Posts Tagged ‘Gary Twigg’

A host of firsts await Finn Harps in the future

September 5, 2021 Leave a comment

Published in the Finn Harps match day programme – Issue 13 2021 – Finn Harps v Shamrock Rovers

There is something special about the first time. Tunde Owolabi fired home his first hat-trick for Finn Harps recently with the Belgian bagging all three goals in the 3-1 win over St. Patrick’s Athletic.

“What an insane night,” was how Owolabi described it on twitter afterward with a couple of on fire emojis also included and sure why not! “Feels like a dream. Super delighted with my first hat-trick for the club. The boys were unbelievable tonight. We are on [fire emoji]. Thank you for your wonderful support…the atmosphere was absolutely electric.”

It was a different type of temperature and atmosphere when Jason Colwell scored in Finn Park back in 1999 for what was his first goal for Shamrock Rovers. Colwell came from a staunch Shamrock Rovers supporting family – his father Joe was Rovers’ chairman and both Colwells were part of the club in the difficult years when the Tallaght project was stalled for a long period.

Jason joined the Hoops after several seasons with UCD and he got his first goal for Rovers on a Ballybofey pitch blanketed in snow in mid-April 1999.

“My first goal for Rovers was up in Finn Park in a rescheduled mid-week match,” said Colwell when he spoke recently to this writer. “It was snowing, we played with an orange ball and I scored with a diving header! Out of everything that shouldn’t be, it was, because I wouldn’t have scored too many headers [at five foot seven] and I wouldn’t have played too many times in snow with an orange ball! 

“We lost the game though so it didn’t really count for much. Probably nobody else remembers it but I’ll always remember it because it was my first goal for Rovers.”

A look back through the records shows that Harps won the game 4-1 with James Mulligan scoring twice, along with a goal from Eamonn Kavanagh with Peter Murray scoring an own goal putting the ball by Rovers ‘keeper Tony O’Dowd.

Colwell had the frustration of seeing a partially built stand in Tallaght Stadium lay idle during his playing career with the club. And his thoughts may be echoed by Harps players and supporters alike as the wait on further developments on the new ground in Stranorlar – although there was good news on that front earlier in the year with the government allocating a provisional grant of close to €4m for the project.

“We could see the stand being built and we were training on the pitch so we thought we’d be playing there soon but it didn’t happen,” said Colwell. “It’s a shame that the years I was playing we didn’t have our own ground but to have Tallaght now – I hope the players know how fortunate they are because plenty who went before them weren’t afforded that.”

Last week in the North West derby Owulabi got the winner in Harps’ first ever FAI Cup victory over Derry City. When the new stadium comes for Harps, the first goal and the first derby win will be massive events for the club. 

For Shamrock Rovers supporters the first win over Bohemians in Tallaght Stadium back in 2009 has gone down in history. Stephen Rice, the newly appointed Republic of Ireland senior men’s team chief scout and opposition analyst, was part of that Hoops team who somehow conjured a late win over the Gypsies who were leading 1-0 with a couple of minutes to go in that game in May 2009. 

“If anyone says to me ‘the Bohs game’ – and I’ve played in I don’t know how many Rovers v Bohs games – I know the one they are talking about,” said Rice. “It is always the first one in Tallaght. It was a great night with Gary Twigg getting real poacher’s goals. 

“Typical Twiggy, out of nowhere he got two goals in the 88th and 89th minutes to win the game. When the first goal went in you could see the crowd went off the wall. When that winning goal went in, it was unbelievable.” 

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 it Spark Joy?

IMG_8820The official League of Ireland sponsor will be glad to know I switched energy providers recently. The nice salesman from SSE Airtricity knocked on my door last month, just after I got back from playing some five-a-side. Always keen for saving a few bob, I invited him in so we could go through the process of transferring to SSE.


A few minutes later as I was filling in some of the forms, he remarked “So I take it you’re a Shamrock Rovers fan then?” Now please don’t picture my front room as a shrine to all things Super Hoops but a casual look around my home will give anyone several clues to my club allegiance.


Version 2The bookshelves have a comprehensive Shamrock Rovers section. There are a couple of picture frames on the wall containing Rovers match reports. Amongst the footballs on the high shelf to the right of the fireplace is a ball with the Rovers crest on it – although there is also one with BFC on it but more about that later.


If that didn’t give it away to the SSE salesman, I was wearing a Shamrock Rovers jersey! His question. said with a smile, gave me pause to think about all the many Rovers souvenirs that not quite clutter my home but maybe it is not far off!


In amongst my podcast listening this week, between Second Captains, An Irishman Abroad and the Sportscast, I found myself listening to Roisin Ingle of the Irish Times inviting Marie Kondo into her house to help her declutter her home. Kondo is the author of ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’. Her method in determining whether to hold onto objects or not is to ask the question “Does it spark joy in you?” In answer to my Shamrock Rovers memorabilia the answer is definitely “yes”.



The first of the two match reports on the wall in my living room is a framed copy of La Gazzetta dello Sport from 6 August 2010. Wandering through Modena train station that day, I stopped in my tracks when I saw the famous pink front cover of Italy’s main sports daily newspaper. There staring back at me wearing a Shamrock Rovers jersey was Alessandro Del Piero! I couldn’t get the €1 coin out of my pocket quick enough to buy the newspaper!




Alongside the picture of Del Piero wearing the jersey he swapped with Gary Twigg, the match report from that Europa League qualifier also has a picture of Del Piero’s stunning winner on the night. His free kick from all of 40 yards was the best I’ve ever seen at a game. My slightly water damaged match ticket sits inside the frame too. I don’t usually get much joy from a 1-0 defeat but the monsoon in Modena was some memorable match.


The second frame on my wall also contains a Rovers European match report. This one is from 2011 and covers Rovers’ first away trip of our incredible European campaign that led all the way to the Europa League group stages. The Irish Times match report from the Flora Tallinn v Rovers game in the frame was published that day accompanied by a photo of the joyful Shamrock Rovers fans at the game with many familiar faces on view. Amongst them is former Rovers player John Coady watching his club in Europe and dotted around the shot are plenty of people who are friends. The match report also has my by-line as it was the first report I ever wrote for any newspaper!


Amongst my programme collection stored on my bookshelves, adjacent to at least ten Shamrock Rovers books is an historic programme, one which also has a personal resonance. My aunt’s husband was a youth team player with Rovers in the 1950s and amongst his souvenirs was a programme from Rovers’ home game against Manchester United in the European Cup in 1957. That match was played just a few months before the tragic loss in Munich of so many of ‘Busby’s Babes’. When my Uncle died a few years ago, my Aunt gave me the programme and it is one that I keep safely.


Part of the football collection in my front room is that one with BFC written in marker across it. Let’s keep the story as to how this ball came into my possession between us Hoops Scene readers, right? Don’t go telling anyone over in Dalymount Park!


Match BallPlaying in the First Division in 2006 meant the Hoops didn’t face Bohemians in league action that season. They did of course memorably knock Bohs out of the FAI Cup that year as discussed with Barry Murphy in the last issue of Hoops Scene.
Rovers returned to top flight action the following season having won the First Division and in September 2007 travelled to face a Bohemians side in league action at Dalymount Park looking for the first Rovers win at the venue in two years.


An early goal by Dan O’Connor and a strike from Tadhg Purcell handed the Hoops a 2-0 advantage. Barry Murphy kept his clean sheet and as the match went towards 90 minutes Rovers looked to run the clock down. I played my part by hanging onto the match ball when it came into the crowd on the Connacht Street side of the ground! The final whistle sparked joyful scenes amongst the travelling support. The BFC branded ball was brought home wrapped in my Rovers flag as a cheeky souvenir!


Not in my front room but elsewhere in my house is a whole rack of Rovers jerseys. Home, away and third kits all hang in my back room along with one framed jersey on the wall. This is a jersey given to me by a friend from a charity match in Balally Park between the Rovers 1997 squad and the Four in a Row team and is signed by the players.


Through jersey auctions and player sponsorships, I have a few players jersey; Some famous (Gary Twigg 2011 number 9 away jersey), some noteworthy (David Vickery) and some international player jerseys. I’ve former Ireland international Graham Barrett’s jersey from his short stint at the club and Cameroonian international Joey Ndo’s number 10 Rovers home jersey from the 2008 season.


The latest jersey international player jersey I have and the one I was wearing when the man from SSE Airtricity called is from last season. It is the purple kit with number 18 on the back worn by Keith Fahey last year. I took up his sponsorship just a few weeks before Fahey unfortunately had to call time on his career. In jest I mentioned to Rovers’ marketing director was I going to get a refund? Quick as a flash he responded that the jersey was worth more now Fahey had retired!


When I got the jersey I tweeted out a photo of it saying “I’m looking forward to wearing this one at Astro next week. I’ll be picking out pin point passes like @Keith_Fahey.” The Ireland international himself replied with an answer that certainly gave me joy “Good man!! Somebody has to keep it going [thumbs up emoji – football emoji]”















Published in Hoops Scene 2016 Issue 4: Shamrock Rovers v Athlone Town (April 19)

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?



Tallaght Time book launch

July 16, 2013 1 comment

The official launch of Tallaght Time took place in the Gala Room in Tallaght Stadium on Friday 12th July ahead of the Shamrock Rovers v Derry City game. Broadcaster, and well known Hoops fan, Con Murphy officially launched the book and it was great for the authors to have Con do the honours and to have so many friends and family there for the launch.

Con Murphy with the authors of Tallaght Time

Con Murphy with the authors of Tallaght Time

There are some more photos of the launch on the book’s facebook page here.

On the night in Hoops Scene, Shamrock Rovers’ matchday programme, there was an edited extract from Chapter Seven of Tallaght Time describing the dramatic conclusion to title battle between Rovers and Bohs in 2010 when the Hoops travelled to Bray on the final night of the season.

Chapter 7: Who wants to be League Champions? 2010 Title Run-in

A draw was all that was needed for Rovers to be crowned champions unless Bohs could put a hatful past Dundalk in Dalymount Park. It was first blood to Bohs who went 1-0 up against Dundalk after only 12 minutes. When Bray scored eight minutes later, it meant that if results stayed that way, it would be three in a row for Bohs. Gary Twigg was not going to let that happen without a fight as he latched onto a through ball from Craig Sives just before the break in Bray.

7-2 Gary Twigg about to score against Bray bb

Gary Twigg
The ball gets down the side and the boy’s slipped and I was in. I saw the keeper coming and I took it around him. I don’t know why but for some reason I let the boy get back on the line. I’d usually hit it first time. I kept taking it in. The boy was closing me and I had nowhere to go except through his legs so I took it with the outside of my left foot. Thinking about it now I don’t know how I kept so calm with the pressure! The roar that went up that night when it went in was unreal. I think there was a lot of nervous energy going out from everyone.

Stephen Rice
With that goal other strikers may have snatched at it but Twiggy showed why he was the best striker in the league.

The Rovers fans’ nerves were eased when Twigg’s strike partner Thomas Stewart rounded off a fine passing move one minute into the second half giving Rovers a 2-1 lead while Bohs had conceded and were now only drawing their game. In the season that was in it, there was to be another twist when Gary Shaw’s diving header equalised for Bray after 69 minutes and Bohs went 2-1 up 10 minutes later. Rovers went into the three minutes of injury time at the Carlisle Grounds knowing that one more goal for Bray would mean the end for Rovers’ title ambitions.

In Dalymount Park, the final whistle went with Bohs 3-1 winners. In Bray, the Rovers fans beseeched referee Alan Kelly to blow up with a cacophony of whistles of their own. Alan Mannus had to make one final save but the referee blew up after what seemed the longest few minutes ever of injury time. The Hoops had waited 16 years to win the league but they had to wait no longer.

Rovers fans swarmed onto the pitch to celebrate with the players. Fans embraced each other with tears streaming down their faces. After all the ups and mostly downs since the last league title in 1994, this meant so much to the Shamrock Rovers fans. Nobody ever said winning the league would be easy but Rovers had managed to do it the very hard way. After 36 games, just two goals separated them from Bohemians at the end of the season.

There was a chaotic trophy presentation on the pitch. Surrounded by thousands of Rovers fans, captain Dan Murray managed to get his hands on the trophy alongside Stephen Rice to lift the coveted trophy to the backdrop of confetti and flares. In the melee that followed with fans swarming the podium, Pat Flynn was cracked over the head with the trophy, cutting his head open with blood flowing down his face. It was champagne though that flowed in the Rovers dressing room when they eventually got there.

Stephen Rice
The trophy presentation was poor but if you had to present me that league trophy in hell with fire and demons running around me, I would have taken it! It was crazy stuff. It was a massive night for the club and all of us players. It is something that we will never forget. It was incredible that some of the young fans out in Bray that night weren’t even alive when we won the last title.

Gary Twigg
What a night. If anybody says to me what is your best night playing for Shamrock Rovers, well the answer is that is the best night. That night will never be beaten for me, that was pure emotion.

The league trophy ready to be presented on the pitch in Bray

The league trophy ready to be presented on the pitch in Bray

Trevor Croly
My daughter was at the game with my mam and dad, and I wanted to stand and watch the presentation with her. I had her in my arms and I just watched the guys. I just wanted to see the lads get their reward. It was an emotional night, one of those special moments in your life.

Justin Mason
It was mayhem but who cares. It was brilliant. There was a guy in a wheelchair in front of us and he was trying to get on the pitch with two of his mates. We came down and lifted the wheelchair over the wall so he could get on the pitch! I thought Pat Flynn had head butted the trophy because he is that mad. I didn’t realise it was accidental!

Buzz O’Neill
We went into a pub in Bray and what struck me was that it was all the same faces who had been in those meetings in the Plaza Hotel back in 2005, who had gone to the High Court hearings, who had been in Cobh back in 2006 [when Rovers won the first division]. A friend was there with her Dad and I started hugging her Dad and she was saying, ‘oh, by the way Dad, this is Buzz’. Never met the man before in my life! We limped over the line to a degree but when they engrave the League of Ireland trophy it doesn’t say ‘won it by one goal’, it just says ‘champions’.

Match Facts
Two or more teams had finished level on points at the top of the table five times before in League of Ireland history. Shelbourne had a superior goal difference to Derry City in 2006 and three titles were decided by playoffs, including Cork Hibernians’ 3-1 win over Shamrock Rovers in 1970/71.

15 Rovers players won the first League of Ireland medal of their careers that night. In the modern era, seven players have won the Premier Division with three different clubs. All of them played with Rovers and, with the exception of Joseph Ndo and Colin Hawkins, they all won a title at Rovers – John Coady, Mick Neville, Paul Doolan, Neale Fenn and Gary O’Neill.

© Macdara Ferris and Karl Reilly / The Liffey Press (2013)

Tallaght Time, published by The Liffey Press, tells the remarkable tale of Shamrock Rovers’ recent history since the club moved to their new home told through the words of those closely involved; Rovers officials, players and fans. In depth interviews were carried out specifically for the book with a number of Rovers officials and players including Gary Twigg, Stephen Rice, Dan Murray, Trevor Croly, Stephen Kenny and Jonathan Roche amongst many others.

The book describes the many magical nights since the Hoops moved to Tallaght such as Cristiano Ronaldo making his debut for Real Madrid against Rovers; the visit of Alessandro Del Piero and his star-studded Juventus team and winning their first league title since 1994. The book also charts Rovers’ extraordinary 2011 European campaign including the never-to-be-forgotten win over Partizan Belgrade in Serbia and the trip to White Hart Lane.

The book is 320 pages in length with over 70 colour photos by club photographers Bobby Best and George Kelly and includes historical inserts and detailed appendices with results, appearances and scorers for all Rovers matches from 2009 to 2012.

Tallaght Time is available from the Shamrock Rovers megastore, online and in Easons, Reads and Dubray Books.

Front cover Tallaght Time


Bray Wanderers 2 – 2 Shamrock Rovers

Shamrock Rovers were lucky to escape from their trip to the Carlisle Grounds in Bray with a 2-2 draw. Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters scored both of Bray Wanderers’ goals. However, his first half goals were cancelled out by Ronan Finn and Gary Twigg, who got the equaliser for Rovers eight minutes from time.

Bray Wanderers dominated proceedings in the first half. Dane Massey and Waters were constant thorns in the visitor’s sides. Massey went close after just three minutes when his shot hit the side net. Rovers could have conceded a penalty 10 minutes later as Conor McCormack’s hand flicked away a ball that Waters had lifted inside the Rovers right-back.

Some nice build up play from Bray saw Adam Hanlon get down the Rovers right. He played a dangerous ball into the box and Jason Byrne stepped over it to allow Waters get a shot away. Oscar Jansson saved that shot but could do nothing four minutes later when Bray opened the scoring. It was a great move with some lovely linked up play between Massey and Byrne. Massey played in Waters whose crisp left foot finish hit the back of the net from the edge of the box.

Rovers finally came into the game on the half hour mark with Gary McCabe floating in a couple of crosses but first Chris Turner and then Gary Twigg wasted headed chances.

On 35 minutes Rovers keeper Jansson came running out of his box to head a Bray through ball clear. McCabe picked the ball up for Rovers but was sloppy in possession allowing Waters to try a speculative shot from 40 yards that went over the bar.

Two mintues later Wanderers double their lead with Waters getting his second of the night. Dean Zambra passed to Waters wide on the left. He showed great skill as he cut inside Craig Sives and with his right foot slotted the goal away nicely.

Controversy reigned just before half time. Gary Twigg was fouled by Pierce Sweeney in the Bray box and referee Paul McLaughlin pointed to the spot. Twigg put it away but the ‘keeper and referee were not ready. The ref was busy sending off Keith Long from the Bray dugout as he protested over the penalty concession. When eventually Twigg retook the penalty, it was saved by Darren Quigley. Billy Dennehy slotted the rebound home but he had encroached into the area. As the penalty had been saved, the ref ruled that it wasn’t goal and play was restarted with a free out to Bray.

Bray looked to protect their lead in the second half and defended resolutely until they were picked apart by Rovers on the break. Second half substitute Daryl Kavanagh slotted Ronan Finn in on goal in the box. Finn’s fine finish low to Darren Quigley’s left made it 2-1.

Bray’s discipline began to let them down. Jason Byrne picked up Bray’s fourth yellow card when he conceded a free in a dangerous position. Dennehy’s free beat the wall but not Quigley in goal who claimed it at the second attempt.

Daryl Kavanagh provided great impetus for Rovers when he came on and he set up the equaliser. He picked up the ball in midfield and holding off a couple of Bray challenges played the ball to Twigg in the box. Twigg took once touch and tucked it away to make it 2-2.

Rovers had one final chance to get a winner that they really wouldn’t have deserved. McCabe picked up a return ball thanks to Finn’s flicked back heel but the winger shot high over the bar as the game ended in a draw.

Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; David Webster, Danny O’Connor, Pierce Sweeney, Kevin Knight (Adam Mitchell 83); Adam Hanlon, Dane Massey, Dean Zambra, John Mulroy, Kieran Marty Waters; Jason Byrne (Daire Doyle 86).
Subs not used: Brian Kane, Stephen Last, Graham Kelly, Jonathan Kelty, Anthony Bolger.
Yellow Cards: John Mulroy (52), Dane Massey (58), Darren Quigley (60), Jason Byrne (75).

Shamrock Rovers: Oscar Jansson; Conor McCormack, Craig Sives, Ken Oman, Conor Powell (Aaron Greene 79); Gary McCabe, Chris Turner, Ronan Finn, Billy Dennehy; Gary Twigg, Gary O’Neill (Daryl Kavanagh 64).
Subs not used: Reyaad Pierterse, Sean Gannon, Graham Gartland, Stephen Rice, Dean Ebbe,
Bookings: Conor Powell (41), Ronan Finn (56).

Referee: Paul McLaughlin.
Attendance: 1,500 (estimate). Man of the Match: Kieran Marty Waters (Bray Wanderers).

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.

Rovers not heartbroken with Valentine’s Day Defeat…

February 19, 2012 Leave a comment

My match report for Shamrock Rovers official website

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

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’

Twigg’s crisp finish bags late winner at Hunky Dorys Park

Shamrock Rovers had Gary Twigg to thank for their 1-0 away win against Drogheda United tonight (Friday 15 July 2011). The Scotsman scored the only goal of the game, and his eleventh league goal of the season, in the 94th minute at Hunky Dorys Park.

It was perhaps a distracted performance by the Hoops as the played this Airtricity League game sandwiched between the first and second legs of their Champions League tie against Flora Tallinn. The Rovers line up was certainly shaped by the upcoming European fixture with Manager Michael O’Neill making seven changes to the starting eleven from the one that played the Estonian champions just three days ago. O’Neill, who was serving a one match touch line ban, handed a league starting debut to Jamaican goalkeeper Ryan Thompson.

It was Drogheda’s goalkeeper Steven Trimble who was tested first as he punched away a Dean Kelly shot from just outside the area in the first minute. Drogheda created the next scoring chance as Thompson dropped the ball under a challenge but Craig Sives, diving full length on the line, cleared with a header. United had a big appeal for a penalty after Pat Flynn had a hand on the back of Gavin Brennan but referee Neil Doyle waved play on. After twenty minutes Mark O’Brien latched onto a ball over the top and forced a good save from Rovers keeper Thompson.

Rovers lined out with a 4-3-3 system with Gary O’Neill playing in the centre up front. O’Neill went close after 22 minutes when he ran onto a Stephen O’Donnell through ball. Goalkeeper Trimble raced out of his area to head the ball just ahead of O’Neill. Both side were creating chances and Drogheda’s Dinny Corcoran forced a save from Thompson down low to his right on 24 minutes. Coming up towards half time, Rovers captain Dan Murray linked up with Dean Kelly who cut in by two Drogheda players to feed O’Donnell who won a corner. The short corner routine didn’t work and after two injury minutes the teams departed for the half time break all square.

The Rovers management team were quick to make the changes in the second half as the Hoops went in search of a goal. Stephen O’Donnell made way for Ronan Finn at the start of the second half. Seven minutes later there was a double substitution with Gary Twigg and Billy Dennehy coming on for O’Neill and McCormack. This saw Rovers switch to a 4-4-2 formation with Twigg going up top alongside Dean Kelly.

After 66 minutes a Stephen Rice long throw was flicked on by Craig Sives into the path of winger Gary McCabe. However, McCabe couldn’t find the back of the net as Trimble made another save. Rovers continued to pile the pressure on the Drogheda goal as two minutes later Twigg played Dennehy in on goal only for the Drogheda defender to clear. Brian Gannon pulled McCabe back on 73 minutes giving Rovers a free kick in a dangerous position. Billy Dennehy played the free in but too high for Dan Murray at the back post.

Rovers were forcing a series of corners with Billy Dennehy winning one on 75 minutes. McCabe swung it in to the box hitting the first defender. Craig Sives managed to pick up the rebound and played the ball across the box for Twigg and his shot was saved. The clearance from the defender nearly went into his own net but just whistled by the post. Dan Murray’s header from the subsequent corner fell to Billy Dennehy just outside the six yard box and he won another corner.

The Rovers fans were beginning to think it was going to be a disappointing night as the clock ticked past 80 minutes. Dennehy picked up a one-two but could only shoot wide. News of a Sligo Rovers goal fest against bottom side Galway was filtering through to the crowd as Rovers laboured to score just one goal against second from bottom Drogheda. McCabe and Kelly combined next with Twigg putting a glancing header just past the post. With ten minutes to go, McCabe’s next bit of trickery saw him hauled back by Brennan who received a yellow card.

Drogheda were trying to exploit the space left as Rovers pushed on looking for a winner and Pat Flynn and Enda Stevens were required to put in some vital challenges at the back to keep their clean sheet. The four minutes of injury time were almost up as Billy Dennehy climbed above his marker to flick on the ball to the onrushing Gary Twigg. He calmly lifted the ball over the advancing Trimble to find the top corner of the net and celebrated down in front of the sizeable Rovers away contingent. Drogheda probably felt hard done by but they didn’t really do enough in the second half to test Thompson and his Rovers defence. All attention now switches to Europe and the second leg of the second qualifying round of the Champions League in Estonia. Following the draw in Nyon today, Rovers now know that if they can build on their 1-0 win and overcome Flora, they will face FC Copenhagen in the next round.

Hoops Line Out
16 Ryan Thompson
3 Enda Stevens
4 Craig Sives
5 Dan Murray (c) [yellow card]
13 Pat Flynn [yellow card]
6 Stephen Rice
8 Stephen O’Donnell
22 Conor McCormack
7 Gary McCabe
9 Gary O’Neill
14 Dean Kelly

21 Ronan Finn for O’Donnell 45’
9 Gary Twigg for O’Neill 52’
20 Billy Dennehy for McCormack 52’
1 Alan Mannus
2 Pat Sullivan
17 Ken Oman
15 Paddy Kavanagh

Drogheda United: 1 Trimble 2 Quigley 3 Hand 4 McNally 5 Gannon 6 Lynch 7 O’Brien 8 McMahon 9 Corcoran 10 Mulvenna 11 Brennan
Subs: 12 Thompson for McMahon (on 86 mins) and 17 White for Mulvenna (on 90 mins)

The Bhoy in the Hoops

Article published in Hoops Scene Celtic XI\Wexford Youths February 2010

Watching Gary Twigg playing for Shamrock Rovers last season, nobody could be in any doubt about the high level of enjoyment he took from playing for Rovers.  His 24 league goals last season were celebrated with vigour on the pitch by the player and with fervour in the stands from the supporters.  Twigg rapidly became a fans favourite with a rendition of the Scottish national anthem in honour of our “Twigg of Scotland” being sung from the stands.  Speaking to him, the pleasure he took last season from his performances and the vocal support he received from the stands, along with his disappointment on the club not gaining a league title is obvious.  His passion for his other team in green and white hoops also shines through.  This week’s game against a Celtic XI allows Gary Twigg take on the club from his home town and the club he has supported since he was a small boy.

“Growing up it was the Hoops of Celtic for me but now I’m in the Hoops of Shamrock Rovers,” he said and confirmed he never lost that passion for Celtic.  When playing three seasons with Airdrie he always made the effort to go support his club having a Celtic season ticket during that time.  “I would try to get to every game I could get to.  If I played Saturday and Celtic played on a Sunday I’d go and watch them home or away, wherever they were playing.  But I never played against Celtic so it will be good.  I don’t know what team they are bringing over but it will still be Celtic we are playing against.  They play Rangers on Sunday, so they will probably rest whoever they want for that one to be ready.  Celtic are a big attraction so the stadium should be near capacity.  That’s no surprise as for the Rovers fans, it doesn’t matter who we are playing, they’ll be there.”

The extensive coverage of British football on television in Ireland allows Twigg to keep up to speed with all things Celtic but he also gets to see the Bhoys play live during the season.  “If Celtic are on TV, I always watch them and if I get a free weekend and I’m back in Glasgow, I will always go to see them.”

But Twigg doesn’t confine himself to following teams in green and white hoops, he is a football fan and likes to go a live game when the opportunity arises.  “I go and watch Cliftonville when I’m free and they are about the area.  They are the team I’m interested in the North.  I was at the game against Linfield with Barry Johnson.  It was good game and Clintonville managed a win.”  So the Rovers star striker is a Celtic and Cliftonville fan who enjoys to see Linfield get beaten.  That will tick many of the boxes for lots of Rovers fans!  He does also pop along to watch Newry City as he explained, “I live near Newry and I go and watch them if I’m not doing anything on a Saturday or I’ve no training on a Tuesday night.”

In an incredible first season with Rovers, he got the first ever goal in Tallaght Stadium, got two late late derby goals against eventual league winners Bohs, picked up the player of month award in September, top goalscorer for Rovers and in the league, Player of the Year at Rovers and the Players Player of the Year.  Could he have envisaged such an amazing season?

“It happened so fast with me moving over just ahead of the transfer deadline. Things went so well so quickly when I didn’t expect to come into a new team and do so well early on.  Yeah, so for me personally it was a really good season but disappointing the way it ended up with the league”.  And what of being given his Shamrock Rovers Player of the Year award to the tune of “Twigg of Scotland” being played on the bagpipes?  “Totally unexpected,” he laughs, “what a good gesture, I thoroughly enjoyed it!  It was special to win that award.”

For Twigg it was a very long season.  Having played 23 games with Brechin City, scoring 12 goals, he then moved from the winter Scottish football season straight into the Irish summer season.  He started a further 32 league games.  So what was his condition at the end of his marathon season?  “I obviously did feel tired and fatigued.  I needed the end of the season.  I felt my own form had started to dip as I was getting tired but I tried to do my best in the title run in, win each game and keep myself sharp.”

And while Twigg enjoyed his time off over Winter, getting away to Tenerife and back to Glasgow to see family, friends and some football, he was still looking forward to getting back playing football again.  “It was getting boring, yes the rest is good, but there was a bit of mopping about house with nothing to do.”  However, it wasn’t several weeks off with nothing to do as Rovers gave each player work to do over the off season.  “We had programmes during the break to keep ourselves ticking over.  If you rest for two months it is very hard when you go back.”  Indeed Twigg had high praise for the management and coaching team of Michael O’Neill and Trevor Crolly.  “We’ve got a manager and a very very good coach in Trevor Crolly who put on unbelievable sessions for us.  Every session you have to be ready for work, that’s what you want.  The gaffer and Trevor expect high standards.  With the squad we’ve got this season, the boys that have come in also expect high standards so the level keeps on increasing and increasing.  That’s what we need to do as a team to get up to the next level.”

Shamrock Rovers enjoyed two weekend training camps in Carton House during preseason where Twigg says they were very well taken care of.  “It was a great break away, getting looked after with top notch facilities in a beautiful setting and surroundings for training.”  But after last week’s trip back to his native Scotland to play Hibs and Hearts, it is clear Twigg is relishing the first league game on the season.  “I can’t wait for the first game.  Preseason hurts you but you need to be ready for the start of the season.  We are gearing up to be ready for the weekend of March 5th.”  And what of playing on a Friday night as Rovers home games will predominantly be this season?  “I prefer Friday as last year we were always playing catch up.  Bohs playing on Friday and then you have to wait for our game Saturday.  From the club’s point of view, they are trying to see when we get bigger crowds.”  For Rovers, for the first time since 2003, they will get to play in European competition and this is something Twigg is also looking forward to.  “I can’t wait. I’ve never played in Europe before so it is a great opportunity.  Hopefully the draw is kind and we can progress.  We saw St. Pats do that last year and there is no reason why Rovers can’t do it this year.”

Friendlies against Celtic and trips to Europe can be a nice distraction but it is that elusive league title that is the main priority.  “In the League, Bohs will be there along with a few other teams that will be really good this year.  We will be up the top fighting and hopefully at the end of the season things will have worked out for us.  The end of last season was disappointing and that will be in the back of a few of the boy’s minds.  When it comes to certain situations this year we can use that and hopefully we can kick on and win that league title that everybody wants.”