Posts Tagged ‘Ronan Finn’

Late goals are bad for your vision

In the run up to last week’s game against Bohemians, the Shamrock Rovers twitter account was looking for fans to tweet some derby day memories. The first ever game against Bohs in Tallaght is one that Rovers fans never tire of talking or indeed tweeting about. Gary Twigg’s late goals that turned a Rovers defeat into a victory in the blink of an eye left an indelible mark on people’s memories and quite a mark on my shins as in the mad celebration that followed I was forced into the seats in front of me!

Gary Twigg celebrates late goal against Bohs in 2011 in Tallaght - Photo by Bobby Best

Gary Twigg celebrates late goal against Bohs in 2011 in Tallaght – Photo by Bobby Best

Looking through last week’s tweets, unsurprisingly there weren’t too many recent good memories of derby days in Dalymount given Rovers’ record in the Dublin 7 venue with no wins in the five outings coming into the game. However, tweets from the ground were trending in Ireland that night thanks to photos of the atmospheric pyro display by the SRFC Ultras and a Vine video of Gary McCabe’s penalty opening the scoring in front of a full house of over 3,500.

Pyro in Dalymount ahead of kick off

Close to 1,000 Hoops fans watched from the Shed End as McCabe opened the scoring from the penalty spot directly in front of them. A couple of hundred Rovers fans had ringside seats sitting in the Jodi Stand at the opposite end of the stadium in the second half for the two sweeping moves that ended with goals from Ronan Finn and Marty Waters. Those headed goals cemented the 3-1 win as the Hoops put three past Bohs for the first time since the win in Tallaght in 2011 a few days after the Hoops had played Juventus in the Europa League qualifiers.

McCabe’s goal in Dalymount was the first Rovers had scored in the venue since Ronan Finn’s late late header in April 2011. My video of that goal – Ronan Finn injury time equaliser for Shamrock Rovers against Bohs – was the memory that I tweeted ahead of last Friday’s match. It is a dramatic late goal but you can also see the exact moment when I got my glasses broken in the goal celebration thanks to a stray elbow!

With 93 minutes gone on the clock, the Hoops won a corner, which saw Rovers goalkeeper Alan Mannus sprint into the penalty area to try and get on the end of. When the ball came in, both Finn and the Northern Ireland goalkeeper rose to head the ball, with many thinking it was Mannus’ touch that sent the ball into the top corner of the net. Nobody really cared that it was actually Finn and nor did I too much as put my bent set of specs back on my face after the whistle to end the game moments later.

This wasn’t the first time I’d gotten some collateral damage off an injury time goal. Back in November 2002, during Shane Robinson’s first spell with Rovers, the Hoops had a “home” game against St. Patrick’s Athletic in Richmond Park. The scoreline was 1-1 deep in injury time when Robinson found Hoops striker Noel Hunt in the penalty area. Hunt squared for James Keddy who scored the winner to provoke a manic celebration from The Hoops fans in attendance.

In the ensuing madness in the Rovers end, a fan crashed into me from behind and sent my glasses flying. My eyesight is pretty poor and with a -10.5 prescription it puts me pretty much in blind territory without my specs. All around me Rovers fans were jumping around in delight and I’m trying to tell them to stop as my glasses are somewhere below them! When the final whistle went a minute or so later, I’m thinking how the hell am I going to get home without my specs. Friends and strangers alike standing around me, cast there eyes downwards to try and spot them when a friend goes “I’ve got them!” They had somehow flown off my face and settled on the upright in between two seats. I think I celebrated the return of my glasses more than the goal.


The final late goal that comes to mind affecting my vision is from 2011. It was a finish to a game that caused a complex secretometer phenomenon involving my lacrimal apparatus. In fact it might have affected the Hoops Scene reader too that night, whether you were at the game or watching from your TV back in Ireland.

You might need a bit more information to know what I’m talking about but if I say that it was the result of a Rovers game in Serbia, you might recognise that what was affecting my vision that night and maybe yours were tears.

I’m almost surprised to think back that I had any liquid in my body that evening in Belgrade for the Europa League Play-off against Partizan. That was due to the temperatures being above 35 degrees at kick off, the sweat inducing atmosphere in the ground from the Grobari Ultras and the tension filled game that went into extratime after Pat Sullivan’s stunning strike.

Rovers fans had been advised that maybe football colours wouldn’t be the best thing to wear while wandering around Belgrade, the city where crowd trouble caused Partizan to thrown out of the same competition four years previously. On match night, most did wear colours. Someone asked me was I wearing the old 2006 Rovers home jersey, as a point of how far Rovers had come since then relegation to the First Division. No, was the answer as it was simply the thinnest jersey I had and hence the most comfortable in that weather!

Front cover Tallaght Time

“Tallaght Time” isn’t the only recent football book that has a chapter written about that famous Shamrock Rovers win in Serbia. Last year James Moor wrote a book about his experiences as an Englishman working in Belgrade and following Partizan in the 2011 season. “Grobar – Partizan Pleasure, Pain and Paranoia” doesn’t have a happy ending for the home team in the play off as we know. It is interesting to read his take on the penalty minutes from the end of extratime that had Europa League group stage qualification at stake.

“As Shamrock’s Stephen O’Donnell prepared to take the penalty the stadium booed as one. O’Donnell kept his nerve and put it away. Shamrock’s 50 or so travelling fans, hemmed in beneath the executive boxes by a thin luminous line of stewards managed to make their cheers heard among the stunned silence of 20,000 Grobari. At the final whistle, while the Irish players jumped up and down and saluted their few dozen fans, the Partizan fans let their team know what they thought of them.”

It is a cold hearted Shamrock Rovers fan who didn’t have a tear in their eye that night when the penalty went in or at the final whistle when the famous victory was confirmed. I’d even hazard a guess that if this evening you watched back the 35 second video – Winning penalty by Stephen O’Donnell, Partizan Belgrade v Shamrock Rovers – taken from amongst the small section of Hoops fans in the stadium and the subsequent screaming celebrations, some moisture might well effect your vision once again!

Article published in Hoops Scene 2014 Issue 4

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).

A midfield master

Published in Hoops Scene (Shamrock Rovers v Bray April 2011)

Champions Shamrock Rovers have begun the 2011 Airtricity League of Ireland season in fine form and sit unbeaten on top of the table. It would be wrong to say that the Champions are continuing where they left off last season as nobody at Rovers needs to be reminded how the team in the title run in ended up stumbling over the finishing line in first place. Tonight’s opponents Bray Wanderers were Rovers’ opposition on the concluding night of the league last season. They gave the Hoops a tough game making them battle to the 2-2 draw which was, as it turned out, enough for Shamrock Rovers to crucially top the table at the end of the season. This is the position the Hoops find themselves after five league games in this campaign having started the season with four wins and a draw.

Ever present in the league for Rovers so far this season has been new signing Ronan Finn who joined the Hoops following the demise of Sporting Fingal ahead of the start of the season. Hoops Scene chatted to the midfielder ahead of tonight’s game and began by asking about Rovers’ comprehensive 4-0 away win in last week’s game against Drogheda United. “The pitch wasn’t great,” said Finn, “but we coped with the wind and I thought we dealt with the circumstances very well. We managed to be a goal up at half time. I thought we dominated the second half. The game was probably over realistically after about ten minutes of the second half when we scored our second. Michael O’Neill seemed very pleased after the game.”

The game in Drogheda saw the Rovers manager make his first alterations to the starting line up this season having started the same team in the opening four league games. The change in midfield was forced with Chris Turner, who scored the crucial first goal in the win over St. Pats in third game, failing a late fitness test. This meant a first start for last year’s Shamrock Rovers Player of the Year, Stephen Rice. “That is my first time playing with Ricer properly,” said Finn. “He has so much energy. He covers some ground and he was flying into tackles. I thought he played very well last night. I’m just happy to be playing in the team and I’m delighted that we are winning. It is a big squad and the manager feels when he has to change it, he will but at the minute all the players are doing okay. The fact that we are winning means there is no need to change the team drastically. Any player can come in for any game as the squad is so strong. Glancing at the table, we have scored the most goals in the league, which is nice to see. We have also conceded the least. I think the defence has been solid all year. I think it is nice to get names on the score sheet and this gives the players confidence.”

Finn has a slightly different role with Rovers than he had with Fingal last year where he scored 8 goals in 34 league appearances and he has yet to find the back of the net for Rovers. “I’m looking forward to scoring my first goal now. Last year I had more of a free role and I could get forward a lot more. There were a lot less restrictions on my defensive duties but now I am playing in a midfield of two so you really have to time your runs. Last year I was gambling every time but this year it means taking it in turns with the other midfielder. A lot of teams we are playing against have three in the middle so you are getting tracked a lot more by two runners. I will be patient and when it comes I will be delighted.”

Rovers dropped their first points of the campaign in the recent draw in the Brandywell. “Every time you go up to Derry you know it is going to be tough,” said Finn about the 0-0 draw. “It is not an easy place to go to. That was probably their strongest team. The season was only four games in. We will know a bit more about them when we go up the next time but it was a good point. Come the end of the season it could be an important point. I can’t see many teams going up there and getting all three points. I know Sligo did it in the first game of the season but speaking to a couple of lads in Derry, they say they should have won the game and were robbed.”

Ronan Finn began his career with UCD and some Rovers fans may remember his home debut in Belfield. “My first game was at 17,” recalled Finn. “I actually scored against Rovers in the last game of the season. It was a 2-2 draw and I got the equaliser. At 18, I didn’t get into the team until half way through the season and then I stayed in it for the next couple of seasons.” Following UCD’s relegation in 2008, Finn captained the Students as they bounced straight back up to top flight football by winning the first division championship. He did all this while successfully completing his degree in sports management.

It was the option of education that saw him sign for Sporting Fingal last season despite some attention from Shamrock Rovers. “Last year, Rovers approached me, as well as Fingal,” outlined the 23 year old, “but at the time Fingal could offer me college with a Masters in Business Management which they paid for. That was a real pull and I was kind of going down that route in education. But then the season went very well for me football wise with clubs looking at me from England. That masters is on deferral now as I don’t know whether I really want to go back to that. Over the next few years, I want to concentrate on football but come 25 or 26 I will want to reassess the situation. I have my degree and I can afford to possibly enjoy my football over the next few years and worry about getting a diploma or a masters later.”

While things at Sporting Fingal went right for Finn on the pitch last season with the club finishing fourth, it all fell apart just a few short weeks before the start of this season. It is a tale that has been all too common over the past few years in the League of Ireland. The club made no secret of the need for new financial investment and were making statements of confidence about new money coming into the club. However that money never materialised and when it ended, it ended very suddenly. “The setup had a lot of potential and the squad we had were all really good. We were training pre-season but it was always in the back of our minds that things weren’t 100%. We just got on with it as we were still getting paid but we were probably led on. It came to a head suddenly. We had a friendly match cancelled one day for no reason. Nobody read too much into it but then one of the lads got wind that something was happening. Then the text messages and phone calls started to go around. The next day we went into training and Liam Buckley [Fingal’s manager] wasn’t there. We started the training session but it got called up early. We went in and we were given our letters [terminating the players’ contracts]. So we had trained that day as a group and two hours later there was no club. It was weird.”

The collapse of Sporting Fingal left all their players, Finn included, scrambling around for new employers. There were plenty of suitors for the Ireland U21 and U23 capped international as Finn explains. “I was over in England on trial at a few clubs. Crystal Palace was the one that went best. I met with the manager Dougie Freedman after a week of training. There was a gut feeling that I wouldn’t be playing much as they were fighting for their lives at the bottom of the Championship. They were not going to be playing much football. The two lads they had in the centre of midfield were two grafters, hardworking who got the ball forward. He said he would look at situation in the summer but I couldn’t hold him to that. Michael O’Neill was in contact, as were Bohs and Pats, but I was always keen to go with Rovers if I couldn’t go to England. I was in constant contact with Michael. As soon as I came back from Palace, I wanted to sign for Rovers and in the end I was delighted to sign for two years.”

Looking at Rovers’ upcoming fixtures, the eye is drawn to next week’s derby match against Bohemians but Finn, ever the professional, has his focus very much on tonight’s game against Bray but did admit to discussing the upcoming game in Dalymount with the match winner from last year’s first derby. “We will treat Bray with respect. They won’t be easy. Bray are a good side this year and have come on a lot since last season. They are the games that you should be winning. They are the real important ones as they are the ones you can trip up on. Every time teams play Shamrock Rovers it is a big game, no matter what. They are playing against the Champions so they will raise their game. It is something we have dealt with well so far” said Finn before moving on to talk about the Dublin Derby. “It is the first game in the calendar that you look for. I’ve been at a few of the derbies. I wouldn’t live far from Dalymount. I have a few friends who are Bohemians fans and a few that are Rovers. I was speaking to Billy Dennehy about last year just the other day. He said it was crazy and the atmosphere was brilliant with such an edge to the game. The league table won’t really matter that day at all. Both teams will be up for it.”

The crowds and set up at Shamrock Rovers and in Tallaght Stadium are quite different from what Finn was used to at his previous clubs. The difference between Belfield and Morton Stadium is something he recognised quickly. “I was used to the small crowds at Fingal having come from UCD. When I was at UCD it didn’t bother me. As long as the pitch was flat and watered that was fine. At Fingal it was full time but there was no stability. The crowds were low and there was the potential for things to go wrong. The difference is massive at Rovers where there is a proper solid foundation. I’m so impressed with Rovers so far. The ground itself speaks so much for the club as it is really good. The setup at Rovers is second to none in Ireland and would be in comparison with the Championship or League 1 in England. It is great especially at the minute as we are doing well and the crowds are behind us. You can see it in Tallaght or like up in Drogheda when the goals were scored. It is weird, the fans in Fingal were far away so you never felt that close but in Tallaght when you score all the boys are celebrating with the fans. It is crucial. It is nice to see and long may it continue.”