Posts Tagged ‘Setanta Sports Cup’

Does your telly know you’re here?

The slick live TV presentation style with graphics, commentary team and replays give the television viewer at home a real sense of a sporting occasion. Throw in the multi-camera, super slow-mo and spidercam views and it is almost like being there. Almost but not quite.

To get a sense of what it really means to be at a game, fan footage can nearly be a better option. There is something about those shaky camera angles, foul language and those guttural screams when a goal goes in that Sky Sports just can’t beat.

Here is a top eight of Shamrock Rovers fan footage.


‪8. A million euro penalty – Partizan Belgrade v Shamrock Rovers (August 2011) 


Maybe a surprise that this video from Shamrock Rovers’ incredible 2011 season is only at number eight. Despite the grainy footage and being a long distance from the action, this is Rovers video gold. The drama builds as Hoops fans realise what this will mean if Stephen O’Donnell slots this penalty away. The screams from the small pocket of 43 fans when he scores tell you Rovers have made history and qualified for the group stages of the Europa League.












‪7. Injury time equaliser in the Dublin derby (April 2011)



‪Nobody likes to lose to their bitter rivals but that was the fate awaiting Rovers in April 2011 in Dalymount Park. Despite times call for desperate measures and that meant Alan Mannus making the journey up into the Bohs box for this last minute corner. He went up for the header but it is his team mate Ronan Finn whose touch earns Rovers a draw and the owner of the camera in the crowd a broken pair of glasses in the celebrations.




‪6. No European hangover as Gary Twigg helps Hoops beat Bohs (August 2010)



‪Shamrock Rovers returned to Ireland on a Friday morning at 5am after their 1-0 defeat to Juventus in Modena facing into a crucial Sunday lunchtime kick off against Bohemians. Rovers were leading 1-0 in the second half when their defender Pat Flynn was sent off. ‪Could Bohs capitalise on the extra man and opposition tiredness after their recent European distractions? No was the answer as Gary Twigg scored a brilliant goal with his celebration in front of the Bohs fans not overly well received by the away fans! It would be a goal that would help the Hoops win the title.















  1. He shoots, he scores, he wins Shamrock Rovers the league (October 2011)


What is better than a good pitch invasion? How about two pitch invasions! Dean Kelly’s injury time goal for Shamrock Rovers in Belfield secured the Hoops the 2011 title. Some Hoops fans celebrated the goal with the players and a couple of minutes later when the final whistle went it looks like every Rovers fan piled onto the pitch to celebrate winning back-to-back titles.










‪4. Injury time goal earns Rovers passage to Setanta Final (April 2013)



‪It looked like Cork City had earned themselves a place in the Setanta Sports Cup final. However the Hoops won a free kick deep in injury time in the semi-final second leg in Turner’s Cross. One Rovers fans felt the wall needed to go back further. “That is not 10 fucking yards,” he said. It didn’t matter as Billy Dennehy’s free kick sent the Rovers fans, who had travelled mid-week down to Cork, home happy and the Hoops into the final.


  1. Penalty save providing passage to European glory (July 2011)



‪A penalty save that would set Rovers on the way to European success in 2011. The journey from Tallaght to Tallinn to Belgrade and White Hart Lane, all came about because of Alan Mannus’ penalty save against Flora Tallinn.



2. Spurs v Shamrock Rovers…the Hoops goal (September 2011)


‪Video from the Spurs end showing Stephen Rice putting Shamrock Rovers 1-0 up in the second half of this Europa League Group game in White Hart Lane. The laughter accompanying the goal suggests it wasn’t shot by a Spurs fan.














  1. ‪Hoops half time sing song against Juventus in Modena (August 2010)



Okay, not fan footage of any action on the pitch but of fans sheltering from the Monsoon in Modena at half-time in the Europa League qualifier against Juventus. Not the most PC of lyrics but this is fan footage so what do you expect?



Brennans Bred for Football

There is a band of Brennan brothers playing in the Airtricity League Premier Division this season. Three of the brothers are playing with their hometown club of Drogheda United and the remaining brother Killian Brenna is playing here at Shamrock Rovers.

Football obviously runs deep in the Brennan blood. “Football has been in my family for years,” said Killian, the oldest Brennan brother. “My father was a footballer and his Dad was a footballer as well. My Dad was a top player in the Leinster Senior League. I remember watching him when I was younger and I looked up to him. I used to travel around the country watching him play for Boyne Rovers. I used to try and do things that I saw him doing on the pitch.”

Killian’s brothers Ryan and Sean have joined Gavin at Drogheda this season. “It is great for the lads,” said Killian about his three brothers playing with Mick Cooke’s team. “Two of them came from Monaghan last year. They are flying at the moment. We have a bit of banter in the house! They love playing football. I know Ryan is progressing well. He is only 19 so he has a lot of years ahead of him. Hopefully he can get a couple of seasons under his belt and maybe get across the water.”

The three Brennan brothers play in midfield for Drogheda and that is normally where Killian also plays. However, he lined out at left back for Rovers last week against Shelbourne as Stephen Kenny made changes to his starting line up.
“Obviously Conor (Powell) got suspended against Cork and we didn’t have much cover at left back so Stephen asked me to play there,” said Brennan. “I knew the role as I’d played there a bit at school boy level. The last time I played left back was for Derry.”

Brennan had an excellent game helping the Hoops get their first clean sheet of the league campaign. As well as changing the team personnel, Stephen Kenny also had the team line out using a 4-2-3-1 formation. “The first few games we played 4-4-2 so we went a bit more attacking than before,” said Brennan. The set-up certainly helped the Hoops who ran out 4-0 winners over Shels, helped by the early sending off of the visitor’s goalkeeper. “I thought it was our best formation as we can play football with the team and the attacking options that we have. We’ve got players with speed on the wings and plenty of speed up front. We can utilise Billy Dennehy’s and Aaron Greene’s pace. We are going to be a handful for everyone.”

It is expected tonight’s match against Bohemians will be played out in front of another massive crowd. The large crowd at last week’s game with Shelbourne, which included President Michael D Higgins, meant the kick off was delayed for ten minutes due to crowd congestion. “The game the other night with 5,000 people coming to watch was fantastic,” said Brennan. “When we played in Cork, there was another great atmosphere. If we can get 5,000 people to come watch our games and maybe get more, it would be fantastic. You want to play in front of big crowds.”

It was a large crowd against Monaghan United for Rovers’ first home game of the season and Brennan played a crucial part in the Rovers win that night. Trailing 1-0 at half time, Rovers got back into the game thanks to a moment of inspiration from Brennan. He got on the end of Billy Dennehy’s corner to volley the ball into the net for the Rovers opener and the Hoops would go on to win 3-1.

“The ball came to me when I got a bit of freedom in the box and it was a side foot backheel. It was good to get off the mark. Monaghan played well that night so obviously it was a nice time to get the goal and get back to 1-1. It was a pivotal point in the game to score the goal and for it to be my first goal for Shamrock Rovers was brilliant as well.”

Whilst Rovers are top of the table tonight facing into a game against Bohs, who are surprisingly bottom having yet to score a league goal, it hasn’t been all plane sailing for Rovers. Rovers played Bohs in the Leinster Senior Cup and only progressed on penalties. Similarly, Rovers moved on to the Setanta Sports Cup semi final despite losing a 2-0 lead in the quarter final against Cliftonville. The Reds took Rovers all the way to penalties on their ‘plastic’ pitch. The story could have been different if one of Brennan’s shots off the post or crossbar had bounced favourably for Rovers.

“We are not making it easy for ourselves having gone to penalties against Bohs; that was 120 minutes and then we had another 120 minutes against Cliftonville. I thought we played quite well on the night (in Solitude). It was tough as they are not a bad side. Obviously they play on that surface every week and that is a big advantage to them. It was quite sticky and hard to run with the ball but I thought we played all right. They never really looked like scoring until they scored the first goal. They scored at important times as they got one just before half time and then just before full time.

“I thought we showed our character really well in extratime. We kept our heads and deservedly went through on penalties. The lads who took the penalties did very well. There is room for improvement. We mixed it up with lads coming into the team as some of the lads hadn’t played much this season.”

Oscar Jannson was the hero for the Hoops saving two penalties that night in Belfast, having saved two in the previous week during the 5-4 shoot out against Bohs in the Leinster Senior Cup at Tallaght Stadium. “Oscar has done brilliant since he came in with the two penalty saves against Bohs and also against Cliftonville. He will get great confidence out of that.”

Tonight Brennan will face his former club Bohemians for the first time since he made the switch from Dublin 7 to Dublin 24. He is not the only man involved with Rovers tonight who is a former Gypsy. Last season Bohemians lined out with six former Rovers players in their starting line up. This season Rovers can go the other way and more. Hoops boss Stephen Kenny managed Bohs previously and if we add in Kenny, his goalkeeping coach Stephen O’Brien and Brennan then Rovers have an ex-Bohemians XI with Conor Powell, Ken Oman, Colin Hawkins, Chris Turner, Stephen O’Donnell, Stephen Rice, Gary O’Neill and Aaron Greene.

However, unlike the other former Bohs players in the Rovers squad, Brennan is making the direct switch from the red and black stripes of Bohs to the Green and White hoops of Rovers. So what kind of reaction does he think he will get from the away fans tonight?

“I don’t really know what to expect,” said the Drogheda native. “I will understand if I get booed because I used to play for Bohs and now I play for Shamrock Rovers. The clubs are big rivals. It is all good on my side. I have a lot of mates there at the club. I will be looking out for them. I always hope they do well. If they can get things right off the pitch, then Bohs will come good again.

“I had four and a half great years at Bohemians but financial constraints behind the scenes for reasons that have been well documented means the money is gone. I felt that I couldn’t stay at Bohemians with what they could offer. I told a lot of managers that I was going to go travelling as that was the main aim for me at the start of the season”
It seems that, like with Pat Sullivan, Irish football was going to lose a player from the league due to his desire to travel. That was until his former manager got in touch with him in January. “I was packing my bags and going travelling until Stephen Kenny rang me and said he wanted me to come here. He was the main reason for signing for Shamrock Rovers but also that Rovers are a fantastic football club. I feel they are really the only club going forward in Ireland. Shamrock Rovers wanted to sign me and I’m delighted that I signed.”

Published in Hoops Scene 2012 Issue 4 (Shamrock Rovers v Bohemians, 30 March 2012)

Dan’s departure ends captain’s run

January 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Published on Shamrock Rovers club website 14/01/2012

Shamrock Rovers will begin the 2012 season with a new captain following confirmation of the departure of Dan Murray from the club. All at Rovers will wish the 29 year old the best as he leaves the Hoops following a highly successful two year spell as captain during which time he lifted the league trophy twice as well as claiming the Setanta Sports Cup.

Photo by Bobby Best

When former manager Michael O’Neill brought Dan Murray to Tallaght from Cork City in 2010, he brought a key player into a squad that were runner’s up in the previous season. He was signed to help bring trophies back to Shamrock Rovers by using the experience he had of winning league and cup trophies with his previous team. On joining the club he was handed the captain’s armband and it was a role Murray was proud to take on at the club. “It is a great honour to be the captain of any club and it is great to be captain of Rovers,” said Murray. “The supporters are so hungry and so passionate about the club. To be a part of that, and even better to be the captain, is great.”

Murray picked up a serious knee injury in the latter part of the 2010 season and was unable to help the Hoops on the pitch in that season’s tight title run in. However, amongst chaotic scenes on the final night of the 2010 season when Rovers clinched the title, he did become the first Rovers captain to get his hands on the league trophy since 1994. That had been his aim since the start of the season. “We want to be the best team, we want to be spoken of as champions and that only comes by winning things. That’s the goal at the end of the season.”

Photo by Bobby Best

Midway through last season, Murray lifted another trophy as Shamrock Rovers won the Setanta Sports Cup on their debut in the competition. With the final played in Tallaght, Murray walked up the West Stand steps to collect the trophy on behalf of his team in front of the Glenmalure Suite. He would do so again following the final league game to claim the league trophy for the second year in a row. “It was great to win the first cup of the season,” recalled Murray of the Setanta Cup win, “and especially to win it here in Tallaght. It made it even more special for everyone. I thought the presentation was well done; it was probably the closest we will get to going up the Wembley steps!”

While Murray didn’t get a chance to play in Wembley with Rovers, he did lead out his team in another famous London venue, White Hart Lane. He had a crucial part to play in Rovers’ amazing European adventure which saw them qualify for the Europa League where they played in Group A along with Spurs. Murray has played an impressive 42 times in Europe and he enjoyed playing on the European stage. “It is a real plus getting to play in Europe,” said Murray last year. “It is a great chance to show yourself against foreign teams. You feel like a top class player when you travel away and it’s as close as you feel to being a Premiership footballer. The squad is suited to Europe. The players, as well as the supporters, are hungry for success to bring the club onto another level.” Murray, as one of the heroes of Belgrade, can certainly lay claim to being a crucial part of moving the club on a level during his time in Tallaght. For that all at Shamrock Rovers thank Dan for and we wish him the best of luck in the future.

The Captain’s Run

Published in Hoops Scene (Shamrock Rovers v Drogheda United, May 2011)

Last Saturday, Shamrock Rovers secured their first trophy of the season winning the Setanta Sports Cup. Rovers have been in great form in this competition, winning all five of their games and scoring 13 goals in the process. In this feast of football, Rovers were the last man standing in this competition becoming All-Ireland Champions. It has certainly whetted the appetite for winning more trophies here in Tallaght Stadium.

On a day of cup finals, it was Dan Murray as captain of Shamrock Rovers who got to climb the steps to lift the trophy for the cup winners. After the chaotic scenes when Rovers last won a trophy, when the Hoops won the league title out in Bray, Murray was delighted to get his hands on a trophy in Rovers’ Tallaght home. “It was great to win the first cup of the season and especially to win it here in Tallaght. It made it even more special for everyone. I thought the presentation was well done; it was probably the closest we will get to going up the Wembley steps! It was nicely done that we got the trophy one side of the pitch and then we could go to the other side to celebrate with our fans. It was good for all the lads to celebrate together. That’s the best thing about it, to celebrate winning things and to do it as a team.”

The celebrations after the win over Dundalk were the usual cup final mix of dancing, singing and champagne spilling with the players even lifting manager Michael O’Neill up on their shoulders in front of the delighted Rovers fans packed into Tallaght’s East Stand. It was all a marked contrast with Rovers’ last cup final appearance, which took place in November at Lansdowne Road in the FAI Cup final. The defeat that day to Sligo Rovers, via the lottery of penalty kicks, was an incentive for Shamrock Rovers to win on their debut in the Setanta Sports Cup. The win made it their seventh All Ireland cup win having won the competition in its previous guises as the Tyler, Blaxnit and Inter City All Ireland Cups. “After last season losing the FAI Cup final, it was especially nice to win a cup final. It is not a nice feeling coming off the pitch after losing and nobody would have wanted penalties at that car park end of the stadium! It gives a buzz about the place that you’ve actually won a cup that the club hasn’t won before so it is a great way to start the season.”

The away team on cup final day was actually Shamrock Rovers and they togged out in their new black away kit from the away dressing room. However, the setup was as normal as possible and there was even a Shamrock Rovers Milltown sign put up to cover up the ‘away team’ notice on their dressing room door. Murray outlined how Rovers’ Kitman Gerry Byrne “did a great job. He set up the changing room in exactly the same way as the home one. We were all sitting in our normal places. We just got on with it. It was great that the final was in Tallaght as there was a great buzz about the stadium before and after the game.”

During the game, the Hoops hit the woodwork three times through Billy Dennehy twice and second half substitute Gary Twigg who was returning from injury. Second half goals from Gary O’Neill and Billy Dennehy were the difference on day. “We had a lot of chances,” said Murray. “If we had won by four I don’t think anyone would have complained about it. We played very well in the whole game and created the best chances out of the two teams.”

Crucial to this win, and to Rovers’ performances that see them sit on top of the league table, has been the defensive display by the Hoops. Key to this has been the centre half partnership that has developed between the Rovers captain and one of this season’s new signings Ken Oman. “We all knew that Ken was a quality player from when he was at Bohs the last few seasons. We were fortunate to get him from Sporting Fingal especially with Craig Sives being injured. We have developed a good back four. Then with Alan [Mannus] in goal, it makes it a back five and we’ve played really well this season. The more games Ken and me play together as a partnership the better we will get. You get to know each other’s games and we complement each other really well.” It was a fresh look for Ken Oman who had got a fairly radical cup final haircut for the occasion. Gone were his flowing locks that had inspired the terrace chant about him looking like Jesus Christ. “A few people didn’t recognise him with the haircut,” joked Murray. “It is a lot different for us in the changing room with all the long hair gone.”

Murray picked up a series knee injury in the latter part of last season and his injury coincided with a dip in Rovers’ results. He was on the sidelines during this difficult period and couldn’t help the Hoops on the pitch in the title run in. “I’m not a great watcher of my team to be honest. It was hard not being involved. I missed the best part of last season with the last quarter when all the big games are. I missed the Cup final and that was disappointing. We were playing so well but obviously as we got closer and closer to the final hurdle we weren’t getting the results we wanted to get. It really put that bit of pressure on everyone. There was so much expectation from the fans and ourselves really that it was pretty difficult to get a result anywhere at the time. We fell over the line. The first trophy is the hardest one to win and we definitely made hard work of it over the last month of the season.”

Having missed out on playing in that crucial last quarter, Murray worked hard during his injury rehabilitation with a view to getting back as soon as possible. “The injury was a pretty serious one and I needed a cruciate knee ligament operation. As soon as I had the operation, I had the goal of being back for the start of this season, which I managed to do. Thankfully the knee is feeling as good as it did before I had the injury. Pat Sullivan had done the same thing just before me so we had a guideline from him on how quickly I could come back and I just followed what he had done. The physio work was pretty hard in the off-season and coming into pre-season. Fortunately I was fit enough to get back in the team for that first game of the season which was my goal when I had the injury. It is just nice to be back playing again. I’m delighted to be playing football, being able to train and play every day, and the knee seems good.”

It has been a regular back four this season in front of Alan Mannus with both Murray and Pat Sullivan returning from injury, new signing Ken Oman and Enda Stevens along with Pat Flynn coming in when required. This stability has given Rovers 10 clean sheets in the 18 competitive matches played to date. “If you can keep as many clean sheets as we can, with the quality we have got in the attacking part of the pitch, we are always going to give ourselves a good chance of winning,” said Murray. “Fortnightly we’ve had a good few clean sheets this year and long may it continue. If we can keep getting the clean sheets, there is no doubt we will keep scoring goals because there is a lot of goals in our team.”

A number of those goals have come in midfield from Gary McCabe and Ronan Finn. It was Finn’s probing run that set up the opening goal for the Hoops in the Setanta final which was converted by Gary O’Neill. That was just part of a fine all round display which landed Finn the man of the match award to go along with his Setanta Sports Cup winner’s medal. “He has been great for us all season,” said Finn’s captain. “He has settled in really well. His running with the ball is one of his great strengths and that’s something we’ve probably added to the team from last year in the middle of the pitch. He creates a lot for other players. He is going to score a good few goals. He has fitted in really well and he has probably been our best player so far this season.”

Alongside Finn and Stephen Rice in the midfield three, was another new signing, Conor McCormack who only turned 21 during the week. McCormack put in a fine display in the final against the team from his hometown of Dundalk. “Wherever you put him on a football pitch he will do a job for you,” said Murray. “At the minute he is playing centre midfield and he is doing a great job. As soon as he came in during pre-season everyone could tell he was a quality player. Some of the trialists you get, you think no, they are no good but as soon as he came in you could see he played. He knows the game really well and is another player who fitted really quickly into the team. It is going to be hard to get him out of team with him playing so well.”

The first third of the season is now complete with Rovers sitting on top of the league, a new trophy to go in the brand new trophy room in the stadium and have a third round tie in the FAI Cup at home to come in early June. It is a nice position to be in for the club and Murray hopes the Hoops will continue to keep winning their games whatever the competition. “The four big trophies in the country are the league, FAI Cup, Setanta Cup and League Cup. At the start of the season we had eyes on competing in every single tournament. We won’t take anything lightly. Unfortunately we went out of the league cup. But when we were in the Setanta Cup in every round we wanted to get through, get to the final and win the trophy, the first one of season. It important to get the momentum of winning things. We want to keep winning every game we are playing whether it is a league game or a cup game, to keep that momentum going.”

All photos from George Kelly

Non-barstoolers of the World unite

Tonight was the perfect opportunity to sit back and watch Shamrock Rovers live on TV in their Setanta Cup semi-final first leg in Sligo. However, that would be too easy an option. Instead I headed up to road to Sligo with the Hoops Supporters Club to check out live football as it should be – live.

I’ve only watched Shamrock Rovers play live on the TV once and it made me cry. Okay, that live game in question was me watching Shamrock Rovers’ away victory in Europe against Israeli side Bnei Yehuda. Watching the match live in the Maldron Hotel filled with fellow Hoopers that result meant a lot as the result saw Rovers go through to face Juventus in the next round.

Shamrock Rovers are live on TV several times a season but as I attend virtually of the games I don’t take the opportunity to watch my team that way. The same can’t be said of the several hundred thousand barstoolers who support “their” British teams from the comfort of their barstool in their local pub.

Judging by the half full Hoops SC bus, it seems many Rovers fans will be barstooling this game. Part timers! Family and work commitments no doubt hindered the numbers attending but a cup semi final is a cup semi final. It meant for me an early start in work (and that will be the case again tomorrow) to allow me to get out of work early for the bus at Tara Street.

I can catch up with the newspaper and read back over Rory Mc’s capitulation which I watched myself live on TV last night. Via twitter I learn from Rovers player Paddy Kavanagh (@PaddyKavanagh15) that on the players bus they are watching a bit of ‘only fools and horses’ and then ‘Tropic Thunder’. Then he tweets: “The bus nearly clattered a horse runnin round on the road!!! Jink and swerve from the driver was top drawer and on we went!! :)”

Our trip is uneventful and without any DVDs as we roll into Sligo on a sunny but cool evening with Benbulbin lit up by the April sun. Sligo have added a fancy new scoreboard to The Showgrounds. During the game it works intermitantly, the clock stops, then starts and they even flash up a wrong score before it gives up the ghost on 66 minutes.

There is a Tasty €50,000 for the winner of this cross border competition so both Rovers’ line out fairly full strength. The Hoops manager Michael O’Neill makes three changes from last Friday’s disappointing result and performance against Bray. With star striker Gary Twigg injured, Rovers bring former Seria B player Conor McCormack into the starting 11 along with Dean Kelly & Gary O’Neill in a 4-3-3 line up.

Sligo have a reputation for playing attractive football which is well deserved when you have players like former Hoops and Cameroon international Joseph Ndo in your team. However when Shamrock Rovers want to they can play and boy do the play tonight. In easily their best performance of the season, they not only get it on the deck, they match the passing with a high tempo pressing game that unsettles Sligo.

It is Ronan Finn’s beautiful strike from 25 yards that separates the sides at half time. The Shamrock Rovers player nets his first goal for the Hoops which was something he had told me in Friday’s match programme he was looking to get. The system being played tonight with three in the middle probably helps him.

“I’m looking forward to scoring my first goal now,” said Finn last week. “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.” Well he looked delighted as his shot screamed into the top left hand corner of the goal.

I could have stayed at home and I would have cheered that goal but I wouldn’t have jumped around my living room with such delight as I did seeing the goal in the flesh. There is nothing like celebrating with my fellow Rovers fans and the Rovers players down in front of us when such a goal goes in.

Of course I’d probably be a lot warmer at home than I am at half time in Sligo. Unlike the balmy weather we enjoyed at the Leinster game in Lansdowne Road on Saturday evening, April has reminded us to pay attention to the forecast. Chanting and clapping ‘Michael O’Neill’s Green and White Army’ certainly helps to keep warm. But when Shamrock Rovers double their advantage there is plenty of warming exercises jumping around amongst the freshly painted red and White seats in the away end. In my excitement I think Gary O’Neill has got his head in the end of the cross but I’m wrong. It is Karl Sheppard who has ended a fine passing move by the Hoops.

A couple of more chances materialise but go abegging over the rest of the game with Finn and O’Neill going close. Sligo are reduced to 10 men when referee Alan Kelly produces a slightly harsh red card when Pat Sullivan goes down under a heavy Sligo tackle. Ciaran Kilduff, Billy Dennehy and Paddy Kavanagh all get a run out. However the Hoops cannot add to their advantage which would effectively have finished the tie ahead of next weeks second leg.

At the final whistle the players and fans have a mutual clap off. We hear Hoop Ken Oman has picked up the Setanta Sports Man of the match award and is serenaded with the terrace chant of “He’s green, he’s White, He looks like Jesus Christ, Ken Oman, Ken Oman.”

The bus fills up with Hoopers as we dissect the game and agree with each other on how well the team has played tonight. We head back to Dublin and look forward to the small matter of the The Dublin Derby to come on Friday. “Bring on the Boh-es, Bring on the Boh-es!”


North of the Border

The Setanta Sports Cup is the latest incarnation of the numerous All-Ireland football competitions that have taken place intermittently down the years. This particular competition has been running in various formats since 2005 but this season will be the first time that Shamrock Rovers have taken part.

Rovers’ first game in the competition was the recent quarter final first leg against Lisburn Distillery in the New Grosvenor Stadium. Rovers brought close to two hundred fans up the M1 to see this new chapter in Rovers’ history. It was a fairly low key entry to the competition with the away fans outnumbering the home fans in the stadium. Michael O’Neill took the opportunity to mostly start players who had not featured in Rovers’ opening league fixtures. The 3-0 first leg win, with goals from Karl Sheppard, Ciarán Kilduff and Dean Kelly, has set Rovers up nicely for the second leg here in Tallaght.

For many Rovers fans it was their first taste of Setanta Cup action and maybe their first trip to see an Irish League side. However for many others trips over the border have become somewhat commonplace in recent years. Of course for many years Rovers fans have been travelling to the Brandywell to watch Rovers play our fellow League of Ireland club Derry City. This journey is, to use an oxymoron, fairly unique in world football. It required permission from the Irish League and UEFA for Derry to join the League of Ireland back in 1985. The trip has certain political connotations as Rovers fans have to travel out of the jurisdiction over the border to London….sorry Derry for the game! In Derry fans can pay in and buy a programme using sterling but Derry also accommodate the euro in fans wallets and generally make the travelling fans feel welcome in the Brandywell while of course looking to get the three points from the visitors.

For the League of Ireland pre-season, Rovers play matches against teams not in the same division as the Hoops. Rovers have generally played against a mix of non-league, First Division teams and in recent seasons Irish League sides during the pre-season. These games against teams from the North provide a useful exercise as it is an opportunity to play teams from Northern Ireland that are in the middle of their season. In 2005, we played two games against Irish League sides during pre-season. The first game was a 2-2 draw away to Portadown and then the Hoops got a 3-3 draw against Newry City. This was a match in Newry that was cancelled and then re-arranged at short notice. It was such short notice that a few Bohemians fans travelled up thinking the Gypsies were playing that night as they were also due to play a friendly that week. When they heard it was actually Rovers playing, they got back in their car and headed south of the border quickly! Both sets of fans chatted as we shared the main stand in the Newry Showgrounds. The locals were amused with the couple of Rovers tricolours on display in their main stand and set about taking photos of them with their camera phones. In 2009, in Michael O’Neill’s first game in charge, the Hoops played another game against Newry, this time winning 4-2. This season Rovers had an impressive pre-season 5-2 win against Cliftonville in Solitude, a ground that many Rovers fans have visited to support The Reds over the years.

Getting back to the Setanta Cup, this writer is probably one of the few Shamrock Rovers fans to have actually been at a Setanta Cup game in Ulster. 2005 was the inaugural season of the Setanta Cup with six teams taking part (the top two in each league along with the respective cup winners). With the novelty of this competition in mind, this Shamrock Rovers fan travelled up with a Shelbourne supporting friend of mine to Portadown. There would have been some concerns about security at these games and for Shelbourne fans it meant that only fans travelling on their club’s official buses could go to the game. Tickets were sold on the bus only and my friend had to vouch for me with the then Chairman of Shelbourne Ollie Byrne who distributed the tickets on the bus. The M1 at that stage was not complete and the road works in Dundalk delayed our four bus convoy’s arrival in Portadown. There we were met on the outskirts by a couple of PSNI landrovers that directed us to the ground and these later escorted us out giving us a friendly wave when the pulled in to let us pass. As the fans queued outside to enter the beautiful named Shamrock Park, the match had already kicked off and most fans missed the only goal of the game scored by Shelbourne’s Jason Byrne in the fourth minute. Former Shamrock Rovers player Vinnie Arkins went close for Portadown a number of times in the game but Shels claimed the victory going on to qualify for the final against Linfield. Alan Mannus was in the Blues goal in the final played in Tolka Park and he kept a clean sheet helping Linfield win 2-0 to pick up the inaugural Setanta cup.

In 2006, the Setanta Cup expanded to eight teams with the respective League Cup winners added to the format. Shelbourne faced a trip to the Oval to take on Glentoran and again this Rovers fan found himself amongst the travelling Shelbourne support. It was a small enough crowd at the game which meant Willo MacDonagh got a fright when he got a “Rovers Reject” chant directed at him from this Rovers fan at the game. This was a player remembered not so fondly for his four red cards he received for Rovers in the previous season and his part in that relegated Rovers team. Shels won that night with goals from Byrne again and former Shamrock Rovers player Ollie Cahill. Neither team would go on to win the competition as Drogheda United won the trophy and would go on to retain it in 2007. In the 2008 season, Cork City overcame Glentoran in Turner’s Cross to win the Setanta Cup.

The return tie with Lisburn Distillery in Tallaght Stadium is not the first Setanta Sports Cup game to be played here in the Dublin 24 venue. Last year, the 2009/10 competition saw Bohemians beat Saint Patrick’s Athletic 1-0 in the final played here in Tallaght. There was some delight from the Bohs faithful rejoicing in the fact that they had won a piece of silverware in Tallaght ahead of Shamrock Rovers. The fact that Rovers have won all those FAI Cups in the home of Bohemians didn’t seem to register with them!

The format of the competition has again changed this season with six teams from both Leagues taking part in a straight knock out two legged competition. The winners of the respective Cup competitions along with the League Cup winners join the top four teams from each league. Rovers, as League of Ireland Champions, received a bye into the quarter final and will hope to progress in the competition which will conclude in May. If an Irish League team qualifies for the final, the final will be played in Northern Ireland. For Rovers that may well mean another trip north of the border but if it is two League of Ireland teams in the final it could represent an opportunity to win a trophy on our home patch here in Tallaght.

Published in Hoops Scene Issue 2-2011 (Shamrock Rovers v Lisburn Distillery March 2011)