Posts Tagged ‘Billy Dennehy’

The Write Stuff – a decade of Hoops Scene contributions

October 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Published in Hoops Scene 19/2017 (October 2017)

On the bookshelves, there they all are. Neatly packaged away in a programme folder for each year is every copy of Hoops Scene from the last ten years. On my computer, there they all are. Neatly packaged away in an electronic folder for each year, are all my contributions to Hoops Scene over the last decade.


As we come towards the end of the 2017 season, I realise that it is my testimonial year as contributor to the Shamrock Rovers programme. Don’t worry, I’m not looking for a programme testimonial dinner in the 1899 Suite, with Con Murphy asking me my thoughts on my favourite programme article but maybe indulge me and let me give you some thoughts on penning articles for the programme.


A quick flick through my computer and I reckon that this article is number 255 that I’ve written for the Shamrock Rovers match programme. It remains to be seen if this will even be published but more of that later.




My programme contributions began in in 2007 and I hoped to provided Hoops Scene with a bit of colour writing. They began with tales from Tolka Park as the club went into the final season of renting off rivals – Tallaght was on the near horizon for the Hoops.


Flicking through the programmes, I see stories on football fashion, football literature and football groundhopping adventures. My very first article was a look at the switch to summer football and how it was faring five years on from the move.


In 2010, the then editor asked me would I help out in doing the player interview for each programme. I was a bit unsure but did a bit of homework to develop some questions to run by the editor ahead of doing the first interview. I felt they were deemed to be okay when she said ‘there was some stalker level of detail’ about a couple of the questions!


The player interview is the staple of the traditional match programme in Ireland and the UK and so I do view it a privilege to get the access to the players and tell their story to the readers. The aim has always been to make it interesting for Rovers fans but also the away fans who pick up a programme when they visit Tallaght. On each match night, a programme is left for each player in both the home and away dressingroom but I’m unsure if any Rovers quotes have been pinned to the opposition wall as inspiration.


As the interviews are for the Rovers match programme, the players are usually fairly talkative, sometimes even too forthcoming. When one former player in a colourful interview described the chairman at his previous club as telling “more lies and more lies” during a particularly different season, the editor suggested maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea to potentially libel the chairman and the quote didn’t make the final cut.


When I interviewed one player after a defeat one particular season, he didn’t hold back on the performance. About an hour after I spoke to him, he rang me back and asked actually maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea for those criticisms to be in the programme for all to read. Best left in the dressingroom and so it was.


I usually conduct the interview over the phone which sometimes for me means popping into a meeting room in work and making a call from there while recording on phone.


When a colleague came into a meeting room recently to quickly grab a jacket they had left behind, they must of wondered who the hell I was talking to that was describing a game in front of “a full house in a concrete bowl open air stadium with army everywhere. There must nearly have been 20,000 soldiers!” It was John Coady discussing a Rovers game behind the Iron Curtain in the 1980s!


It can sometimes be difficult to track down players. A missed call from me is sometimes returned and if I’ve rung from the landline in work, I’ll get a call from reception saying something like “I’ve Gary Twigg on the line for you Macdara…” That’s something nice to hear!


With a Sunday night deadline for the 1,250 word interview, there isn’t much time to turnaround a programme interview if the Hoops have played on the previous Friday but the players are very good about making themselves available.


Some stories stand out, like when I asked Billy Dennehy who he swapped his jersey with after playing Juventus in 2010. “I decided to hold on to my own and give it to my Dad,” said Dennehy. “He will be happier than any player to have that. None of the Juventus players will know who I am, so it will be nice for my Mum and Dad to have.”


Stories like Stephen McPhail having his phone ring in Cardiff and have Venus Williams on the other end looking to chat with him on dealing with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune issue that McPhail and the tennis star both have to deal with.


Or talking to Pat Sullivan a few days after his goal in Belgrade helped the Hoops qualify for the Europa League. “(After the final whistle) I stood on the pitch for 15 minutes trying to soak it up with the few Rovers fans that were there. It was phenomenal. I’m still in a bit of shock.”


This year the editor asked me to also help with the ‘manager’ notes, another staple of the standard programme. There was nothing standard about Damien Richardson’s manager notes and in the past manager notes might be cobbled together with little input from the gaffer.


We have gone with an interview format with quotes specifically sourced for the programme from Stephen Bradley. The Hoops Head Coach takes a phonecall every Monday lunchtime ahead of each home game for a five minute chat with the copy to be with the editor by late night Monday.



Every fan wants a home draw in the cup. For programme editors and contributors, it does mean another match programme to add to the workload. However, an away draw in later rounds means a potential requirement for a quick turnaround match programme. With that in mind, that is why you are reading this piece today.


I’m sitting here on Saturday evening having attended a very positive club AGM in Tallaght earlier in the day. It is the eve of the FAI Cup semi-final up in Oriel Park between Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers. If you are reading these words, then it means the match in Oriel ended in a draw. A win or loss means you will never get to read this – and my Hoops Scene contribution goes back to 254.

Does your telly know you’re here?

The slick live TV presentation style with graphics, commentary team and replays give the television viewer at home a real sense of a sporting occasion. Throw in the multi-camera, super slow-mo and spidercam views and it is almost like being there. Almost but not quite.

To get a sense of what it really means to be at a game, fan footage can nearly be a better option. There is something about those shaky camera angles, foul language and those guttural screams when a goal goes in that Sky Sports just can’t beat.

Here is a top eight of Shamrock Rovers fan footage.


‪8. A million euro penalty – Partizan Belgrade v Shamrock Rovers (August 2011) 


Maybe a surprise that this video from Shamrock Rovers’ incredible 2011 season is only at number eight. Despite the grainy footage and being a long distance from the action, this is Rovers video gold. The drama builds as Hoops fans realise what this will mean if Stephen O’Donnell slots this penalty away. The screams from the small pocket of 43 fans when he scores tell you Rovers have made history and qualified for the group stages of the Europa League.












‪7. Injury time equaliser in the Dublin derby (April 2011)



‪Nobody likes to lose to their bitter rivals but that was the fate awaiting Rovers in April 2011 in Dalymount Park. Despite times call for desperate measures and that meant Alan Mannus making the journey up into the Bohs box for this last minute corner. He went up for the header but it is his team mate Ronan Finn whose touch earns Rovers a draw and the owner of the camera in the crowd a broken pair of glasses in the celebrations.




‪6. No European hangover as Gary Twigg helps Hoops beat Bohs (August 2010)



‪Shamrock Rovers returned to Ireland on a Friday morning at 5am after their 1-0 defeat to Juventus in Modena facing into a crucial Sunday lunchtime kick off against Bohemians. Rovers were leading 1-0 in the second half when their defender Pat Flynn was sent off. ‪Could Bohs capitalise on the extra man and opposition tiredness after their recent European distractions? No was the answer as Gary Twigg scored a brilliant goal with his celebration in front of the Bohs fans not overly well received by the away fans! It would be a goal that would help the Hoops win the title.















  1. He shoots, he scores, he wins Shamrock Rovers the league (October 2011)


What is better than a good pitch invasion? How about two pitch invasions! Dean Kelly’s injury time goal for Shamrock Rovers in Belfield secured the Hoops the 2011 title. Some Hoops fans celebrated the goal with the players and a couple of minutes later when the final whistle went it looks like every Rovers fan piled onto the pitch to celebrate winning back-to-back titles.










‪4. Injury time goal earns Rovers passage to Setanta Final (April 2013)



‪It looked like Cork City had earned themselves a place in the Setanta Sports Cup final. However the Hoops won a free kick deep in injury time in the semi-final second leg in Turner’s Cross. One Rovers fans felt the wall needed to go back further. “That is not 10 fucking yards,” he said. It didn’t matter as Billy Dennehy’s free kick sent the Rovers fans, who had travelled mid-week down to Cork, home happy and the Hoops into the final.


  1. Penalty save providing passage to European glory (July 2011)



‪A penalty save that would set Rovers on the way to European success in 2011. The journey from Tallaght to Tallinn to Belgrade and White Hart Lane, all came about because of Alan Mannus’ penalty save against Flora Tallinn.



2. Spurs v Shamrock Rovers…the Hoops goal (September 2011)


‪Video from the Spurs end showing Stephen Rice putting Shamrock Rovers 1-0 up in the second half of this Europa League Group game in White Hart Lane. The laughter accompanying the goal suggests it wasn’t shot by a Spurs fan.














  1. ‪Hoops half time sing song against Juventus in Modena (August 2010)



Okay, not fan footage of any action on the pitch but of fans sheltering from the Monsoon in Modena at half-time in the Europa League qualifier against Juventus. Not the most PC of lyrics but this is fan footage so what do you expect?



A season long challenge

For all my years of following Shamrock Rovers, I’d never made it, or indeed wanted to make it, through a season attending every competitive Rovers game. It isn’t really a badge of honour to say you were at every game during the season. Is it? Rovers is important, yeah, but surely there are other things to be getting on with during the year than trying to get to each and every game?

In years gone by I’ve generally missed matches by heading away the odd Bank Holiday or taking a few weeks off during the summer months to get away. But in 2013 with no immediate holidays planned, no “event junkie” trip to a football championship on the radar or sadly no European football for the Hoops, the season stretched out in front of me and in the back of mind was this challenge ready to be taken up; get to every single Shamrock Rovers game.

The closest the Hoops came to European action last year was in the early stages of the season. In the Setanta Sports Cup Rovers headed north of the border for the 300 plus mile round trip to Coleraine. We were made feel very welcome as they had thrown open their social club for the night ahead of the First Round second leg match. The Hoops and Bannsiders fans chatted about the tie that was finely poised after Coleraine’s 1-0 win in Tallaght a week early in Rovers’ (and my own) first game of the season.

When Ciarán Kilduff’s injury time winning goal went in, Rovers were through but it took a while for some of the Rovers fans to get out of the ground. I travelled on the Hoops SC bus for this game, a bus that was stuck in the mud at the back of the carpark. Rovers fans tried in vain to push the bus out so the helpful home stewards and members of the PSNI organised a tow. As this was happening we were serenaded by some locals youths looking at us through the gate from outside the ground singing God Save the Queen towards our southern registered bus!

Mid-week away trips aren’t the easiest to get to but if the supporters club buses aren’t an option, nothing beats a road trip with friends. The Celtic Tiger has left us with strong motorway connections to nearly all League of Ireland grounds. I was the driver for most trips but the passengers play an important role in providing chat on the return home to ward off any tiredness, as the game is discussed in detail.


With Limerick’s promotion to the Premier Division last season, Rovers had a new ground to visit with two away trips to Thomond Park. Here is where I was able to play a trump card in my attempt to attend every game. With the company I work for I’m required to spend a bit of time in our offices outside of Dublin, so why not organise those visits to Limerick and Cork around Rovers away games? That got me another four games ticked off on my quest.

In mid-April there was a monster 1000km double trip in 72 hours to see Rovers lose away in Derry quickly followed by the Setanta Sports Cup semi-final second leg in Cork. It looked like Rovers were heading out of the competition in injury time. It was going to be a long drive home having watched two Rovers defeats at opposite ends of the country in 72 hours until Billy Dennehy lined up a free kick deep in stoppage time. His goal and celebrations in Turner’s Cross in front of the travelling away support has over 7,000 hits on You Tube and a soundtrack of me screaming in the background! The final of the Setanta Cup was a short journey to Tallaght and by mid-May Rovers had their first trophy of the season and I’d been at all 20 games so far for the Hoops.

Sickness, car troubles and pesky work meetings on Friday afternoons all have to be avoided during the season to keep a challenge like this on track. Family and friends have to get used to the refrain “sorry I can’t, Rovers are playing then.” You dread the events that might be sprung upon you, for weddings and a funeral can put pay to a consecutive game sequence. As for other sacrifices, well My Bloody Valentine might have been playing Electric Picnic on the last Friday night of August but I was back in bloody Tolka Park to see Rovers take on Shelbourne, before making the journey to Stradbally early the next morning.

The success in the cups for Rovers last season went a long way to helping get over the disappointment of the league campaign but it added a lot of extra games for the Hoops. 19 games in fact but who is counting except me! As the season drifted into August and our title challenge had drifted away, my own challenge began to get more real. In Leinster Senior Cup semi-final Rovers travelled from one side of the Dublin mountains to the other and in Jackson Park near Stepaside, they dispatched Wayside Celtic to book a place in the final.

I had one major hurdle to overcome in the last month of the season. On the second Friday in October, I watched Ireland get beaten comprehensively in Cologne in the Brazil 2014 qualifier against Germany. The next morning I was up at the crack of dawn to get the train to Dusseldorf and flight home. On arrival in Dublin, I got straight in my car, with my passport still in my pocket, and headed to Derry. Safe to say I was pretty tired by the time I arrived back in Dublin in the small hours of Sunday morning having watched Rovers draw 0-0 in the Bogside.

In the final couple of weeks I became paranoid about getting knocked off my bike on my journey to work. I wasn’t worrying about an injury that would be painful but something that would stop me getting to a game, as I was so close now to a full set of matches. I could feel it. I could taste it.

By the time, Rovers lifted the Leinster Senior Cup in Richmond Park in the penultimate game of the season I’d attended more competitive Rovers matches in 2013 than our manager. Okay, Trevor Croly had a good excuse as he was over in Malmo looking at the Swedish club’s set up allowing Colin Hawkins to manage the team to this latest cup success. The fruits of that visit can be seen in the installation of Rovers’ First Division team with Hawkins at the helm for the Hoops in the second tier of the League of Ireland.

One more match was required to make it 52 games out of 52 for the season. It was a pity that the final game of the year for Rovers wasn’t a trophy deciding match. Ultimately it ended in disappointment, as a league defeat to Sligo Rovers meant no European football for Rovers in Tallaght in 2014. So what was what was going through my mind at the end of that final game of Shamrock Rovers’ 2013 season? “I did it. Every game. What was I thinking? Never again!”


And so it has proved to be as my sequence soon came to an end early this season. By the time I made it to the 2014 league opener at the start of March, it was to be my final game of an 18 month long competitive Rovers game sequence dating back to August 2012. A run of 72 matches if you will let me include Rovers’ First Division team’s outing in Cobh, where six of us stood in the away terrace in St. Colman’s Park. That was my last mad dash of the streak having snuck out of the Aviva stadium a few minutes before the end of the game against Italy, to drive down to see a small bit of Rovers history played out as the B team played their first competitive game.

But last weekend the streak came to an end and I’m quite happy about that. It was a wedding that got in the way, and of some Rovers fans as well. Who’d arrange a wedding on a day of a game anyway? Congratulations to Eoghan and Sorcha all the same! But when a text came through to me during the wedding speeches that the floodlights had gone out in Athlone and the game might be abandoned, I did think, well maybe I could make it to 100 games. Instead I am back at game zero but hey who is counting?

Published in Hoops Scene 2014 Issue 3


King Billy from the Kingdom

Shamrock Rovers sit top of the league with three other clubs after the opening three games of this year’s league campaign. Both Rovers and Shelbourne, tonight’s visitors to Tallaght Stadium, have two wins and a draw so far in the league. Stephen Kenny has named the exact same starting line up for each league game this season and it might be four in a row tonight. If it is, it will mean Billy Dennehy has continued this season for Rovers in a similar vane to last. As well as being ever present in the starting line up, he has been getting assists and also scoring goals.

Dennehy was involved in every one of last season’s league games bar, due to suspension, the game against UCD in Belfield on the night that the Hoops retained their league title. He finished the season as Shamrock Rovers’ top goalscorer in all competitions. He also finished top of the assist charts with the Hoops. His 13 assists showed the great value he brought to the team in terms of supply of goals to go alongside the important goals he also scored in the league, FAI Cup, Setanta Sports Cup and the Europa League. Hoops Scene caught up with the Kerryman ahead of tonight’s game and started by asking him what was his favourite goal from last season?

“It would probably be scoring in the Europa League,” said Dennehy recalling his goal in the game in Tallaght Stadium against PAOK. “It was a big thing for me to score on such a big stage. All my family were at that home game in Tallaght. I scored 16 goals last season and that was my best season so far. I will continue to try and help the team and chip in with goals at times to take pressure off the strikers.”

The man from Tralee opened his league account for the season in the game against Monaghan United with a superb left foot strike from outside the box. “It was nice to score. It was my first league goal of the season and in our first home game as well,” said the winger of the goal in the 3-1 win. “It came in a game where we found ourselves drawing 1-1. It was nice to score a goal that put us in front and get me off the mark in the league for the season.”

In the celebrations after the goal, Dennehy also picked up his first yellow card of the season. The celebration in front of the East Stand, which also involved Hooperman, was deemed excessive by referee Graham Kelly. “I said it to the ref afterwards that I thought it was a bit harsh but it is his job to make those decisions. I just have to be more careful next time!”

It took a late equaliser from Gary Twigg to rescue a point for the Hoops in Turners Cross in Rovers’ last league game. Tommy Dunne sent his Cork side out to contain Rovers, a tactic that many opposition managers will inevitably use also here at Tallaght Stadium during the season. “They obviously made it a bit harder for us the way they played and the way they set up,” said Dennehy of the system his former club used in the game. “They got a lot of men behind the ball. We had a lot of possession but they dropped kind of deep. That made it hard for us to create lot of chances. Overall I thought we did quite well and we probably thought we deserved to have won the game.”

“It happened an awful lot last year,” said Dennehy about teams putting out defensive formations against Rovers. “A lot of teams set out to stop us scoring and stop us playing. That is a challenge for us. It is up to us to go beat that, score the goals and win the games. I’m sure we will do that. It is just about being patient. We have a lot of good footballers in the squad so somebody will make a good pass or score a good goal. I think we learned a lot from that last season and that will help us this year.”

Last Friday, with Rovers down to ten men, it was Cork City that looked to have the game wrapped up but Dennehy got a cross over in the 94th minute that Ken Oman knocked back across for Twigg to score with his head. Both fans and players alike enjoyed the celebrations in front of the large travelling Rovers support. “It was great to score so late on. Though we did that and got a point, we were still disappointed because we were good enough to win the game. Possession wise, we dominated and had a lot of the ball. We probably deserved to have won the game. Under the circumstances being 1-0 down and having a man sent off, getting a draw was probably a good result. Everyone kept going and kept digging in. It was a good point in the end.”

Photo by George Kelly

Being top of the league after three games is a nice position to be in but as Dennehy rightly points out “it is still very very early days. We need to get into the season and then it is the end of the season that counts. It is vitally important to start well and pick up points early. I think we aren’t playing at our best. There is a lot more to come from us. Hopefully we will continue to pick up the points and the performances will improve as the season goes on.”

Rovers will be looking to build on last season’s incredible campaign that was led by Michael O’Neill. New manager Stephen Kenny is now setting his stamp on the Rovers squad. “It is a massive change,” said Dennehy about Rovers making the switch of managers. “It goes without saying that it has been unbelievable winning two leagues and playing in the Europa League. It has been phenomenal over the last two years. It is important that everyone makes their mark this season. We need to go again, be ambitious and win more. That is what the new manager wants. As a player that is why I’ve come back to try, continue to do well, to win and compete for trophies. I’m sure Stephen Kenny, Stephen Glass his assistant and Colin Hawkins are the same. They want to be involved in winning things and I think we are all pulling in the same direction which is good for everyone.”

Whilst the line up has been consistent in the league, Stephen Kenny has mixed it up in the Setanta Sports Cup games against Cliftonville and in Rovers’ game in the Leinster Senior Cup where the Hoops knocked out Bohemians on penalties. Utilising the Rovers squad to its fullest worked really well for Rovers last year and will be required if the Hoops are to retain the League and Setanta Sports Cup as well as challenge in Europe.

“When you are winning, it is good to continue the confidence and get used to playing together,” said Dennehy of a consistent starting 11. “But I think you’ve seen that on Friday making substitutions can help and it is important that you have good players that you can bring on; players to make an impact on the game. It is important that everyone performs because there are other players who can come in and do a good job. It is good for the squad that everyone knows they have a big part to play this season and it important that everyone does the best for the team and we can get the results that are needed. Last season was the club’s first time ever competing in the Setanta Sports Cup and obviously it was our first time winning it. It was great for us last year. It is a good competition. It is good to be in it and if your can make a final it is good as it is so early in the sesaon. Our aim will be to play well and hopefully try and retain that Cup as well.”

Published in Hoops Scene 2012 Issue 3 (Shamrock Rovers v Shelbourne – 23 March)

Kerrygold – Billy Dennehy Interview

Published in Hoops Scene 8 (Shamrock Rovers v Athlone Town/Derry City, June 2011)

There were jubilant scenes of celebrations here in Tallaght Stadium following Shamrock Rovers’ win last month in the Setanta Sports Cup final. Yes, it was a cup that only required Rovers to play five games to win but there was still significance to Rovers adding that cup to their reigning League of Ireland title. The outpouring of joy both by the players on the pitch and fans in the stands, were scenes that many at Rovers feared would never happen as the club struggled to get to the promised land of Tallaght. The win exorcised some of the demons of last year’s defeat, via penalties, in the blue riband FAI Cup Final. It was also a competition that Rovers previously hadn’t even been part of but managed to win on their first attempt, effectively being crowned All-Ireland champions.

The 2-0 win over Dundalk in that Setanta Sports Cup Final was cemented by an injury time goal by Rovers winger Billy Dennehy who celebrated with great gusto. “The emotions go through your head when you score,” recalls Dennehy of his shirt off followed by a ‘Bebeto’ baby celebration. “I did a celebration for my little nephew. He was only born two weeks before the game and he is my first nephew. He was too small to be at the game but I did a small baby celebration for him. It was great to win a trophy so early in the season. At the start of the competition, when we were up in Lisburn, we were told a lot of players in the squad hadn’t won that medal. It kind of stuck in my mind throughout the competition that it was something I wanted to win. A lot of players were the same. Hopefully we can get a bit more before the end of the season.

Hailing from Kerry, Dennehy when asked about his medal and status now as an All-Ireland Champion quickly retorted, “There is nearly one on every doorstep down in Kerry! But they are Gaelic ones, so this medal is unique.” The Hoops began their pre-season training with a trip to the Kingdom at the end of January, which was ideal for the man from Tralee. “I can remember getting a text from the manager ahead of pre-season saying there were plans to come down to Kerry and would I have a look at the facilities,” recalled Dennehy. “I thought he was winding me up to be honest! I never thought we could come so close to my home for pre-season. It was nice to train down there for a couple of days. In fairness Killarney Celtic where we trained were very hospitable and they made us feel very welcome. We got a good lot of work done down there which is important too. We worked very hard and for me it was nice to be close to home and to have the family around the corner.” And did everyone pop in to sample the famous Kerry hospitality in the Dennehy household? “I think my house is a bit too small but my Mum would have been delighted to make tea for everyone! It was nice to be down in my neck of the woods. I think that everybody enjoyed it and trips away like that in pre-season are important for new players coming in. I know when I joined the club, we all went away to Edinburgh for a few days and it certainly helped me to gel with the lads and get to know everybody. I’m sure the trip down to Kerry for the new players was the same as well.”

Five of the current squad know each other very well as they share a house in Dublin. When you hear that the occupants are two Ulstermen (Alan Mannus and Chris Turner), two Scotsmen (Craig Sives and Gary Twigg) and a Kerryman in Dennehy, you are half waiting for a punch line! “The club has a house so I’m living with Sive, Alan, Turner and Twiggy but there’s plenty of room. We often share the cooking especially myself, Sive and Alan Mannus.” It seems the 24 year old has listened to the nutritional advice and the benefits of carbohydrates no doubt given to him by the club, as when asked what is the Dennehy signature dish he replied “I’m going to go for Spaghetti Bolognese. Alan Mannus has said it is probably the best he’s ever had!”

Moving to more serious matters, Rovers had to deal with the recent defeat to Bray who are the only team to have beaten Rovers in the league this year and have now done so twice. The latest game against Wanderers was a 1-0 defeat for the Hoops out in Bray’s Carlisle Grounds. “The end result was disappointing,” said Dennehy about the game. “As a group of players we know that we can do a lot better. On the night and certainly in the game, we did have a lot of the ball. We did have a few chances but playing against teams like Bray they are going to make it very hard for us. They are going to up their game a lot more than usual when they play against us. You can take nothing away from them, I thought they probably deserved to win on the night. These things happen throughout the season and it is how you react to it. Every team will have bad results and every team will have setbacks and it is how you react to that and how you put it right. There is no team that is going to go and win every game in the season that they play. These things happen and it is how we bounce back that is the main thing.”

The team couldn’t have bounced back any better in the following game where they took on Bohemians in the second Dublin Derby of the season. Bohemians had been beaten in all the games played in Tallaght against Rovers to date making it a Rovers four in a row. And that four became five in a row, thanks to Karl Sheppard’s first half header for the Hoops. Speaking ahead of that game Dennehy, who was a second half substitute, said that “It couldn’t be a better game to come back to. Everybody will be looking to do their best and looking to put things right. Playing against Bohs in Tallaght is a big game for everybody involved in the club. The players know what it means to everybody in the club. We will be out there again doing our best and hopefully we can get a good result.” It was a good result for the Hoops with the 1-0 win keeping Shamrock Rovers on top of the table and Bohemians leaving with the terrace chant of “You’ll never win in Tallaght” echoing in their ears.

Dennehy scored some crucial goals for Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght Stadium last season. These included match winning goals like his header in the first derby against Bohs and his free kick against Sligo in September. Both are popular hits on You Tube with 5,200 and 4,000 views respectively. Those 1-0 wins over Bohs and Sligo were instrumental in Rovers staying ahead of these teams, who eventually finished second and third respectively, claiming their sixteenth league title. His free kick, which was smashed into the top left hand corner against Sligo, came in a very tense affair in a Tallaght Stadium “rocking” with atmosphere as Dennehy recalls. “It was a big big game at the time. We knew if we could get a result it would keep us in the driving seat. I remember throughout the game that it was very tight. It was a tough game and there wasn’t much in it. I remember when the free kick came up, James Chambers was standing beside me and he wanted to hit it as well. I said to him, let me have this one and luckily he did. As soon as I connected, I knew it had a chance and it was nice to see it fly into the top corner. When we did score, the noise was unbelievable. It was an unbelievable atmosphere throughout the whole game. It was something similar to playing Bohs in Tallaght the first time. The atmosphere was rocking from the start. The players feed off that and everybody was behind the team, it was great to get those results in those games. It is a nice memory to look back on and a good experience to call upon too. I’m sure we will have tough games like that in vital periods of this season. We will have to look on the experience of last year and hopefully it will stand us in good stead.”

This season Rovers are looking to go one better than last in the FAI Ford Cup and, not only reach the final but, get their hands on the trophy as winners. This year’s campaign starts with the match against Athlone Town and Dennehy will use the memory of last year’s final as an inspiration for this year’s cup games. “When you get to the cup final, anything can happen really. In the Aviva that day, both teams created chances. I thought we did well in periods of the game but Sligo did well. When it comes down to penalties, it is a lottery and it just wasn’t our day. It wasn’t through lack of effort from anybody as everybody gave it a go.”

In the penalty shoot out, Sligo’s goalkeeper Ciarán Kelly, saved all four of the Hoops’ kicks meaning Dennehy didn’t get an opportunity to take one. “I was down to take the fifth one but with the form the goalkeeper was in, I don’t know whether it was a good or a bad thing for me to take one! I would have liked to take one and hopefully there will be another cup final for us. Hopefully it won’t get to penalties but if it does, I would certainly put my name in the hat again. To get there last year, we had to go through a lot of important games; Longford away and Pats twice. They are the games you have to win to get to the big cup finals. Athlone we know won’t come to make it easy for us and we will have to be at our best to win these types of games to put us into the next round.”

Billy’s Boots

August 8, 2010 1 comment

It has been a hectic ten days or so for Shamrock Rovers with two crunch Airtricity League of Ireland games squeezed in around the matches against the mighty Juventus in the Europa League. The Rovers squad returned very early on Friday morning from the second leg against the famous Old Lady of Turin who had been evicted temporarily from her home by U2 and had moved to Modena for the game. After the drama of playing the biggest name in Italian football, Rovers today will play in the biggest derby in Irish football.

(Photo by George Kelly)

It really was a dream come true to play Juventus here in a packed Tallaght Stadium last week. As the SRFC Ultras banner ahead of kick off said ‘Facci Sognare’ or ‘Let us dream’. It was a chance for the Hoops to mix it with high calibre players such as Diego, Chiellini, Amauri and Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero. Del Piero, who received a rapturous welcome in Tallaght, enjoyed his visit and the atmosphere generated from the stands commenting on his website that “ they made us feel their presence, oh yes, they did. During the whole match they were cheering their team, despite the result. Pure passion, really nice ambience, the experience of times gone by!”

It was with 25 minutes to go in the game that Billy Dennehy got his chance to make his presence felt on the pitch. Like Del Piero, Dennehy was another player who enjoyed the big match ambience that night. Talking to Hoops Scene ahead of the second leg against Juventus he said “the atmosphere and the crowd were great. It was brilliant. Juventus have world class players so to have the chance to play them in a competitive match was great.”

There were two goals between the sides by the end of the game with the difference probably being the 48 million euros worth of Brazilian attacking talent that Juve could call upon from Diego and double goalscorer Amauri. “They didn’t create loads and loads of chances,” said Dennehy “but the ones that they did, they were clinical in taking and I suppose the higher up you go that is the difference.” The bianconeri goal after three minutes managed to silence temporarily the Tallaght crowd that had welcomed the teams out onto the pitch with such fervour. “They scored the first and settled a lot quicker than us,” said Dennehy who watched the first half from the substitutes bench. “They were a bit more comfortable and they didn’t have to attack as much which suited them. The boys done very well to hold on so it was only 1-0 at half time.”

Rovers’ manager Michael O’Neill switched to 4-4-2 during the second half in an effort to try and take the game to the Italian visitors. Dennehy came on and recalls that “as we were a goal down, we had to do more attacking and try and go for it. When you are out on the pitch you are trying to hold your own against players like that. It was nice to play against them. I was glad to be on the pitch and glad to be involved. It was great that nobody let themselves down and it was a great night for the club more than anything else. Everyone that was involved in the club will look back on it as being a great night. It is not something that will happen every year.”

Of course last year, Rovers played another European heavyweight in Real Madrid but Dennehy was quick to point out that there is a big difference between the game against the Galacticos of Madrid and last week’s Juventus match. “Real Madrid was a friendly game and you can get friendly games against a lot of top class sides. But we were playing against Juventus in a game that actually means something, a qualifying game, a competitive match. That means a whole lot more because the club earned it so it means a lot more to people.”

Before that friendly against Real Madrid there was a lot of talk in the disparity of earnings between the squads and some talk that was slightly demeaning including whether there would be a scrum for Cristiano Ronaldo’s jersey by the players at the end of the game. Pat Flynn had quipped in Hoops Scene when asked about getting Ronaldo’s jersey that “everyone has been asking me to get his jersey and I’ve been saying I’ll go one further and get his blood on my boots!” and memorably went on to clean out the ball and the Portuguese player in the opening minutes that night. With that in mind, Hoops Scene was pleasantly surprised to hear what Dennehy had done at the end of the Juventus game with his jersey. “I kept it. I decided to hold on to my own and give it to my Dad. He will be happier than any player to have that. Your parents like to keep things like that and none of the Juventus players will know who I am, so it will be nice for my Mum and Dad to have.” So Mr. and Mrs. Dennehy made the trip back down to Kerry on the train the day after the game with their son’s green and white Rovers jersey.

There is probably a couple of green and gold jersies in the Dennehy household as souvenirs of Billy’s time with the Kerry Minor GAA team. He won the Munster Minor Championship with Kerry in 2004 and had the choice of playing with the senior Kerry team or look to turn professional as a football player in England. “I was asked to stay on and be involved in the senior panel. I was at a cross roads at the time either to play gaelic or to sign for Sunderland which I ended up doing. I really enjoyed the Gaelic and I still follow it but I had always dreamt of playing in England. I think I made the right choice.”

It was two Irish football managers who shaped Dennehy’s career at Sunderland. “Mick McCarthy was the manager who signed me. At first I played a lot of preseason friendlies and when Roy Keane came in I was with the first team quite a bit for matches. It was a great experience. But once the club got promoted to the Premiership, it was very difficult for younger players like me as they started bringing in a lot of high profile players. Like any other Irish young lad when I was growing up, Keane was one of my favourite players. To have him as your manager, well it was surreal for a few weeks. You overcome that and he becomes just your boss. It was great to learn off him and he always helped me and had good words of advice. It is something I look back on very fondly.”

Dennehy got a chance to play here in Tallaght last season. Late in the season he lined out for the now defunct Cork City team and scored a goal on the night. The game was memorable for the fact that the Cork players nearly didn’t travel due to issues over wages and it was the night Rovers effectively lost the league title to tonight’s visitors. Were there any comments on his arrival this season in the dressing room about Dennehy’s goal that night? “Yeah but I say to the lads I didn’t want you to win the league without me so I wanted to come here to try and help ye,” jokes Dennehy. “Looking back on it, we were all standing around outside the bus unsure were we going to get on or not. We ended up travelling with our prematch preparation being very late. It wasn’t the most ideal setting and yet we found it was probably one of our best games of the season. Any player in that situation with a club can either walk away from it and not really try or do your best for your teammates that you were training with all year and that is what we did. We wanted to finish third as a point for ourselves, which was a good achievement but I’m glad I’ve come to a club like Rovers. When I came up it was the one club I really wanted to come to.”

In the game with Juventus there were a number of players who had played for their country at under 23 level with Diego having played at that level with Brazil, along with his 38 senior caps, while Stephen Rice, James Chambers and Billy Dennehy had lined out at under 23 level for Ireland. Dennehy also played underage football for Ireland at under 17, 18, 19 and 21 levels. “It was a great experience to look back and have those caps for your country,” said Dennehy who got the chance to play for the under 23s against former Juventus manager Geovanni Trapattoni’s senior Ireland team back in May. A week later he lined out for Ireland u23 in their 2-1 defeat against England in Waterford. “It is a great feeling to play this year with the u23s. I was playing with a great friend of mine in James Chambers. Playing for my country with him made it even more special.” And how did he find playing with players from rival teams? “You are probably going out every week kicking those guys, fighting against them in the league but when you play together you realise that there are a lot of good young players here. It was a great experience to play against England.” The next u23 game comes up in the autumn but Dennehy hasn’t given that much thought. “All I’m concentrating now on is Rovers. I’ve nothing else on my mind as there are a lot of important games coming up with Rovers and I want to be involved in all of them and do my best for the club.”

As far as important games go, they do not get much bigger domestically than today’s lunchtime kick off against third placed Bohemians in the big Dublin derby. All the derbies in Tallaght have been dramatic affairs and thanks to Dennehy scoring the only goal in Bohs’ last visit, it means that Bohs have been beaten in every game against the Hoops here in Tallaght.

“Before the first Bohs game, a few of the boys were telling me how great it was last year in the derby games. You realise when you are warming up in the ground the feeling that this is a big game and the fans are all up for it. They are the types of games as a player you want to play in. There are obviously big games for every club but you realise as a player here that this one is a bit more special than others. It means a lot for the fans and that gives the players an extra boost so it makes them want to be do even better. Hopefully we can perform as we did the last time and fingers crossed it will go well for us.”

Bohemians have had a difficult couple of weeks which included a 4-0 European defeat to a team that also wear green and white hoops. That elimination from Europe by TNS was followed with a win in Belfield but then last week, just like Rovers in their 3-3 draw with Sporting Fingal, they saw a win snatched from them by conceding a late goal. But Dennehy knows that the team in red and black will be up for it today. “Everybody realises Bohs aren’t a bad team but they are a good team and have good players just like Rovers have a good team and have good players,” explained Dennehy who would like to repeat his goal scoring from the last derby. “It was a great feeling with it being my first league goal here for Rovers. If I had to pick a game to score my first goal, I couldn’t have picked it any better. It was a great feeling to help the boys win and everybody played really well that night so I think we deserved it. Since then the team has really kicked on. That game turned around our season after a shaky start. We haven’t really looked back since.”