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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.

The Tallaght Project – Stephen Bradley

December 14, 2015 Leave a comment

Interview with Stephen Bradley (Hoops Scene 9/2015 – Shamrock Rovers v Sligo Rovers – 5 June 2015)

 

For over a decade the discussion about Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght was about bricks and mortar. The Tallaght Project priority was seeking to complete the half-finished stand languishing on Whitestown Way so that Rovers could finally play their first game in the Dublin 24 venue.

 

If there is such thing as a Tallaght Project now however, it is more likely about the structures being developed for player development throughout the club from schoolboys right through to the first team. Someone who has seen both these different Tallaght Projects at close hand is Stephen Bradley.

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Growing up in Jobstown, Bradley was 11-years-of-age when there were the initial discussions began about Rovers moving to Tallaght. He saw the shell of the stadium develop and then lay idle for years when his time in Tallaght was visiting home during breaks from being a youth team player with Arsenal.

 

When Michael O’Neill looked to bring Bradley into the Hoops squad for the inaugural season in Tallaght, the player knew he was joining a club, now his local club, at the most exciting time in decades. He would line out in the opening night in the new stadium, play 63 games in two seasons with the Hoops and become part of a Rovers team that would win the club’s first league title since the days in the RDS.

 

Bradley has a remarkable story to tell and it is fascinating to hear him discuss going over to the UK on football trials before he was even a teenager, how he fell out of love with playing the game and how passionate he is now with his coaching role at Rovers.

 

At just 30 years of age, he is now back at Shamrock Rovers. Having left his playing career behind him he is now playing a crucial part in footballer development at the club, at both ends of the spectrum; he is in charge of player development at foundation stage (under 8s to 12s) and is also a vital member of Pat Fenlon’s first team coaching staff. Hoops Scene spoke to the player recently to discuss both his playing and coaching career and also his scouting work that he currently does for Arsenal.

 

So when did he first go over to the UK on trial? “I was 10,” said Bradley. “It is crazy when you think of it. Would I do it again? It was a massive opportunity but it is far too early. We are maybe in danger of going back towards that having come away from it in the last number of years. Now some kids are going at under 11s and 12s and I think that is too young.”

 

Late last year when Bradley was manager of the PFAI team at the Fifpro tournament in Oslo, he spoke about having signed for Arsenal on a big money contract at 17, his head was turned by the size of his bank balance despite not playing with the Gunners first team. He forgot that he was in London to learn his trade and not spend money on extravagant things. He is happy to share his thoughts on that experience and what he learned on his return to Ireland to play professional football where he won league titles first with Drogheda United and then with Rovers.

 

“I spoke about this as I felt not enough people were talking about it and nothing was been done to rectify it. I went over really young. I fell out of love with the game when I signed a professional contract. Some people may say ‘can clubs not set money aside so you don’t get it until you are 20’ but there are bigger issues. I didn’t deal with it very well but that was my scenario.

 

“If we want to keep producing players like Robbie Keane and Damien Duff, we need to look at how we are supporting our players before they go, when they go and when they come back. We shouldn’t just send them over to a cattle market at the age of 15 and say best of luck.”

 

Bradley believes that there is no reason why Ireland cannot develop talented young footballers. Having retired from playing the game at a relatively early age, the passion that he has for coaching players is clear when he speaks about it and how he was drawn to being part of setting up coaching structures at his former club here in Tallaght.

 

“I don’t believe Ireland can’t produce players, we do produce players. We just have to get them early enough when they are in the learning stage. Then they take it in and grasp what you are saying to them. We want to give kids an option of staying in Ireland and finishing their education. I would encourage any kid that has that option to do that.

 

“I wouldn’t have gotten involved if I didn’t believe the club wasn’t behind it or were only going to do for 18 months. I wouldn’t have any interest if players weren’t going to gain from it. It must be long term. From the board, to the first team manager and Shane Robinson (Rovers’ Head of Player and Coach Development), it is getting the backing right through the club.

 

“The end goal is to develop players for the first team. It isn’t a two or three year project. We will see in 10 to 15 years time six or seven players coming through from youth set up into the first team.

 

“The fans, the board and the coaches want to see that. Our aim is to get them into to team to show people you don’t have to go away at 15 like I did. You can stay here, play first team football for Shamrock Rovers at the age of 18. If they are good enough, then they can be sold on.

 

“The new under 17 league is needed because I saw schoolboy football players fall away from the game if they didn’t get over to England at 15. They thought they had missed their chance. This is showing them now that if you stay in football, play first team football with a top League of Ireland, you can move on.

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“Look at Keith Fahey here at Rovers. He went over to the UK, came home and then went again. You look at so many who have done that (in the current Ireland international squad). It shows that if you play in this league and do well enough, you will go over at a stage when you are ready.

 

“My thing with the kids is that I’ve seen and gone through it not so long ago. I know why I didn’t fulfil my potential and I’m okay with that. But now it is about helping other kids become better players and deal with different scenarios. That is why I am so passionate about the youth side of the game as I feel I have something to offer. The younger you get them, the better. They hang onto every word you say and that is fantastic.”

 

Rovers have put a group of coaches together to run the underage set up with extensive experience playing both in the League of Ireland and in leagues outside the country. Shane Robinson (FK Haka), Stephen Bradley (who also spent time playing in Scotland), Graham Gartland (St. Johnstone), Keith O’Halloran (Middlesbrough) are all either UEFA A and B qualified, and along with Pat Deans, whose qualification is in Strength & Conditioning, all five of them played previously for Shamrock Rovers at different stages of their careers.

 

“I don’t believe you have to play at the top level to be a top coach or manager but it definitely helps when you are looking at these kids and you hear them saying to another ‘he played for Shamrock Rovers a few years ago’ It makes an impact with the kids. All of us involved have played with Rovers so it is great to have that connection to the club.

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“After the kids come out of the Academy (weekend sessions in the Spawell for under 7s), we are trying to give them the basic elements of football. Control, pass, dribble. Let them express themselves. As they are enjoying it, they are learning about the game and that is what we are trying to do with them at that age.

 

“They play in leagues but there are no league tables until they go 10s. They train three times a week and then they play a game on the Saturday. There is supposed to be nobody keeping score but tell the parents and the other coaches that!

 

“The kids do ask about the score. I don’t think we will ever stop it but there is no harm in that! The main thing is that the adults don’t feed into that and say ‘we won or we lost on Saturday’. It isn’t about that. It is about the kids learning the basics of how to play football and letting them make decisions which is really important.

 

“Whether it is right or wrong, we encourage them to do that and over time they will learn whether it was correct or not. It isn’t up to us to tell them that, they need to work it out and I believe in the long term that will help them.

 

“Football is very different now. There is no street football being played anymore. People ask me how I was technically gifted but it was because I was on the street every day all day kicking the ball off a wall or the path. You kicked it at different angles and you had to control it in different ways but that is gone now and we have to try and replicate it.”

 

Some of the kids that take part in Rovers’ Academy programme were not even born when the Hoops played their first game in Tallaght back in March 2009. That is a game that standouts from Bradley’s playing career.

 

“Being from Tallaght I’d seen the slow progress (of the stadium) growing up. At one stage with a lot of things going on, you were thinking this may never happen. So to play in the first game in Tallaght stadium was special.

 

“When Michael O’Neill spoke to me about signing, I knew how big it was from growing up in the area. I knew there would be a good buzz but I never thought it would be as big as that night. The first game in Tallaght was massive. The whole build up to the game was absolutely unbelievable.

 

“When we came out, the ground was packed. We played well and we won. It was one of those nights that you look back on and you will never forget as it was a special night. When we came into the dressing room after the first game it was like winning the league. That was the buzz. All the lads had a high like we had won the title.”

 

While Rovers just missed out on winning the league in that opening season in Tallaght, the following year the Hoops did lift the league trophy. “I’ve been lucky to win things with a few teams (winning a title, FAI Cup and two Setanta Cups with Drogheda) but the Rovers one was special. As a Tallaght lad and hearing how long it was since winning the league, to win one was really special. It was something you thought it might never happen but that squad wanted to win things together and we did.”

 

Next month marks five years since Rovers’ famous encounter in the Europa League qualifiers with a club who over the weekend are looking to win the 2015 Champions League final in Berlin. “We played really well,” said Bradley speaking about the game against Juventus in Modena. That was a night where it took a moment of genius from Alessandro Del Piero to separate the teams.

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“Del Piero put one in the net from 50 yards! I didn’t play in a game where I saw a better free kick. He was brilliant playing wise and after the game too. He came into us and brought us all into their dressing room and made sure we all swapped shirts. They were excellent.”

 

In between his coaching role with Rovers, Bradley also is a scout for Arsenal. Prior to his current role at Rovers, he did a lot of scouting in Europe for the Gunners. He would travel over to a league or international game in Europe. Now for scouting players outside of Ireland, Arsenal normally send him a live link of the game to watch.

 

“If you are doing stuff for the first team, the boss (Arsene Wenger) usually gives you a target to give a full report on. Other times you go to a game and they won’t tell you which player they are looking out for. They let you watch the game and see if you pick him out.

 

“It keep you on your toes! You have to be tuned in for the game and every player. When you are filling out the report on the system, you nearly always have to get the player that they have ear marked. I would look from first team players down to young players and all around Europe.

 

“Sometimes you might get a link from a live game somewhere else in the world and you have to scout Ronaldo or Messi. You have to forget about his reputation and scout him whether he has played well or not. They might get a few scouts to do that game and then they will compare reports. It is a good indication to see which scout is looking at certain things.

 

“The manager has always done it that way and you can see the results with their recruitment which has been some of the best around in the last 10 to 15 years. Coaching is what I love doing with the first team or with the young lads but scouting makes you look at the game in a different way. I love it. Training in the morning with the first team, doing stuff in the evenings with the kids or go to the North or down to Cork to watch a team or watch a live stream of a game. It is football 24/7!”

 

 

 

Hyland hitting the heights with the Hoops

December 13, 2015 Leave a comment

Interview with Craig Hyland from Hoops Scene 4/2015 Shamrock Rovers v Bohemian FC (27 March 2015)

It was the fifth meeting of the teams in Oriel Park in 2015. The Dundalk crowd, and indeed their team, were nervy as the Lilywhites faced Shamrock Rovers in their penultimate home game of the season; the point they would earn in this 0-0 draw against the Hoops would turn out to be crucial in securing Dundalk the title. Referee Rob Rogers had a busy game and by the final whistle would brandish nine yellow cards, one red card and give Rovers a late penalty that they would miss.

 

The yellow card the referee gave Barry Murphy for time wasting would have a significant influence on the goalkeeping situation at the start of this season for Shamrock Rovers. Murphy’s fifth yellow card of 2014 meant that he picked up a suspension that would rule him out of the first league game of this season. This essentially ensured Craig Hyland would start in goal for Rovers at the start of the 2015 league campaign.

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“He was unfortunate to get that suspension but that gave me my chance,” said Hyland about Murphy’s yellow card when Hoops Scene caught up with the goalkeeper after last Friday’s 0-0 draw with Cork City in Tallaght Stadium. “My whole focus in the off-season was to work really hard in the gym, and then on the pitch when we came back training, as I knew I was going to play in the first game.”

 

24-year-old Hyland had a previous spell with the Hoops in 2011 and he re-signed with Rovers last season making ten first team appearances (plus a further three starts with Rovers’ First Division team). He played in the EA Sports Cup Final at Oriel Park in the 3-2 defeat to Dundalk and kept a clean sheet in each of his three league appearances made in the last four weeks of the 2014 season.

 

“I played a few more times under Pat (Fenlon) than Trevor Croly and I felt I did well. The cup final was a big one for me for confidence. The result didn’t go well but goals aside I played fairly well and that gave me confidence for the games where I came in. I played relatively well, kept a few clean sheets and that stood me in good stead for this year.

 

“The whole goal for the start of the season was, even though I was going to play the first game, to extend it and play as much as possible. Luckily the first game went well; I kept a clean sheet and I’ve managed to stay in the team.”

 

On the opening night, played in windy conditions particularly tough for a goalkeeper, Hyland pulled off a spectacular save in injury time to deny St. Patrick’s Athletic striker Ciarán Kilduff a goal and earn the Hoops a 1-0 victory. He followed that up with a clean sheet in the 2-0 win away to Longford before last week’s draw against Cork – making it six clean sheets in a row for the Hoops.

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The goalkeeping team at Shamrock Rovers is led by coach Dermot O’Neill and bolstered by under 19 goalkeepers Michael Kelly and Luca Gratzer. The situation with goalkeepers is an interesting dynamic as ‘keepers can go many matches without getting on the pitch, unlike outfield players who can come in and play in usually a couple of positions.

 

“You can go long periods of time without playing or sometimes you are in and out for cup games and then back on the bench. It is a mental challenge more than anything else. Last year, even though I knew that was the case, it was difficult at times. It can be frustrating. As a goalkeeper, you know there is only one position but there is always a few alternatives as an outfield player.

 

“You do work a lot closer with your fellow goalkeepers maybe compared with two outfield players in the same position. I’ve heard it can go one of two ways but I’ve never had an issue with any of the goalkeepers I’ve played with. I’m an easy going type of guy and I’d be friends with the ‘keepers who have been number one ahead of me or number two to me. That is certainly the case with Barry and we are good friends. He is very helpful especially now that I’m in the team. He is giving me little tips and pointers about different players and different teams which is great.

 

“I’m in the team now and hopefully that lasts but I know I need to perform really well in every game as Barry is there waiting to get back in and he is good enough to step back in whenever needs be. You don’t want a situation where you have your goalkeeper who is in the team but is extremely comfortable and not really pushing himself for form. You need to be at your best if you want to win leagues and do well in Europe.

 

“There is a rivalry for places but there is no bitterness if you are not in the team. The lads are always willing to help each other out which is massively important. That is the ethos Pat (Fenlon) has brought in. It is very long season and players are going to be in and out but everyone will get a run in the team. There is competitiveness for places, not just in goal but all positions in the team.”

 

It can be a bit of a surprise if you are hanging around Tallaght Stadium more than a half an hour after a game to see Rovers players with flip-flops and towels around the waist shuffling across Whitestown Way coming from the Arena Leisure Centre back into the stadium. The chance to carry out their warm down in the swimming pool opposite the stadium is one of the many positives for Hyland to the set up at Shamrock Rovers.

 

“We often do our after match recovery cool down in the pool especially when we have games coming all the time. It takes the weight off your joints. It is low impact and we can do our stretching. The affect of the water releases the tension in your muscles. After games I’m sorer from diving around and ‘keepers probably don’t need it as much as other players but I find it very beneficial.

 

“We go over, do our bit and then come back over and have a shower so the lads can clean up and tidy away. The gym does us a courtesy by staying open so late which is great. I’ve done pool sessions before but never as close to the stadium, with the option to do it straight after the game. The quicker you can do it after the game and get the recovery done the more rest you stand to have.

 

“Sometimes the sessions are done on Saturday morning but a lot of the lads including myself sometimes struggle to sleep after the game as you are so hyped up. It is a luxury to get to do the pool session straight after the game. You mightn’t sleep but you have more time for resting in the morning. A lot of other clubs wouldn’t have the ability to do that. It is a credit to the club, Pat Fenlon and the other coaching staff that we have that.

 

“If you want to be a top club you have to have the top facilities and ours have been upgraded on last year. We train in the morning and have full access to a kitchen so a lot of the lads would have their food there. We have a mini-gym so we can do our gym sessions with our strength and conditioning coach (Conor Clifford) and do extra bits including before training which is another improvement on last year.

 

“Conor did most of our fitness work in the off-season and is at most of the sessions. We do at least one gym session a week with him together as a team a. I’m the type of person who can train all your like but I need to be in the gym to stay as sharp as I can. It is a bonus for me as I get the extra hour there and that it will be tailored specifically for you.

 

“The group this year is tighter knit,” says Hyland speaking ahead of last Tuesday’s game away to Sligo Rovers. “We do spend a lot more time together. We work hard and are four to five hours a day with each other. That extra bit of gym work is done together and you can have that bit of craic and a laugh while working.

 

“It is a long season and there will be setbacks but as a group we are stronger this year. There is no micro groups within the group. Everyone talks to everyone and spends time with each other. The more experienced players like Stephen McPhail, Keith Fahey, Patrick Cregg and Tim Clancy have come in and they are helping us all, myself included. The new players have integrated straight into the group seamlessly almost as if they were always at the club.

 

“It can be tough for new people and a little intimidating coming in especially at a club as big as this and as competitive as this, where you are competing for trophies and qualification for Europe. It was a bit of a shock when I came back to Rovers from playing in the First Division with Waterford United. It took me a while to adapt to full time training last year but it is what you aspire to be. Full time football is what you want to do. When you get there, there is a lot of effort but what else would you want to be doing!”

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When Hyland was last with the Hoops it was in the heady days of the Europa League. If it was a yellow card issued to Barry Murphy last October that gave Hyland his opportunity this season, it was a penalty save by Rovers goalkeeper Ryan Thompson that gave him a chance to be part of the Europa League experience in 2011. 35 minutes into the match against Rubin Kazan in Tallaght, which was Rovers’ first group game, Thompson faced a penalty won by Obafemi Martins, the former Inter Milan and Newcastle player now playing in Seattle. The Jamaican goalkeeper made the initial save from Nelson Valdez’s spot kick and then got back up and across the goal to block the rebound before the ball was cleared.

 

When Thompson made that penalty save he picked up an injury and, while he travelled to Tottenham Hotspur for the next game, Hyland was also brought along with the squad. It was a great experience for a 20-year-old player to be involved with the squad at that time. Looking back now the goalkeeper drew some parallels with this 2015 Rovers vintage, as well as outlining a mature lesson that he took from his time in Michael O’Neill’s squad.

 

“It was a very successful time for the club. The highlight of the whole thing was going on the trip to Spurs. Ryan Thompson had an injury at the time and I got to experience that game. It was mayhem. It was great to see how well Richard Brush did in that game and he was a standout player.

 

“I had the luxury of working with talented goalkeepers back then too. You had Alan Mannus who I still rate as the best I’ve seen and trained with, you’d Richard Brush, and Ryan Thompson who is back in America having a good career for himself.

 

“My memory of that time was the attitude of the team which had a refusal to concede goals. The team was very difficult to beat, very well organised and set up. Similar to how we are now.

 

“We do a lot of work on the training pitch to be organised. There is a good solidarity with the back four whoever comes in. We look like we will be hard to score goals against and that was a key back then. Under Michael O’Neill, the club won two leagues and qualified for the Europa League in the season when we also won the league. The levels of performance and effort were monumental.

 

“More so what I took away from that time, and I wouldn’t have said it then, was the overriding feeling that I needed to go away and play somewhere else. At no stage when I was at the club back then was I ready to play. The step up would have been much too big.

 

“I didn’t know what was going to happen with Michael O’Neill as there was uncertainty there. It looked like I was going to go on loan but I didn’t want a new manager coming in to Rovers and next thing I had was nothing. I had the opportunity of going to Longford and I took it. Was it a good decision or not? I don’t know but it has probably worked out for me. Being at Longford and Waterford was great and was massively beneficially so in hindsight I probably made the right decision for my career.

 

“It was a great experience watching the side do so well in 2011, winning and being so successful and knowing that is where I wanted to be. It was a goal after I left Rovers, if you want to play at the top, you want to get back to Rovers, there is no other team you want to play for, it is the top team in the country.”

 

“I did well enough to sign back here. I am getting a run in the team now and Pat has shown great confidence in me. If you get in the team and do well, you stay in the team. If you get that opportunity you need to take your chance and that is what I’ve done. I want to stay in the team at the minute but I want to improve and maintain that level of performance.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miele goes from Toon to Hoop

December 13, 2015 Leave a comment

Interview with Brandon Miele from Hoops Scene 8/2015 (Shamrock Rovers v Longford Town)

 

May is the month when the professional leagues in Britain reach their dramatic conclusion. Clubs battle it out for league winner medals, European qualification and to see who goes up and who goes down. For many players, it is also a case of who stays and who goes, with the drama for many of them including being released from their club if their contract is not renewed.

 

12 months ago Brandon Miele was the one receiving the difficult news that there would be no contract at the end of season for him. After a difficult time with injury in the preceding year the Tallaght player, who signed for Newcastle United when he was 16, was no longer wanted by the club.

 

He had a few options available to him but he took the decision to return to Ireland, and is now using the wealth of experience he gained from being with the Premier League club to help Shamrock Rovers in their title challenge.

 

“It was a good four years over there,” was how Miele described his time with the Magpies when he spoke to Hoops Scene this week. “I enjoyed it and I gained a lot of experience being over there. I would have got in around making the first team squad in my last year but I had a lot of injuries. Before that, I was doing really well, playing every week (with the reserves) and I was getting brought in to train with the first team.”

 

Having been so close to the first team squad, it was difficult to get so near and have injuries prevent the step up. “It was horrible. It was the most frustrating time ever in my life but I just had to get on with it. It was unfortunate for those injuries to happen in my last year.

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“If it had happened a year before I would have more time. They just said ‘you’ve been injured all year and we can’t take the risk of giving you another contract’. They wouldn’t take a gamble on me. I was a bit disappointed with them that they didn’t give me the chance to prove myself.”

 

Miele would liked to have been part of the challenge of playing in the first team but Newcastle have really struggled this season. It has been a difficult year for the Tyneside club who have been in and out of the news thanks to the ‘colourful’ owner Mike Ashley and their on pitch difficulties. “I don’t know what is wrong with them,” was Miele’s take on his old club. “They seem to be on bad form and people are talking about them getting relegated. This whole season they haven’t been up to scratch.”

 

Changed family circumstances last year meant that a move back to his home city of Dublin was favourable. “It is good to be back home especially as me and my girlfriend have a young baby who is five months old.

 

“Once we found out we were going to have a baby, we said it would probably work out better if we did come home. My thoughts were, if I can get a club in England that suits, we would go back over. I was promised this and that but things never happened. It ended up being too late and I missed the transfer window with the League of Ireland (last July).

 

20 year old Miele played his schoolboy football with Cherry Orchard from the age of eight up until his move to England. On his return to Dublin, he joined Bluebell United in the Leinster Senior League. “I said that I just needed to play games so I went and signed and played with Bluebell for a bit. Just to keep myself match fit. I knew the manager Andy Noonan and was a great help to me in getting the move to Rovers this season.”

 

From a Premier League club back to playing in the Leinster Senior League, Miele was happy to make the step back up into the professional game with Shamrock Rovers this year. Having been involved in the top echelons of the game in England, how has he found the transition to the League of Ireland?

 

“The sessions that Pat (Fenlon) put on are top sessions and are really enjoyable. Sometimes at Newcastle they’d put a session on and you’d have everyone moaning about it but things are done very professionally at Rovers.

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“Pat has been a manager across the water and he knows the ins and outs of the game. The sessions are just as good (as in Newcastle) but to be honest I enjoy them more here than I did at Newcastle. Glenn Cronin and Stephen Bradley, along with Pat, know what they are on about. Glenn and Stephen are top coaches who will go far in the coaching game.

 

“It is a tough league. It is probably more physical than the reserve league in England but I think the style of play is good. We play good football and I’ve been really impressed with us. We’ve done well.”

 

Miele has made some telling contributions in the last few weeks with an excellently taken goal against Galway United in Tallaght and an equaliser, coming off the bench, to rescue a point down in Limerick last month. That helped Rovers maintain their unbeaten record that now stands at 14 games without defeat in all competitions since the start of the season.

 

“I feel good,” was his assessment of being at Rovers. “I feel like every time I have gotten a chance I’ve taken it. That is the main thing. You have to take your chance with both hands and try and keep your spot in the team. Hopefully I can keep performing, getting some goals and making assists; Just keep doing my job and doing it well.

 

“It was good to come on in Limerick and help the team get a point and keep that unbeaten run going. It was great to get a point but we would have preferred the win but that is the way the game went.

 

“We are looking to pick up more three points in the next series of games. The way Dundalk are going, they are getting win after win. We need to start winning goals rather than drawing games.”

 

It was Miele cross that found Mikey Drennan at the back post to earn the Hoops all three points in the last outing here in Tallaght. Drennan’s seventh goal of the season gave Rovers the 1-0 win over Drogheda United, with the tap in set up by a nice dummy by Ryan Brennan of a whipped Miele cross.

 

Drennan has linked up well with Miele which is no surprise when you hear that the two players have played with each other before. “He is doing very well. He is a top player. I’ve played with him at all levels at under age (with Ireland). When Pat said he was going to sign him, I told him he was a top player and I rate him highly.

 

“I think I set him up against Bray with a similar chance when I crossed it and he headed it in at the backpost. I want to keep making assists for Mikey as it is good for the both of us. I think me and him link up well. Off the pitch we are close friends and that helps on the pitch. I know his game and he knows my game. We bounce well off each other.”

 

Pat Fenlon has played predominantly this season with his team in a 4-3-3 formation and Miele has mostly played in one of the wide offensive positions and he was in the starting line up in last Monday’s re-arranged game against St. Patrick’s Athletic in Richmond Park.

 

“I like playing on either side. Once you are playing on the wing, you get loads of the ball and you can go and create things. I can play down the middle as well.

Tallaght is great. There is loads of space. You can get at people. I love playing in Tallaght. It is a different story in Richmond as it is a tight pitch.”

 

The match was played on Monday after last Friday’s game fell foul of the weather. “Obviously the weather that day was horrific. When we got there, there were puddles all over the pitch. We had to wait for the pitch inspection but realistically it was never going to be on. It would have been horrible if it had have been on, as both teams wouldn’t have been able to play on it.”

 

The weather had improved for the re-fixed game on Monday although heavy showers fell in the second half as Hoops fans huddled under the cover the shed provided in half the Kilmainham end of the ground. It was a tight affair with few clear cut chances between the teams.

 

The sides will get to do it all again on the upcoming Bank Holiday weekend as the pair were drawn against each other in the second round of the FAI Cup. In what is undoubtedly the tie of the round, it pits the cup holders against the record cup winners.

 

The Hoops have twice eliminated the Saints in the last five editions of this competition. “It will be good game as they won it last year. It would good to knock them out, wouldn’t it!?!” said Miele with delight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

photo-22
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

 

Tallaght Time: Shamrock Rovers 2009 – 2012

“Tallaght Time: Shamrock Rovers 2009-2012” the book I’ve written with Karl Reilly, with photos by Bobby Best & George Kelly, has gone to print. Published by The Liffey Press, it should be available for purchase around end of June.

Front cover Tallaght Time

Tallaght Time tells the remarkable story of Shamrock Rovers’ recent history since the club moved to Tallaght. After a nightmare decade-long journey, they finally got to play in their new home in 2009 after overcoming near financial ruin, planning pitfalls and High Court cases. Only in their wildest dreams could supporters of the club have foreseen the success that would come while playing in the venue. Rovers, now owned by its fans, would win back-to-back league titles and qualify for the Europa League group stages during their short tenure in Tallaght.

https://www.facebook.com/TallaghtTime

Told through the words of those closely involved, including Shamrock Rovers’ managers, officials, players and fans, Tallaght Time describes the many magical nights since
the Hoops moved to their new stadium: Cristiano Ronaldo making his debut for Real Madrid against Rovers; taking on Alessandro Del Piero and his star-studded Juventus team
in 2010; and winning their first league title since 1994. The book also charts Rovers’ extraordinary 2011 European campaign when they made history by becoming the first Irish team to reach the group stages of a major European competition after a never-to-be-forgotten win over Partizan Belgrade in Serbia.

13-1 Europa League football comes to Tallaght MF

ISBN 978-1-908308-44-3

Price-less

November 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Article for official Shamrock Rovers website on former club captain Aidan Price.

http://www.shamrockrovers.ie/news/35-news/1749-price-less

The news this week that Aidan Price will be playing elsewhere next season means that Shamrock Rovers will be moving on without a player who had been the club’s longest serving member of the current playing squad. It also means that the club will be without a player who straddled the five year period when the Hoops moved from playing out of Tolka Park as a home venue in the First Division to the Tallaght era and winning the League of Ireland title. With that in mind, it is fitting that http://www.shamrockrovers.ie looks back at Aidan Price’s five year career with the Hoops.

In the 2006 season, Pat Scully was the new manager at Shamrock Rovers. Scully brought Aidan Price with him from Kilkenny City and installed him as captain of the Hoops. It was a difficult time for Rovers who were had emerged from Examinership the previous season and Scully had to assemble a squad on a limited budget. Price was instrumental in winning the First Division title that season allowing Rovers to get back to top flight football at the earliest opportunity. He was able to lift the trophy as captain in the final league game and went on to win the Shamrock Rovers Player of the Year that season.

The Tallaght native knows what it means to play for Rovers and what Rovers means to its fans. As he told the Evening Herald in July this year “Initially when I signed up I was told how much of a family club it is and how much it means to people,” he recalls. “I was told you don’t experience it until you’re in there but it’s true. As soon as we signed up we had untold amounts of people travelling to places like Cobh to watch us play First Division football. They showed their support for the club, how much it meant to them and how much they wanted us to succeed. We were such a young team then and to succeed that year was brilliant. I remember the last game of the season was down in Cobh and there were men of 70 years of age crying just to see the club getting back to where it should be with the right people looking after it. People who had the club at heart. That was incredible.”

His words about the emotion of Rovers fans seeing the club being back where they belong were echoed in the conclusion of this 2010 season which turned out to be Price’s last at the club. In the intervening years, Price would be a key member of the Shamrock Rovers squad. His 2007 season was limited to just nine league appearances due to a metatarsal injury. In the following seasons, Price had to bide his time before getting into the team where solid centre back pairings had been formed by Barry Ferguson/ Darragh Maguire (2008), Maguire/Craig Sives (2009) and Sives/Dan Murray (2010). However whenever Price played he always gave it the very best that he had and over the five years in the club he made 146 league appearances. Price managed to score one league goal and one FAI Cup goal during his time with the Hoops. Both goals were scored against Sligo Rovers and both in Tolka Park. No surprise that his first goal was from a corner, as he trotted up for virtually every corner the Hoops had. The surprise was that it took nearly three years for that first goal to arrive. His second goal was a diving header in the 2009 season when the match against Sligo Rovers was controversially moved to Tolka Park ahead of the Real Madrid friendly game. But it was his defensive performances that will live long in the memory.

In August this year, Price’s strong performances in the League of Ireland and in Europa League action against Juventus, saw him pick up the league’s Player of the Month award. His strong performances were juxtaposed in October with one performance, or more particularly, one mistake that nearly cost Rovers the league. In what could have been a season defining moment, it was a mistake by Price in the final minutes against Sporting Fingal that seemed to end Rovers’ title hopes. With Rovers leading one nil with three minutes to go and all the home fans in the stadium looking for Price to clear the ball out of the stadium when facing his own goalkeeper, Price’s delay allowed Gary O’Neill to poach an unlikely equaliser. Seconds later, Fingal got a second and it seemed the league title was lost. It would have been a shame if those last few minutes against Fingal would have prevented Price claiming a league winners medal. It is testament to the fortitude of the Rovers squad, and Price in particular after his mistake, that they managed to pick themselves up after that incredible disappointment and win the title by getting the required four points from the last two games. As Jason Maloney wrote in the Hoops Scene the Rovers match day programme this year, the player was not without his critics but nobody could fault his effort. “While he may have taken a lot of criticism (most of it unjust) from certain sections of our support in his time at the club, he has always shown great character and fought back with solid defensive displays. He deserves immense kudos for the way he fights his way back after setbacks.”

When the news of his departure emerged this week, it was clear the level of affection that the Shamrock Rovers fans have for Price. The SRFC Ultras website (www.srfcforum.net) had a thread several pages in length with fans thanking Price for his contribution to the club and many were disappointed with the news. Talking to another Hoops Scene contributor Justin Mason, he makes the point about the unique position Price will always have at the club. “He was a great servant to Shamrock Rovers. During his time here, he captained the club for three seasons, winning player of the year in 2006. Most importantly, he uniquely won the First Division title with the club in his first season and the League of Ireland title with the club in his last season.”

The final word goes to the player himself who was interviewed in autumn for the Rovers programme. Price at the time spoke of that First Division title win and the hope of picking up the League title come end of the 2010 season. He also spoke of the journey the club had made during his time at Rovers and the valuable contribution made by others including players who, like Price now, have moved on from the club. “Winning the First Division was brilliant and I’m grateful that I experienced that. But the club wanted to get back to where we are now. You don’t forget that or forget how hard people worked to make it happen; people within the club and the players who have been and gone. We want to be winning stuff. That is the way it should be at Rovers. This is how big the club is, the biggest in the country, with the biggest support. We need to be winning trophies and that is what we aim to do. We want to sustain this challenge and show the drive and determination to stay at the top. It is important for us to get that first trophy as a group. Hopefully we can do that this year.” Thankfully his request came to fruition and Price ended his career at Rovers with that League trophy. Everyone here at Shamrock Rovers wishes him the very best in the rest of his career. Thanks Aido!

History repeating?

November 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Article in FAI Ford Cup Final match programme (Shamrock Rovers v Sligo Rovers, 14 November 2010)

It is fitting that Shamrock Rovers are playing in the FAI Ford Cup final on the 25 year anniversary of the club’s win over Galway United in the 1985 final. The Hoops dominated Irish football in the mid 1980s winning four league titles in a row and claiming three doubles starting in 1985. It could have been four doubles in a row but they lost in the cup final the previous year to UCD after a replay. Pat Byrne, who captained the Hoops during this historic time, remembers the loss to UCD as a factor in winning the cup in ‘85 and the other trophies in the seasons that followed. “The fact that we had lost the previous year made it even more important to win in 1985,” recalled Byrne this week. “We really felt the pain of that defeat and that result made us stronger helping us to go on to achieve what we did. Having got to the cup final again, we wanted to win it. It made us appreciate it more.”

En route to the 1985 final, Shamrock Rovers beat Bohemians after two replays, won 3-2 away to Drogheda United before overcoming Sligo Rovers 2-1 in the semi final. It was Noel Larkin who scored the only goal of the final ensuring that the FAI Cup went to Milltown. Even though it is 25 years ago and Noel Larkin is on the other side of the world, he can clearly recall the goal. “John Coady did all the work,” said Larkin from his Brisbane home. “He was fantastic on the left side of midfield using his speed to get by people. He got to the by-line sending a low cross to the near post. I got there before the defender and touched it with the outside of my right foot into the net.” Larkin has another indelible image from the day which occurred after they had claimed the trophy. “When I went over to my Dad after, the tears of pride and joy were streaming down his face. That to me is the memory I have of winning the cup that day. It means so much, to so many people, not just the players on the day.”


(Photo George Kelly)

Shamrock Rovers arrive at Aviva Stadium today as league champions and chasing a double just like the side 25 years ago were doing. Back then, the Hoops had wrapped up the league prior to the semi final unlike this season which went all the way to injury time in the very last league game. Pat Byrne believes having claimed the league title ahead of the final, it helped the Milltown based team back then and it should help the Tallaght based team today. “It took the pressure off to be honest as we had won something,” said Byrne, “and now we wanted to win the double. The expectation is high at Rovers and rightly so. It is so important to achieve your first league title so I think it will help them for the cup final this year.”

Noel, Noel, Super Noel, Super Noel Larkin

November 9, 2010 1 comment

Guests at this year’s FAI Ford Cup Final will be the victorious Shamrock Rovers Cup team from 25 years ago. In 1985, Noel Larkin was the match winner for the Hoops scoring the only goal of the final against Galway United. Larkin, who lives in Australia, won’t be able to make the game so Shamrock Rovers got in touch with him in Brisbane to talk to him about the 1985 win and his recent visit to Tallaght Stadium.

Larkin was the club’s guest of honour at the game against Sligo Rovers in September. The Hoops won that night thanks a great free kick by Billy Dennehy and also thanks to the support from the stands according to Larkin. “I could not get over the support the fans gave the players,” recalls Larkin who was on a trip back to Ireland in September attending his first game in Tallaght. “It really lifted them on the night especially in the second half. I had a great night at the magnificent Tallaght Stadium so thank you so much to all at the club who made it so special for me and my son,” said Larkin who attended the game with family, friends and former teammates Pat Byrne and Mick Byrne.

With Shamrock Rovers becoming champions in such dramatic fashion at the end of this league campaign, Larkin had a message for the management team, players and also the fans. “I would like to congratulate Michael O’Neill and the players in winning the Championship and reaching the Cup Final. More importantly thanks to the true supporters of Shamrock Rovers who, through thick and thin over the years, did everything in their power to ensure the survival of the Hoops. They put them back to where they rightly belong, the number one club in the country and champions of Ireland again.”

Noel Larkin had won league titles prior to joining Rovers and dreamed of winning an FAI Cup. “I joined Rovers from Athlone the year after Rovers won the first of the four in a row but had lost the cup final against UCD. I had won the first two of my six championships with Athlone but had never been to a cup final having lost two semi finals. Athlone’s one and only cup victory was in the 1920’s. There was a hotel in the centre of the town called the Royal and in there was a very large photo on the wall of that cup winning team. Anytime I was in the hotel, I would look at it and dream of what it would be like to play and win a cup final and maybe score the winning goal. Well what do you know, dreams do come true and Shamrock Rovers and the great Jim McLaughlin gave a lad from Athlone that opportunity!”

It was in the 57th minute of the 1985 cup final played in Dalymount Park that his dream came true. Mick Byrne brought down the ball in midfield and played the ball through to John Coady who made a penetrating run on the left. Despite two defenders between him and the goal, he fired in a cross and Larkin nipped in ahead of a last gasp tackle to score with the outside of his right boot to win Rovers’ 22nd Cup. Rovers would go on to retain the trophy for the following two seasons making it three doubles in a row for the Hoops. “The goal for me was a simple tap in,” says Larkin modestly of his goal. “I remember running away with my hands in the air and I think it was Noel King I had on my back. With it being my first cup final I had my Dad, Mum and other members of my family from Athlone there. I wanted to make sure I was going to enjoy it. The only way you can do this is to make sure you win it. Then to be able to do this three times in a row was unbelievable. They were great memories and I hope this will give so many others at the club the same memories.”

(Photo Albert White)

For more memories of the 1985 FAI Cup win for Rovers be sure to get a copy of the official FAI Ford Cup Final match programme on sale at the game. As well as further from Noel Larkin, Rovers legend and midfield maestro Pat Byrne will give his thoughts on that win 25 years ago and what winning the league this year means for Shamrock Rovers.

Endgame

October 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Article from Hoops Scene (Shamrock Rovers v Drogheda United, October 2010)

“Old endgame lost of old, play and lose and have done with losing” (‘Endgame’ – Samuel Beckett)

With just two league games remaining and the small matter of a Cup final to come, we truly are entering the endgame of this exciting 2010 season. Tonight is our last home game of the season and fans, players and management are certainly done with losing. It is a must win game for the Hoops tonight against Drogheda United as Rovers aim to end the season with three wins from the remaining league and cup games.
The passion from the stands must be match be fortitude on the pitch if the club that we care so deeply about is to garner something from this season. The pain of losing and the joy of winning are elevated by the attachment that we have for The Hoops. For some people it is love at first sight. For others it can be the dawning sensation that you have fallen in love and that this football club is the one for you. To paraphrase the terrace chant in our case it is “We love you Rovers we do, Shamrock Rovers we love you.”

For me, I was smitten at a young age. I was drawn in by the action and the bright lights. Those bright lights were the floodlights at Milltown. As a very young kid my father brought me to Milltown. I was really impressed by the floodlights, I used to love when it got dark at games and the big lights came on. I’m in no doubt that young boys and girls being brought by their parents now to see Rovers are transfixed by the green and white hoops under the dazzling and towering floodlights here in Tallaght Stadium. To see often three generations of Rovers fans at games is great to see, with the new generation learning of our club’s old traditions and making new ones of their own.

It must be the ultimate betrayal for a parent to have a child who for whatever reason won’t support the family team. My Aunt married a Bohemians Club member (who incidentally had also lined out for Rovers at underage level). However his father, a committee member at Dalymount, probably made a mistake in bringing his daughter to see Shamrock Rovers take on then English League Champions Chelsea in 1955. As recounted in Robert Goggins’ “The Hoops”, Rovers raced into a 3-0 at half time in this benefit game for Paddy Coad. While Chelsea did score two in the second half, Rovers won the match and the daughter fell in love with the green and white hoops and is now one of the group of over 400 who are proud club owners here at Shamrock Rovers. It is no wonder that the match programme always has some pictures of some very young fans in Rovers bibs as their parents indoctrinate their children into the green and white hooped faith as early as possible! It will be a massive Shamrock Rovers attendance at the upcoming Ford FAI Cup final and hopefully many of the new attendees, who will no doubt attend on the day of this blue ribbon event (or even green ribbon event), will become transfixed with supporting Rovers.

People like to keep souvenirs or a maybe a keep safe to remind them of the good times. In a story told to Eoghan Rice in his oral history of Shamrock Rovers “We are Rovers”, I told the story of my last trip to Glenmalure Park in Milltown at age 12. The story has been recounted a number of times but it seems to resonate and is telling about the loss of the ground. “I dug up a bit of the pitch and stuck it in a crisp bag. I kept it in a Chinese takeaway dish for around three years. I used to water it regularly so it was still growing and I put little Subbuteo men on it. Unfortunately, one day I dropped something and it hit the shelf that I kept the grass on and a part of Glenmalure Park flew across the room and fell into countless bits. I tried putting it back together but it was gone.”

Milltown is gone and aren’t we lucky now that we finally have such a fine stadium to hopefully replicate the success of those times at Milltown. Manager Michael O’Neill spoke last week about the sense of history around this club and how it is so important that we forge new history here by being successful. The key is to draw from that history as inspiration. When the Hoops entered the field of play last Sunday afternoon in the FAI Cup semi final they were greeted by three massive SRFC Ultras banners depicting FAI Cup successes down through Rovers history. Paddy Coad, Pat Byrne and Noel Larkin were each depicted with their hands on the cup which the club has won a record 24 times. To back up the display of history, the fans, not only in the East Stand but also in the Main Stand, attempted to raise the roof with their vocal encouragement of the team. Over the last month, the Hoops have been tantalisingly close to winning a number of games as this season draws to a close.

Late goals away to UCD, home to Sporting Fingal and Saint Patrick’s Athletic have tested the resolve of all involved in the club. However, the support from the stands has been as vocal as it has been all season if not better. The supporters who have been with the club for years and those that have joined our odyssey only recently have their part to play. Rovers forged a lead twice in last Sunday’s FAI Cup semi final but we pegged back both times by Saint Patrick’s Athletic. The team dug in hard at the end of the game but couldn’t quite close the game out over 90 minutes. The team were undone in injury time by what has to be said was a spectacular own goal. With all those late goal concessions, it was a challenge for the team to go to Inchicore on Tuesday for the semi final replay. Just like at the recent league encounter, Rovers fans snapped up the replay tickets as soon as they went on sale and packed the away sections of the ground. To see Craig Sives celebrating the 1-0 win, thanks to Chris Turner’s excellently taken goal, down amongst the fans in front of the shed showed what it means to the players to get a win and move on to the final. It does mean that whatever happens over the next two league games, Rovers will have a day out in the inaugural cup final in the redeveloped Lansdowne Road. No doubt we will see a colourful and vocal display from the stands in Aviva Stadium from the Hoops supporters with fans making the most of the Cup final day to encourage the team when they most need it. Some more words from Beckett come to mind for both the players and supporters as we reach endgame of the season.

“Let us do something while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed…those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late!” (‘Waiting for Godot’ – Samuel Beckett)