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Hoops mark Milltown 25th anniversary

http://extratime.ie/newsdesk/articles/7856/hoops-mark-milltown-25th-anniversary/

Article for extratime.ie

This week marked the 25th anniversary of Shamrock Rovers’ last game in Milltown. On Friday to commemorate that last game, Shamrock Rovers and their club’s Heritage Trust organised a walk from the monument outside Milltown to Rovers’ new home in Tallaght.

The walk began with a small ceremony in Milltown that was addressed by former Rovers player Mick Byrne, scorer of the last Rovers goal in Milltown, in front of a crowd of around 200 club supporters. The fans then set out on the 10km walk to Tallaght Stadium ahead of that evening’s game against Dundalk.

Extratime.ie spoke with Mick Byrne and asked him about his memories of Milltown.
“I used to walk through the gates here on Sunday and know we were going to win the match,” recalled Byrne who was an integral part of the Rovers team that won four-in-a-row league titles in Milltown in the 1980’s. “My fondest memory is just coming here and scoring goals here.”

The journey on Friday night took two hours to complete as the fans walked from Milltown through Dartry, Rathgar, Terenure, Templogue before arriving in Tallaght Stadium. The highly controversial decision by the Kilcoyne family to sell Glenmalure Park in 1987 meant it was a 22-year journey for the football club to get from Milltown to Tallaght.

Addressing the crowd on Friday evening was James Cooke who was involved in the Keep Rovers at Milltown (KRAM) campaign and is now a member of the Rovers Heritage Trust. “When those gates closed 25 years ago, this football club was effectively thrown on the scrap heap of Irish football,” said Cooke. “To have survived 22 years not knowing from season to season where we were going to play was a miracle. This football club is stronger now than at any other period in our history.”

At different stages after leaving Milltown, Rovers played games in Tolka Park, Dalymount Park, RDS, Morton Stadium, Richmond Park and even played one home game 200km from Milltown in Turners Cross in Cork. Rovers eventually played their first game in Tallaght three years ago.

When the club organised a ceremony at Milltown for the 20th anniversary back in 2007, at the time it remained to be seen would Rovers even get to Tallaght as the GAA had taken out a High Court Judicial Review over access to the stadium. This 25th anniversary has seen some ghosts laid to rest as in the five years since that last ceremony, the club is now firmly embedded in Tallaght Stadium, playing in front of crowds in excess of 3,000 and are back-to-back League of Ireland champions.

In the month that Louis Kilcoyne died, the club are in as strong a position as they have been since Kilcoyne sold Glenmalure Park for housing. So can the club close the chapter on the controversy of the sale of Milltown? “I think we should do now,” said Mick Byrne. “It is unfortunate that it happened at the time. But I think the club is in a much better place now and we have to get over it.”

When the fans arrived in Tallaght after the walk, the club laid on some drinks in the ‘Glenmalure Suite’ function room in the stadium as reward for making the 10km trek to Tallaght. On the pitch Rovers rewarded the fans with an impressive 6-0 victory over Dundalk.

SD Galway 0-2 Shamrock Rovers

Match report for extratime.ie (April 9, 2012)

http://extratime.ie/fixtures/detail/18328/2/

After Good Friday’s filleting by five goals to one, Shamrock Rovers arose and appeared to put that defeat to Pats behind them as the beat SD Galway in the EA Sports Cup. Two first half penalties from Gary McCabe were the difference between the sides in a game that the Dubliners dominated from start to finish.

The Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Kenny gave a debut to goalkeeper Reyaad Pieterse and his first touch after three minutes coming to claim a ball looked to be outside the area. However the match officials gave the big South African ‘keeper the benefit of the doubt.

The game was just seven minutes old when Shamrock Rovers won a penalty. Conor McCormack and Stephen Rice linked up well on the right with Rice feeding in Gary McCabe. The right-winger was taken down by Timmy Molloy and McCabe took the penalty himself to make it 1-0 to the visitors.

Rovers dominated possession in the first half and Devon found it very hard to penetrate the Rovers defence. Ronan Burke in the Devon goal could only parry a free kick from Killian Brennan but he did very well to save the follow up from Gary O’Neill from point blank range. The 100 or so Shamrock Rovers fans thought their side were about to go two up but Daryl Kavanagh’s shot from outside the area flashed inches by the right hand post.

It was a hectic last five minutes of the first half as the home side created their only two real chances of the period. Nicky Curran punted a free from his own half and Pieterse came to punch at the edge of the Rovers box. In the swirling wind he did not get a good connection but was fouled as the ball dropped in the box. Devon followed that chance up with Enda Curran getting an opportunity to strike a shot in the box but the ex-Devon man Colin Hawkins blocked his shot down.

Just on half time, Shamrock Rovers doubled their lead with another penalty. Rovers got the opportunity after good work by Gary McCabe and Conor McCormack. They played a one-two that saw McCormack get away down the wing. He put a weak cross in that defender Paddy Quinlan dwelt too long on and Daryl Kavanagh just nipped in front to take the ball. Quinlan took him down as he tried to clear. McCabe took this penalty to make it 2-0 choosing to slot the ball away in the opposite left hand corner from his earlier goal.

In the second half Daryl Kavanagh went closest to extending Rovers’ lead. He had a goal ruled out for offside after 49 minutes, forced Devon ‘keeper Burke into a good save on 74 minutes and he also hit the bar after a Gary O’Neill step over allowed him in on goal five minutes later.

The Hoops deserved a third for the fine passing move they put together on 75 minutes. Reyaad Pieterse, who had to be quick out of his box to head clear a through ball minutes earlier, threw the ball out quickly to his full back Conor Powell. Powell linked up with Gary O’Neill who fed Killian Brennan. Brennan then played in Powell who had gone on a fine run and his shot was pushed onto the post by Ronan Burke.

Devon played out the final nine minutes with ten men as Willie Enubele picked up a second yellow card, this time for dissent, but Rovers couldn’t exploit the additional space in those final minutes. Devon still await their first win of the season while Rovers move onto the quarter final of the EA Sports Cup.

SD Galway: Ronan Burke; Nicky Curran, Paddy Quinlan, Brian Geraghty, Tommy Bradshaw; Colm Horgan, Willie Enubele, Luke McConnell (Michael Harty 77), Timmy Molloy (Eugene Greaney 73), Brian Gaffney; Enda Curran (Michael Tierney 67).
Subs Not Used: James Keane, Ronan Conlon, Gerry Dolan, Charlie Burke.
Bookings: E Curran (22), Geraghty (24), Enubele (59), Greaney (87).
Sent Off: Enubele (81).

Shamrock Rovers: Reyaad Pieterse; Conor McCormack, Colin Hawkins, Graham Gartland, Conor Powell; Gary McCabe (Lorcan Shannon 91), Killian Brennan, Stephen Rice, Aaron Greene; Gary O’Neill (Dean Ebbe 91), Daryl Kavanagh.
Subs not used: Oscar Jansson, Sean Gannon, Craig Sives, Chris Turner, Billy Dennehy.
Bookings: K Brennan (55).

Referee: Phil Caschera.
Attendance: 250 (estimate)
ExtraTime Man of the Match: Gary McCabe.

League of Ireland opening weekend – the view from Italy

By the time February and March comes around for League of Ireland fans, we are rested and ready for the action of the new season, welcoming the return of football with relish. There is that sense of expectation, excitement and promise about the new season.

So on the first weekend of the season I was looking forward to watching Shamrock Rovers in their season opener against Drogheda. But instead of being in Hunky Dorys Park, I was in Milan following the game on Twitter and through extratime.ie match updates. Maybe I’m not getting much sympathy here though!

The previous Monday my boss had dropped by my desk and asked a leading question or two. “Do you like Italian food?” Yes, I replied, wondering where this was going. “Do you like Italian food in Italy?” I had a good idea where this was leading to and it wasn’t up the M1 to Drogheda on Friday but a trip to the airport and beyond.

So the end of week was spent working out of our company’s Milan office and having to follow the Drogheda v Rovers game online when my day’s work was done. I had naturally looked up the football fixture list to see if there was some live football I could see in Milan. However, with Milan away and Inter home but late on Sunday night, I took a trip to Turin on Saturday.

In the afternoon I took the number 15 tram towards Superga, the hill that rises above Turin to the north east. On a clear day you can see right across Turin but not today. Whilst it is unseasonably warm for early March at 18 degrees, there is also a haze that prevents me from seeing even the cathedral in the city centre that hosts the famous Shroud of Turin.

It isn’t just the view I’ve come up to try and see or the Basilica of Superga completed in 1731 but it is to pay homage to the death of il Grande Torino team. In 1949, this team was lost to the mountain when the plane carrying the team crashed into Superga when it was shrouded in low cloud. All 31 people on board were killed. Torino were reining Italian champions, having won four league titles in a row. Incredibly 10 Torino players started for the Italian national team in a game against Hungary the previous season.

Behind the Basilica, there is a simple monument to the team with the names of the Campioni d’Italia listed. Beside it is a photo of the team in their famous maroon jerseys and fans have placed on the monument a few mementoes. Sadly Torino as a club never seemed to recover from the loss of this famous team and since this tragedy have one only one further Serie A title.

It is hard not to think of similar sporting air crash tragedies like the infamous 1958 Munich air disaster or the loss in 1993 of the Zambian football team (the team talked about much recently following Zambia’s capture of the 2012 African Cup of Nations). It is so hard to fathom the loss of a complete team from incidents such as these.

That evening I head out to see Juventus, a team that at times has dominated Italian football as Torino did in the 1940s. They are playing in their new stadium completed last season on the site of their old 67,000 capacity stadium. First impressions are that it is small but that is no real surprise as it is only a 41,000 capacity arena and it is not quite full on the night. The aim of the new arena for Juve was to get a compact stadium unlike the unloved old Delli Alpi stadium. Gone is the running track and stands stepped back from the pitch. Instead there is a tight stadium with tiers close to the pitch rising steeply up from close to the sidelines.

Purchased online, €30 has got me a ticket in the second tier in the Curva Nord. The roof above has four elegant curved toblerone steel roof trusses around the perimeter. Four column ties mean that it is not quite an uninstructed view for some in the ground but there are great sight lines from where I am in the top tier. Pictures of Juventus legends adorn the stadium exterior and interior including one of current Ireland manager and former Juve coach Giovanni Trapattoni.

Juventus, who are unbeaten in the league this season, are looking get a win to keep pace with Milan who won 4-0 earlier in the day. The small pocket of Chievo fans down below me to my right make themselves heard. They give it the “Juve Juve vafanculo” chant that seemed to offend the Juve fans when the Shamrock Rovers fans sung it at them when the clubs played in Europe in 2010!

The home side open the scoring after 17 minutes. Andrea Pirlo floats a free-in evading everyone but the post. The luck is with the bianconeri though as the ball bounces out to the unmarked Paulo De Ceglie who heads home unmarked. Chievo don’t really trouble Gianluigi Buffon’s goal in the second half. They force a couple of set pieces but it looks like they can’t break down the Juve defence marshalled by Giorgio Chiellini. Or so it seems until the team from Verona score on the break with fifteen minutes remaining. The ball comes to Boukary Drame outside the box and the Senegalese player’s shot is deflected into the net off a Juve defender for the equaliser.

To find the winner, manager Antonio Conte brings on Alessandro Del Piero, a player it seems who isn’t far off the age of that famous shroud housed in the Duomo. Juventus press forward during the five minutes of injury time and Pirlo gets a right foot shot away from 25 yards. The Chievo ‘keeper Sorrentino, who has got plenty of verbal abuse all night, dives full length to palm away Pirlo’s powerful shot. It is another draw for Juve, their 12th in 25 league games.

The home crowd voice their disapproval with a chorus of boos at the end. The Chievo players run to their supporters at the north-east end of the ground to celebrate. Jerseys are thrown into the away crowd as the crowd empties in the home end. I don’t understand Italian but I can comprehend the tone of the conversations on the tram back into Turin city centre. Two points dropped was the message I picked up anyway. Time to head home for me; some domestic football awaits back in Ireland!

Glass looks to continue winning start

http://extratime.ie/newsdesk/articles/7595/

Stephen Glass, Shamrock Rovers’ assistant manager, may be new to the Airtricity League but is he fully aware that, whatever the competition, Shamrock Rovers versus Bohemians is a significant fixture.

“I’m definitely aware of that!” said Glass when extratime.ie caught up with him after Friday’s 3-1 win over Monaghan and ahead of Monday’s home Leinster Senior Cup game against Bohs.

“I’m well aware of how many derbies there are and that Bohemians is a big one,” said Glass who played under Stephen Kenny at Dunfermline. “I’m really looking forward to it. Maybe the numbers won’t be as big as tonight in terms of crowd. We got a great backing tonight and I’m sure those that come along on Monday night will do the same and they will be wanting to see a win.”

Winning the Leinster Senior Cup would not be high on the priorities of either club but the thoughts of getting one over on their Dublin rivals will mean that Monday’s game will be a well contested tie. Bohemians knocked Rovers out of this competition last season and they have a rich history in this cup. The Gypsies won the trophy for the first time back in 1895 and have won it a record 31 times.

Shamrock Rovers have the record for league of Ireland titles and Glass will want his club to make it title number 18 this season. Rovers have gained two wins out of two in the league so far but have conceded the first goal in each game.

“We’ve scored a lot of good goals and have come from behind twice,” said Glass, “but obviously if you can prevent going behind you have a greater chance of winning the game. You can’t keep going behind and win games. It does show there is a really great spirit in the group. We have the strength of character to come from behind.”

Last Friday, Monaghan United came to Tallaght with a specific plan to try and contain Rovers’ attacking options.

“It was pretty apparent that they tried to stop our full backs getting forward especially Kerrea Gilbert,” said the Scotsman. “I think if we were cleverer in the first half and more accurate with our passing we could have used it to our advantage. We were better in the second half, moved it better and went ahead. I think we showed enough to win the game.”

It took a moment of brilliance from Killian Brennan for Rovers to score as his audacious back flick volley found the net. “Killian’s goal was a good one,” said Glass. “It was an opportunists goal more than anything else. He has got those flicks in his locker, he’s got good ability and he is always likely to pull something unorthodox out.”

Shamrock Rovers 3 – 1 Monaghan United (match report)

http://extratime.ie/newsdesk/articles/7576/

Shamrock Rovers were made to work hard for their victory in Tallaght on Friday night, trailing at half time to Willo McDonagh’s early goal for Monaghan United. However, three second half goals from Killian Brennan, Billy Dennehy and Aaron Green were the difference on the night for the league champions.

Monaghan manager Roddy Collins, on his return to face his former side, won’t have been too happy with his team’s second half performance where they were not helped by the
fact that they played the last twenty minutes with ten men.

The champions flag had barely been raised at Tallaght Stadium, with it being the first home league game of the season, before the Hoops were 1-0 down in the game. After just three minutes Monaghan United won a free kick which was floated in by Darragh Reynor. Willo McDonagh, the former Shamrock Rovers player, got on the end of it and his flicked
backwards header found the top left corner of the net for the opening goal.

Monaghan didn’t just sit back on their lead and threatened the Rovers goal sporadically during the first half. Owen Humphreys played most of the half pushed right onto the Rovers right back Kerrea Gilbert, which created a hole in the middle for Monaghan’s midfield runners to try and exploit. This tactic went someway to preventing Gilbert going on the offensive. Gilbert was able to link up with Killian Brennan occasionally down the right wing but there wasn’t enough end product for strikers Gary O’Neill and Gary Twigg to capitalise on.

As early as the 18th minute, there was a Monaghan booking due to a spot of time wasting. Mons ‘keeper Chris Bennion stepped away from a free kick well outside his area to allow Darragh Reynor to take it but referee George Kelly ran out of patience and produced the yellow card for Reynor when maybe it was Bennion that should have been booked. It was a decision would have an influence on proceedings later in the game.

Monaghan forced the Rovers defence into conceding a number of first half corners with Craig Sives and Conor Powell having to clear their lines. However, poor deliveries meant United couldn’t add to their first half lead.

On the half hour mark Rovers had two great chances to get the equaliser. Killian Brennan’s shot seemed destined for the top left hand corner of the goal but the midfielder’s effort was pushed around the post by the head of Alan Byrne. The Monaghan captain then almost turned villain straight afterwards as his slip presented the ball at Gary Twigg’s lethal feet. However, Twigg’s curling left foot shot flew just by the left hand post for a goal kick.

Monaghan’s Tony Griffiths had the first chance of the second half but his tame shot on 47 minutes was gathered by Oscar Jannson in the Rovers goal before Stephen Kenny’s men came very close to scoring a minute later. Billy Dennehy won a corner off Stephen Maher and, as Killian Brennan swung it in, Craig Sives downwards header was cleared off the line by Maher.

It was from the next corner on 55 minutes though that Rovers got the equaliser. Billy Dennehy swung the ball in towards Brennan who was running away from goal. To the delight of the home fans his back heeled volley found the back of the net.

On 64 minutes Rovers were in front. After a nice passing move, Stephen Rice fed Dennehy the ball 25 yards from goal. The Kerryman took a touch and then let fly with a stunning strike to find the top left hand corner of the goal. Now behind in the game, Monaghan soon found themselves reduced to ten men. Reynor went in with a heavy challenge on Stephen Rice and received his second card from referee Graham Kelly and was off.

Ronan Finn really should have scored for the home side after 75 minutes when Twigg played him in on goal. However, Bennion was able to save Finn’s low shot with his feet. Rovers then began to exploit the space available to them due to the sending off. Another fine passing move came to Billy Dennehy on the wing and his cross was met by Brennan, but the cross bar prevented Rovers getting a third at that time.

Twigg next went close following a build up involving Turner and O’Neill but the Scotsman couldn’t keep his shot down. Aaron Green, a late second half substitute, wrapped it up
for the Hoops in injury time, getting on the end of Gary McCabe’s through ball to make it 3-1 with virtually the last kick of game.

Shamrock Rovers: Oscar Jansson; Kerrea Gilbert (Chris Turner, 68), Ken Oman (c), Craig Sives, Conor Powell; Billy Dennehy, Stephen Rice, Ronan Finn, Killian Brennan (Gary McCabe, 87); Gary Twigg, Gary O’Neill (Aaron Greene, 85).
Subs not used: Lee Steacy (GK), Graham Gartland, Stephen O’Donnell, Daryl Kavanagh.
Bookings: Powell (52), Dennehy (66).

Monaghan United: Chris Bennion; Stephen Maher, Conor McMahon, Alan Byrne (c), Darragh Reynor; Michael Isichei (Conor Murphy, 60), Willo McDonagh, Keith Quinn, Jordan Keegan; Tony Griffiths (Jason Marks, 65), Owen Humphrey (Daniel McGuinness, 46).
Subs not used: Michael Schlingermann (GK), Roddy Collins, Bobby Ryan, Shane Dunne.
Bookings: Reynor (19), Willo McDonagh (40), Keith Quinn (65).
Sendings Off: Reynor (71)

Referee: Graham Kelly
Attendance: 3,100
Extratime.ie man of the match: Killian Brennan

Shamrock Rovers -v- Monaghan United preview

http://extratime.ie/newsdesk/articles/7562/

Published: March 08, 2012

SHAMROCK ROVERS:
Stephen Kenny has utilised his Shamrock Rovers squad extensively already this season. After Rovers’ 2-1 win in Drogheda on the opening night of the Airtricity League, Kenny made seven changes to that line-up in their 2-0 win earlier this week against Cliftonville in the Setanta Sports Cup.

Against Monaghan United this Friday, the starting eleven will likely see the return of Killian Brennan, who missed the Cliftonville game due to suspension, and Gary Twigg, who scored both of Rovers’ goals in that league win over Drogheda United. It is also the chance for new Shamrock Rovers club captain Ken Oman to pull on the armband for the Hoops for the first time in a league game at Tallaght Stadium. Definitely missing for Rovers will be Ciarán Kilduff, Conor McCormack and Conor Winn who are all out due to injury.

It would be a shock if Stephen Kenny’s men failed to pick up their second win of the league campaign but the Rovers manager has been stressing the importance to his players that they need to earn the win against Monaghan. “Every single victory this season will be hard fought,” said Kenny. “I think the idea that you might have easy games is naïve. You have to fight for every single point you put on the board in a season, and our players are more than aware of that; they know they have to work hard every week.”

“We can’t drop our standards for anyone or we will get turned over, that is the same as it is for any team. This is our first home game of the season, and we will be looking for a win from that. From our point of view, we’ll have gotten our season off to a strong start if we get three wins from three in a week.”

MONAGHAN UNITED:
Monaghan United, who opened their league campaign with a 0-0 draw at home to Dundalk, face a tough first away game of the season against the back-to-back league champions. Manager Roddy Collins has a much changed squad from the one who were promoted last season. Collins handed six competitive debuts in their hard fought draw on opening night. However, defensively they have continuity in their team with three of last year’s back four (Aidan Collins, Conor McMahon and Alan Byrne) playing in front of new goalkeeper Chris Bennion. If United can keep another clean sheet this week, they would head back to Monaghan quite happy with that outcome.

For Roddy Collins, it is a return to Rovers, a club he managed back in 2005. Collins was relieved of his managerial duties towards the end of that season, a season that Rovers ended by being relegated for the only time in their history. Willo McDonagh is also returning to Rovers where he played under Collins’ management. Both the manager and player may be in for an unfriendly reception in Tallaght as McDonagh’s disciplinary record and Collins’ managerial record are not remembered fondly by the Hoops faithful.

Monaghan may well have to do without another former Rovers player Robert Bayly due to injury. There are also injury concerns over Aidan Collins, Gareth O’Connor and Shaun Maher but they do have the boost of midfielder Keith Quinn being available for selection this week.

Referee: Graham Kelly

MATCH STATS:
The teams last met in a pre-season friendly at Tallaght Stadium in 2011 which ended in a 0-0 draw.

Their last competitive meeting was in 2006 when both sides were in the First Division. Back then Rovers’ 2-0 win over United in their penultimate home game of the season went a long way to securing that year’s First Division title for the Hoops.

It is ten years since the teams played each other in the Premier Division when Stephen Grant got an 86th minute winner in a 3-2 win for Shamrock Rovers.

BETTING:
Shamrock Rovers 1/5; Draw 5/1; Monaghan 11/1

PREDICTION:
Hard to see beyond a home win for the Hoops: 3-0 to Shamrock Rovers.

Shamrock Rovers Injury News: Ciarán Kilduff (broken metatarsal), Conor McCormack (ankle ligament injury), Conor Winn (back).
Shamrock Rovers Suspensions: None
Monaghan United Injury News: Robert Bayly, Aidan Collins Gareth O Connor, Shaun Maher (all doubtful)
Monaghan United Suspensions: None

Four Continent Football: Part 4 – Europe (Shamrock Rovers’ first game in Tallaght)

Four Continent Football: Part 4 – Europe (Shamrock Rovers’ first game in Tallaght)

It seemed over a two decade period that Shamrock Rovers had played home games in the four corners of the world even if that wasn’t actually the case. This time three years ago everyone at the club was building up for probably the biggest home game ever – our first proper home match since the eviction from Milltown back in 1986.

I’ve reminised recently about attending football matches across four continents including Asia, South America and Africa but in this final blogpost of Four Continent Football, we are in Europe and I’m bringing it back home for Shamrock Rovers’ first game in Tallaght.

Since leaving Milltown, it was only really in the time period at the RDS (1990 to 1996) that it felt like they were home games for Rovers. In the years since Milltown, home matches were played in various grounds rented off our rivals including playing in Tolka Park, Dalymount Park, Richmond Park and, probably most embarrasingly, Turners Cross. That night in Cork when the Hoops ran out to play a home game over 250km from Dublin not actually wearing hoops but their away strip, was one of the very many low points that has surrounded the club during my time as a supporter.

The build-up to certain big games can seem like years but the build up to Rovers’ first game in Tallaght was that, it was over a decade in the making. Planning Permission had been granted in 1997, the sod had been turned with the builders coming on the site in 2000, they came off site the following year, and finally come back on the site in May 2008. In that period Rovers went bust, had the fans take over the club and got relegated. South Dublin County Council had taken ownership of the site and a lengthy court case had ensued when the GAA tried unsuccesfully to get their grubby little hands on the keys to access the stadium.

When the 2009 fixtures came out, we could finally see in black and white Rovers were finally scheduled to play in Tallaght. There was symmtery to the fixture with Sligo Rovers providing the opposition for the first game in Tallaght, just as they had done for the final game in Milltown. The first game in the RDS back in 1990 was awful and half of the 20,000 crowd didn’t come back for the next game. I was somewhat worried that the game would be an anti-climax but it wasn’t. It was everything I’d hoped for and more. There were goals, there was drama and there was a Shamrock Rovers win. We’ve kept coming back for more ever since.

That day so many people came up to me in work and wished me and the club well. It was one of those days where it was very hard to concentrate on anything but the match. At around 4 o’clock my boss told me to head off. He knew what it meant for me. Everyone knew what it meant. I got countless e-mail and texts from friends telling me to enjoy the game and enjoy it I would. When I got into stadium, people were hugging each other. This was the moment we had dreamed about for so long and now it was a reality. People were walking around trying to take it all in with a permanent smile on their faces and a ball hadn’t even been kicked at that stage.

As well as being Rovers’ first game in Tallaght, it was Michael O’Neill’s first home game in charge of Rovers. It was a much changed Rovers side with a new strike partnership of Dessie Baker and Gary Twigg. The fans were wondering who this Twigg player was that O’Neill had paid out a transfer fee for to bring from the Scottish Second Division and could he combine with Baker, a player most thought was past it.

It was telling last December when Michael O’Neill took leave of Shamrock Rovers that he spoke about that night. He was asked about what he would remember most from this tenure in Tallaght. He didn’t pick winning one of the three major trophies claimed during his time managing Rovers or one of those amazing nights against a heavyweight of European football like Real Madrid, Juventus, Partizan Belgrade or Spurs. “The most enjoyable night was my first night here at Tallaght, when we beat Sligo,” recalled O’Neill of opening night in the new stadium. “To see the look on the supporters faces after being 20 years on the road and just to see what it meant for them was fantastic.”
The passion and noise generated as the teams came out was almost overwhelming and many a tear was shed on the night. 22 years of pent up frustration at the loss of Milltown and a home of our own, spilled out in a wall of noise when the teams emerged. I certainly let out a primiordal roar anyway!

It was a horrible night weather wise in Tallaght but in every other way it was perfect. If we were wondering would Twigg do the business in Tallaght, we weren’t wondering much longer after the opening period of the game. First Twigg had a goal dissallowed. Then after 18 minutes we saw what we now know as classic Gary Twigg. He got a sniff of the ball in the box and scored. It seemed that as soon as he swiviled and got his shot away over his shoulder, the ball was in the back of the net and he was celebrating in front of the Ultras.

On opening night, there was only one stand constructed in the stadium and it was filled to 3,500 capacity and probably a bit more! In front of the live TV cameras, Shamrock Rovers searched out a second goal early in the second half and got it. Ollie Cahill made a great run down the left and found Dessie Baker whose finish put the Hoops 2-0 in front. The Baker-Twigg strikeforce would continue to do damage during the rest of the season with Rovers finishing runner’s up in the league at the end of the year.

This wasn’t an exhibition game though and Sligo did not come just to make up the numbers. The home side had to earn their win and there was some nervous moments toward the end of the game following Gavin Peer’s 82nd minute goal for Sligo. The Hoops never make it easy but had to go an earn that win on opening night. The celebrations at the final whistle continued long into the night. The win, our first home win in over two decades, was a long time coming. We were home.
KOH!

Rovers mixed artistry yields octagon result

February 25, 2012 Leave a comment

My debut match report for extra time.ie

http://extratime.ie/fixtures/detail/18084/2/

Shamrock Rovers 8 – 1 Waterford United
by Macdara Ferris
Fri, Feb 24 2012

Shamrock Rovers had a more than convincing win over Waterford United at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night in their final friendly before the start of the league campaign. It finished 8-1 on the night for Stephen Kenny’s men with Gary O’Neill hitting a hat-trick for the Hoops. It was a confidence sapping result for Paul O’Brien’s men who are expected to be challenging for promotion out of the First Division.

It was an even opening period to the game that didn’t give a hint of the dominance that would follow later. Craig Sives was unlucky not to open the scoring after 12 minutes when his header from around the penalty spot shaved the post from a Billy Dennehy cross.

The opening goal of the game came after 14 minutes for the champions from a deep Killian Brennan corner. The corner was sent back across the box by the head of defender Dylan Mernagh. The ball found its way to Ken Oman who had an acre of space in front of goal to slot the ball home low into the net. Waterford’s first chance of the game came from the kick off but Ben Ryan’s shot didn’t trouble Oscar Jannson in goal as it flew over the bar.

Rovers doubled their lead on 26 minutes with a fine individual effort from Daryl Kavanagh. He picked up the ball in midfield and ghosted by two players and with great vision chipped the ball over Robbie Hughes into the top corner from all of 25 yards.

Photo by George Kelly

Brennan was fouled in a dangerous position in front of goal on 33 minutes. Dennehy struck the free with his left into the bottom corner to make it 3-0. The Blues pulled a goal back straight away as Jannson misread the flight of Paul Phelan’s corner allowing United skipper David Breen to head home. Just before half time, Ronan Finn found the net for the fourth with a fine flicked header from a Kerrea Gilbert cross.

United went close early in the second half as Gary Dempsey’s free was headed over by Seamus Long. A Sives chance went close before Rovers added three goals in a devastating five-minute spell before the hour mark. An O’Neill header at the backpost from substitute Aaron Green’s cross made it five for the Hoops.

Rovers then had half a dozen goals when Finn made a probing run down the right with his ball handing O’Neill the simplest of tap ins from inside the six yard box. Substitute Gary McCabe scored next following a mazy run. He beat Paul Carey on the left, cut inside and slammed the ball high into the roof of the net to make it 7-1 on the hour mark. Waterford did have a chance to get their second on 65 minutes when sub Seany Maguire played in Darragh Walshe but Jannson was on hand to save his shot.

Photo by George Kelly

Greene had a couple of chances to increase his sides tally. First when he ran in on goal but was forced wide by Hughes and his subsequent shot went over the bar. Next he claimed a long ball over the top but his left foot shot bounced back off the post.

The home side continued to pile on the misery with United going 8-1 down. Six minutes from time Gary O’Neill completed his hat-trick and the overall goal scoring for the evening. Breene bundled into the back of O’Neill in the box. At the infamous car park end of Tallaght Stadium, O’Neill managed to do what very few players have done there and scored from the penalty spot. The last bit of play saw Dempsey chip the ball over the Rovers defence onto sub Seany Maguire’s chest but Jannson was able to smother the ball at the player’s feet.

Stephen Kenny will no doubt be happy with the performance of his side and he used that squad to the fullest extent with eight second half substitutions. Blues boss O’Brien will have to pick up his men after this dispiriting result. He will be emphasising that the quality of opposition will not be as strong for United in the First Division as they faced from the back-to-back League of Irelands champions in Tallaght. Waterford will be thankful for that.

Shamrock Rovers: Oscar Jannson; Kerrea Gilbert (Sean Gannon, 65), Craig Sives (Graham Gartland, 65), Ken Oman (Colin Hawkins, 84), Conor Powell (Conor McCormack, 84); Killian Brennan, Stephen Rice (Stephen O’Donnell 65), Ronan Finn (Chris Turner, 72), Billy Dennehy (Gary McCabe 45); Gary O’Neill, Daryl Kavanagh (Aaron Greene, 45)
Subs not used: Lee Stacey

Waterford United: Robbie Hughes; Paul Carey (Thomas Whitty, 89), Craig Burns (Seany Maguire, 65), David Breen, Dylan Mernagh; Ben Ryan (Peter Keegan, 72), Gary Dunphy (Peter Higgins), Seamus Long, Paul Phelan; Gary Dempsey, Darragh Walshe (Nathan West)

Subs not used: Packie Holden
Bookings: Ben Ryan

Referee: Tom Connolly

Attendance: 1000 (estimate)

extratime.ie Man of the Match: Gary O’Neill who, in addition to scoring a hat-trick, was very effective in holding the ball up and involving other Rovers players

Cousins scored the goals by the dozens

February 20, 2012 Leave a comment

“There’s only one Tony Cousins, he scores the goals by the dozens, when you think you’ve lost it, he scores in the last minute, walking in a Cousins wonderland”

On Tuesday night Tony Cousins, the former Shamrock Rovers striker, will bring the Longford Town team he manages to Tallaght Stadium for a pre-season game. Back in 1996 when Cousins joined Shamrock Rovers the club had just announced they would be moving to Tallaght. Cousins would play six years for the club but would never get a chance to pull on the green and white hoops of Rovers in Tallaght. Tonight he gets the chance to manage his team in the Dublin 24 venue.

With a long and successful history, Shamrock Rovers have many players that they can call legends. There is always a healthy debate when fans get together and discuss who is their favourite player and who would make their all time Shamrock Rovers XI. For many fans who watched Rovers during their tenure in Morton Stadium and Tolka Park, Cousins would make their favourite Rovers XI.
Tony Cousin’s legendary status is alluded to in the song sung to the tune of Winter Wonderland. The man that scored late goals when all seemed lost was a fans favourite despite his troubling past i.e. his time at Bohemians!

A former Ireland U21 international, Cousins was on Chelsea’s books as a youth. He returned to Ireland to play for Dundalk before Liverpool paid a £70,000 transfer to secure his services. On a number of occasions he was on the subs bench for the first team but failed to get on the pitch and was hampered with injuries throughout his time at Anfield. He signed for Bohs and played with the Gypsies for three seasons before joining the Hoops. During his six seasons at Rovers he found the back of the net 46 times. It is especially the number of late goals that he is fondly remembered for, particularily in the 1996/97 season when the move to Tallaght was first being mooted.

Last Saturday night, Rovers won 2-0 against Wexford Youths as part of their pre-season preperation ahead of this season’s opener in a few weeks time against Drogheda United. I was reminded by a friend on leaving the ground last Saturday night of Cousins hat-trick from 1996 in a league game against Drogheda. It was a perfect hat-trick that night as Rovers won 3-1. He got one with his left foot, one with his right and one with the head. His opening goal just before half time was probably his best goal as he beat Drogheda’s John Coady to the ball before unleashing an unstoppable shot low into the net.

Many Friday nights in that 1996/97 season, Cousins was staring in his own late late show and was instrumental in pulling Rovers away from the relegation zone that season. In the second part of the season, Cousins hit a rich vein of form that cemented his legendary status. At the end of January he got a late goal to secure all three points in a 2-1 win over Sligo Rovers.

In February he couldn’t stop scoring. He scored both goals to grab a point in a 2-2 draw against Finn Harps. He got a hat trick in a feast of goals when Rovers secured a 6-4 win ‘away’ to Shelbourne in Tolka. Cousins notched up both goals in a 2-2 draw against Saint Patrick’s Athletic and then somehow rescued a point at home to Bray Wanderers when the Hoops trailed by two goals going into the final minutes. His two late goals that night, with his equaliser deep in stoppage time, sparked joyous scenes amongst the home fans that night and were immortalised in song.

He finished top scorer in the League that season with 16 goals in a side that eventually finished 7th in the table. In the intervening time only Gary Twigg has scored more goals for Rovers in a season (with Twigg’s late goals in the first home game against Bohemians being Cousins-like late specials!). In recognition of his goalscoring that season he picked up the Shamrock Rovers Player of the Year award. The following season he scored more goals by the dozens this time netting 15 times. His 46 league goals in 145 appearances puts him 15th in the list of all time Rovers goalscorers.

When he finished playing he worked as Under 21 manager and assistant manager at Shamrock Rovers. He has also had spells as manager at Galway United and at Kildare County but will come to Tallaght as Longford manager. He will be in for a warm welcome from everyone who remembers Cousins from his playing days at the Hoops.

Rovers not heartbroken with Valentine’s Day Defeat…

February 19, 2012 Leave a comment

My match report for Shamrock Rovers official website

http://www.shamrockrovers.ie/news/74-2012-first-team-match-reports/2455-glentoran-21-rovers

Glentoran 2 – Darren Boyce pen. 48′ Richard Gibson 55′ 

Shamrock Rovers 1 – Gary Twigg 37′

Pre-Season Friendly – The Oval, Belfast – Tuesday 14th February 2012

St. Valentine’s Day for many can mean a trip away with the evening involving some candle light maybe in an intimate setting. Well for Shamrock Rovers, the candlelight was replaced by floodlight last night as the Stephen Kenny brought his team away to Belfast for a pre-season friendly against Glentoran.

It was the home side that claimed the victory with two second half goals that eclipsed Gary Twigg’s 37th minute effort for Shamrock Rovers. Whilst the Oval can’t be described as an intimate venue, it was a relatively quiet affair in the ground last night with around 80 Rovers fans making the trip up the M1 and double that supporting the home team.

Stephen Kenny deployed his side in a 4-4-2 formation against the team sitting sixth in the IFA Carling Premiership. It was Kenny’s team that created the best chances in the first half, threatening mostly from set pieces. Gary O’Neill, playing upfront with Gary Twigg, won a free kick after five minutes. Killian Brennan was the one to take the free and his shot just bounced wide of the post. A fine run from Gary McCabe three minutes later saw him step inside the full back but his curling right foot shot wouldn’t come down below the bar.

It was the home side that had the next set piece chance as Graham Gartland conceded a free just outside the penalty area. Aidan O’Kane fired it in for the Glens but Oskar Jansson, making his debut for Rovers, gathered it cleanly as it bounced low in front of him.

The conditions were blustery in the Oval as shown when Brennan had to re-spot the ball at a free kick blown loose in the wind from which the visitors won a corner. Gary McCabe swung it in dangerously across the six-yard box but nobody was on hand to finish it. Ronan Finn showed some neat footwork to give Twigg a chance but his shot, through the defenders legs, drifted wide of the post.

After 33 minutes, McCabe and Brennan were again standing over a free-kick in a dangerous position. This time it was McCabe’s opportunity to take a strike on goal but he curled the free over the bar. Less than five minutes later Rovers would take the lead from a corner. The goal came about as Stephen Rice picked up the ball in midfield with his delayed pass giving the full back Kerrea Gilbert the chance to get forward and win a corner. The corner eventually made its way into the box with a flick on to Gary Twigg’s feet. The Scotsman took his goal by neatly placing the ball by Aaron Hogg in the Glentoran goal from inside the six-yard box.

The Rovers team emerged unchanged in the second half but the scoreline would change just three minutes after the interval. Jim O’Hanlon showed some trickery to get by Conor Powell in the box but the assistant linesman flagged for a jersey pull giving Glentoran the chance to equalise from the penalty spot. Darren Boyce made no mistake drilling the penalty down the middle of the goal.

On 55 minutes Rovers conceded what looked like a soft free kick that was played quickly into the box by Aidan O’Kane. Richard Gibson made the most of the opportunity heading home to put Glentoran 2-1 in front.

There was a strong shout for a Rovers penalty of their own minutes later. Gartland sent a long ball for Gary Twigg to run on to. The striker did well to hook the ball back across goal. Hogg could only get fingertips to the ball and then collided with Gary O’Neill but the referee waved play on.

Kenny then made a number of changes to his team with Powell, Dennehy and Finn coming off. This allowed Graham Gartland to move to left back, Colin Hawkins to come on at centre half along with subs Chris Turner and Billy Dennehy coming into midfield. A fine move involving O’Neill, Rice and Dennehy saw a Gary Twigg header fly just by the post.

With 20 minutes remaining, Daryl Kavanagh and Dean Kelly came on for Rovers and Kelly looked particularly lively in the final part of the game. His turn and right foot flick saw the ball lobbed just over the bar and then Dennehy forced Hobb from outside the box to hold onto the ball at full stretch. A Jansson clearance hit O’Hanlon and the keeper was forced to smother the rebound. He next had to come running out of his box and his pressurized clearance fell to Jimmy Callacher who tried his luck from the half way line but sent it wide.

Rovers applied pressure seeking the equalizer with a short corner from Dennehy worked to Kelly but Gary O’Neill couldn’t direct his header on goal from Hawkins’ flick. The final chance of the game fell to the home side with Jansson producing a top class save diving to his left and getting his right hand up to force away the thiry yard dipping shot from Gibson.

Hoops Line out


1 Oscar Jansson; 2 Kerrea Gilbert, 5 Ken Oman, 17 Graham Gartland, 3 Conor Powell; 15 Killian Brennan, 6 Stephen Rice, 21 Ronan Finn, 7 Gary McCabe; 9 Gary Twigg, 10 Gary O’Neill

Substitutes
23 Colin Hawkins for Powell 57’, 20 Billy Dennehy for Brennan 57’, 
18 Chris Turner
for Finn 57’;
16 Daryl Kavanagh for Twigg 70’,
14 Dean Kelly for Rice 70’