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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.”

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)