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

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Published in Irish Examiner (12th December 2011)

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.irishexaminer.com/sport/soccer/hoops-hoping-to-make-it-hot-for-spurs-176892.html#ixzz1gMGkcLfz

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O’Neill’s men park bus to keep dream alive (Irish Examiner)

Match report published in the Irish Examiner

FC Copenhagen 1 Shamrock Rovers 0

By Macdara Ferris, Parken Stadium
Thursday, July 28, 2011

SHAMROCK ROVERS came into last night’s Champions League qualifier knowing they were facing formidable opposition in Copenhagen, a team studded with full internationals and players with knockout stage experience of Europe’s biggest competition.
The League of Ireland champions emerged from the game with much credit, putting in a determined performance but they still face the difficult task of overcoming last night’s 1-0 defeat when Copenhagen visit Tallaght next Tuesday.

Rovers manager Michael O’Neill had made it clear that his objective for the first leg in the Parken Stadium was to contain the Danish champions and keep the tie alive. That is what his team managed to do with his team effectively deploying a 4-1-4-1 system to stifle the attacking threat of Copenhagen.

“I was delighted with the performance and I thought we were excellent throughout the game,” said O’Neill. “There is a slight hint of disappointment to have lost the game to be honest.”

Things did not go exactly to plan for O’Neill, with his side conceding a goal after only three minutes. Copenhagen won a corner which Rovers cleared but Pierre Bengtsson collected the ball and his cross was headed into the top right-hand corner by Solvi Ottesen.

Copenhagen went on to create a number of chances down the left in the first half. Pape Pate Diouf initially turned Craig Sives, cutting in on the left but his right-foot shot went over the bar.

Next, Bengtsson got clear down the left but Diouf wastefully hit the ball over the bar.

The Dubliners’ best chance of the half came when a Pat Sullivan cross was flicked on by captain Gary Twigg to Billy Dennehy but he couldn’t force the ball home under pressure in the six yard box in front of the 200 or so Rovers fans who had made the trip.

Ryan Thompson was certainly the busier goalkeeper as he came through a crowd of players to punch clear a cross from the Copenhagen player with the Irish ancestry, Thomas Delaney.

It was a big night for the goalkeeper, who became the first Jamaican to play in the Champions League on the night he replaced the recently departed Alan Mannus in goal.

Just before half time he pulled off a fine save when Diouf powered a free header towards the top corner from another Delaney cross.

O’Neill was delighted with the performance of his goalkeeper and the defence in front of him.

“He made key saves at key moments and dealt with everything else that was asked of him,” said O’Neill. “It was fantastic from him and fantastic from the back four. We defended valiantly.’’

Ken Oman, who picked up a knee injury late in the game, came closest for Rovers in the second half when his header had keeper Johan Wiland scrambling.

Both Ronan Finn and Twigg created chances for the Hoops as the game moved into the last quarter but they couldn’t claim the away goal ahead of next week’s return leg.

O’Neill said: “Every time the ball went into the box we asked questions of them and it gives us every encouragement for the second leg. The players enhanced their reputation.”

COPENHAGEN: Wiland; Thomsen (Sigurdsson 45), Ottesen, Jorgensen, Bengtsson; Bolanos, Claudemir, Grindheim, Delaney (Absalonsen 60); Diouf, Santin (Nordstrand 69).

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Thompson; Sullivan, Sives, Oman (Murray 82), Stevens; McCormack; Kelly (McCabe 52), Rice (Kilduff 89), Finn, Dennehy; Twigg.

Referee: Pavle Radovanovic (Montenegro).

Read more: http://www.irishexaminer.com/sport/soccer/oneills-men-park-bus-to-keep-dream-alive-162438.html#ixzz1TRHOQR7M

Relaxed Rovers ready for Danish test (Irish Examiner)

Match Preview published in the Irish Examiner

By Macdara Ferris
Wednesday, July 27, 2011

SHAMROCK ROVERS go into tonight’s Champions League third qualifying round clash against FC Copenhagen with a massive task. They must overcome a club that made the knockout stages of the competition last year, emerging from the group stages behind Barcelona before being eliminated in the last 16 by Chelsea.

It is a different situation for Rovers tonight compared with their other games this season with Copenhagen clear favourites. However, Rovers manager Michael O’Neill speaking in the Parken Stadium ahead of the game, feels this may actually help his side. “The pressure was on us to get through the last round,” said O’Neill, “We can maybe approach this game in a slightly more relaxed manner. The expectation level is lower and I think the players will relish that.”

Rovers are missing two of their key performers from their win against FC Flora Tallinn. Midfielder Chris Turner is suspended and will most likely be replaced by Stephen Rice. An even bigger miss could be Northern Ireland international Alan Mannus who joined SPL side St Johnstone last week.

Mannus will be replaced in goal by Jamaican international Ryan Thompson. Listening to Thompson, it is clear the keeper is confident about stepping up to play his first game in the Champions League. “I’m ready. I’ve been preparing for years and months, sitting on the bench, biding my time. Now I’m ready to go on and express myself. The stage is set, it’s about time I show here who Ryan Thompson is all about.”

His manager has no worries about his new keeper. “I think his mentality and his mindset will help him,” said a relaxed O’Neill. “He has the right character to deal with the situation.”

O’Neill went on to explain his team’s strategy for tonight’s game. “The objective is to make sure the tie is very much alive when we go back to Tallaght, to contain Copenhagen and look to exploit them when we get the opportunity to do so. We do believe there are areas that we can exploit.”

Copenhagen’s new manager Roland Nilsson, a former teammate of Michael O’Neill at Coventry City, spoke about Rovers. “They are well organised and have lots of energy,” said the former Swedish star. “We are favourites. If you are going to beat a team that are well organised, you need to do something to break it up and that is with good passing and a high tempo.”

SHAMROCK ROVERS (probable): Thompson; Sullivan, Sives, Oman, Stevens; Dennehy, Rice, Finn, McCormack, Kelly; Twigg.

Read more: http://www.examiner.ie/sport/soccer/relaxed-rovers-ready-for-danish-test-162330.html#ixzz1TRCn7jYQ