

Real’s team in Tallaght in 2009 contained Cristiano Ronaldo in their starting line up for the very first time in a team chosen by then manager Manuel Pellegrini. The Spanish side needed a late goal from Karim Benzema to win the game 1-0 but it was a match and an occasion that helped Rovers in their competitive games to come in the following seasons according to Murphy.

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“The lads who went on that European run in 2011 had played big teams before (like Real Madrid and Juventus). We want to get those types of teams back to play them competitively again. We want to push on and play those type of teams consistently and do well against them consistently. Those games and playing in those stadiums can help. We want to bring back a side like Liverpool to Dublin in the future when there will be a competitive edge. Getting to Europe is probably the least we are looking at this season. We want to win things.”

Hoops boss Trevor Croly ahead of the Liverpool friendly spoke about his aim of bringing his team back to the Aviva later on in the season to play in the FAI Ford Cup final at the venue. It is a sentiment echoed by Murphy. “I was there a few years ago with Pat’s but I didn’t get to play in that final due to injury. It is the biggest day out in the season, bar winning a league medal. We want to be back there playing in a competitive environment and feel the real intensity of the cup final.

“It was unbelievable walking out in the Aviva the other week in front of that noise and that level of large crowd which we just aren’t used to. It was nice to play in, as it was a bonus game for us and there was no real pressure. We enjoyed it for what it was which was a one off night. We got back into training and focused very quickly for the game against Athlone last Saturday.”

In that Athlone match, Murphy kept another clean sheet, his third at home in the league this season, where Rovers have the best home defensive record in the top division. The ‘keeper didn’t have much to do in that last league game as at times the Hoops struggled to break down the resolute defense of the Midlanders. It required something a bit special from Rovers to break the deadlock and that is what Eamon Zayed’s second half strike was.

“We did well on Saturday (against Athlone) after the week that we had. There was a lot of hype around the Liverpool game. It took its toll maybe but we played well at certain times. We did miss a few chances. It took Eamon’s class to unlock them and that got us the three points.

“They sat in their own half and let us play, like a lot of teams have done this year. We saw from the opening game of the season (against Derry City) what certain teams were at. Roddy played a centre half in midfield. On that night we couldn’t unlock them but on other nights since then we’ve done well to do so.

“I think it was 25 minutes into the game the other night before I touched the ball and that was a free kick! You are trying to stay involved especially the way we play where we are looking to play it out from the back. In the last couple of weeks with the teams we’ve been playing against, I haven’t been involved as much. It is about staying in line with the ball and moving yourself across the goal to try and stay involved for the small incidents that do happen during the game.

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“You have to be ready for balls over the top, to be positioned right to be ready to come off your line to deal with situations that have to be dealt with at the back. We are working on other aspects of our game to get the goals and that will be a feature of future games in Tallaght when teams come here to keep it tight. Come Friday I think Bohs will probably look to come and play a bit more and I will maybe have more to do.”

The Hoops come into tonight’s derby game unbeaten at home in the league having conceded just three league goals at home all season and are facing a side who have only won once against Rovers in Tallaght in the five seasons since the venue opened.

Earlier this month he broke the 200 appearance mark for Rovers, a club where he first lined out for nine years ago before having spells with both Bohs and St. Patrick’s Athletic.

“You see from last year you just need to be in the mix at this stage to have a good chance at the end of the season. We are looking to build a platform to give ourselves a chance in the final series of games. That is what we’ve done so far and hopefully that will continue. Last year we dropped points against the ‘so-called’ lesser teams and didn’t give ourselves a chance when it came around to the bigger games. Now when they do come around we will be up there.

“Winning the league is something I’ve been striving to do for years. The manager talks about players only having a certain number of chances of winning it during your career. I want to have a winner’s medal on my mantelpiece. I have a few of the other medals but I’m looking to win that big one at the end of this season.”

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