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Not Odd but Odra

December 13, 2015 Leave a comment

Article for Hoops Scene 12/2015 – Shamrock Rovers v Limerick – 26 July 2015

 

Shamrock Rovers win over Progres Niederkorn in the first round of this year’s Europa League qualifers was the 14th Hoops victory in Europe – a League of Ireland record. Two of those wins also came against a Luxembourg team – the Hoops won both home and away against Spora Luxembourg back in 1966.

 

That was the first time that a League of Ireland side had done so in Europe and the Hoops have managed that feat on four separate occasions in total – another League of Ireland record. This afternoon we delve back into the recent history to recall the last time Rovers managed to be victorious in Europe in a knockout tie winning both and away legs.

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Having finished third the previous season, the Hoops qualified for the 2003 Intertoto Cup – a UEFA competition that provided an opportunity to qualify for the UEFA Cup. The Hoops, managed by Liam Buckley back then, were drawn against Odra Wodzislaw in the first round.

 

The first leg took place in the southern Polish city of Wodzislaw in June 2003. The crowd of over 3,000 fans were entertained ahead of kick off by a marching band and majorettes, with the away fans adding to the atmosphere by letting off a number of firecrackers as the teams entered pitch.

 

Tickets for the game were 20 zlotys (less than €5) and certainly the 100 or so Rovers fans who made the trip got their monies worth even if the first didn’t come to life until the final 20 minutes.

 

A slip by full back Richie Byrne on the wet pitch allowed a low cross to find Novacky who put the home team 1-0 up on 72 minutes. The Hoops didn’t let their head’s drop however and within four minutes they were level. Tony Grant found Stephen Grant who coolly knocked the ball past the advancing ‘keeper with his right foot for the equaliser.

 

Six minutes later the away fans were in dreamland – and were climbing the railings in front of them in celebration – as Shane Robinson put Tony Grant clear in on goal. The striker outpaced two defenders before slotting the ball home to give Rovers the 2-1 win.

 

“It was a real feeling of jubilation when I saw the ball go in,” was how Tony Grant described the goal and the resulting celebration with the Rovers fans. “I just had to be with the fans at that moment, to thank them for all the support they’ve given me over the last few years. I felt that we merited the win.”

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Writing in the Hoops Scene back then, Gerry Matthews described the conclusion of the game from the fans perspective. “The superb goals had us bouncing around the stand for joy. The final whistle was greeted with an outpouring of emotion not seen in quite a while.”

 

“I’m as proud as punch for the players, club and our supporters,” said Liam Buckley after the game as he reflected on the first ever victory by an Irish club over Polish opposition. “This is a great achievement by the club and that was fully merited, even if we got a rub of the green on a few occasions.”

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The win was the first for Rovers away from home in Europe since 1982. The second leg was played at Richmond Park a week later. Played out in glorious sunshine the venue beside the Camac was packed. Glen Fitzpatrick got the only goal of the game, scoring in the 66th minute, to secure the second leg victory and a ticket into the next round where they would face Slovan Liberec (the Czech side would win both the home and away legs 2-0).

 

It really was a superb home and away victory especially considering it was against a Wodzislaw side who finished just four points behind Wisla Krakow in the league. This was the first season of summer football in the League of Ireland and the Hoops boss at the time felt that gave his Irish club an advantage – something that certainly seems to be true looking at results since the switch in seasons for our league. “There’s no doubt that the fact we have played two months of our league campaign was a major help,” he said.

 

The Hoops thus became the first Irish club in 20 seasons to win both legs in Europe (Rovers’ 7-0 aggregate win over Fram Reykjavik in 1983 was the previous time to that) and those two wins by Rovers remain the only victories by a League of Ireland club against a Polish side in 10 attempts.

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So what happened to that Rovers side?

 

Barry Ryan – Goalkeeper (36)

The goalkeeper from Clare is not to be confused with the ‘keeper for the Irish National Quidditch team in the Harry Potter world. The Rovers Ryan was released by the club the season after the win in Poland after failing a drugs test. Subsequently he played for Dublin City, St. Pat’s, Galway United and Limerick, only retiring from the League of Ireland last year.

 

Stephen Gough – Defender (34)

Lives in Qatar. Assistant Manager and player with EIS Pearl Community FC who play in Division 3 of the Qatar Stars League.

 

James Keddy – Defender (42)

Many will remember Keddy for his late headed miss for Rovers in the 2002 FAI Cup final against Derry City in Tolka Park. One of a number of players from this Rovers team who crossed the Dublin divide to later play for Bohemians. He won the league with Drogheda United in 2006 and 2007. He was involved with managing Mount Merrion FC and currently works as an electrician.

 

Jason Colwell – Midfieder (41)

Still can be seen at Rovers home games following the Hoops. Son of former Rovers Chairman Joe Collwell.

 

Terry Palmer – Defender (42)

Played for Rovers from 1998 to 2004 but left to join Bohemians where he ended his League of Ireland career. Palmer is a Director with a financial broker firm in Dublin

 

Richie Byrne – Defender (33)

Moved to Dunfermline a few months after the matches in Poland. Played for Aberdeen in the Europa League group stages in 2007/08. Played for Horsham FC in the Ryman League Division One (South) last season.

 

Shane Robinson – Midfielder (34)

Won the league title with Drogheda United in 2007. Captained the Hoops on the opening night in Tallaght in 2009. Had a two season spell playing with Haka in the Finnish top division before returning to Rovers where he is now Head of Player and Coach Development.

 

Tony Grant – Forward (38)

Scored the winning goal in Poland but he will be forever remembered for his controversial move to Bohemians the following season and the Pigs Head that was thrown onto the pitch in Dalymount Park by Rovers fans in his first derby after joining “the darkside”. Another former Hoops who won the league with Drogheda United. He also played several seasons with Glenavon. Was manager of Duleek in 2014 but was replaced by Trevor Molloy (see below).

 

Glen Fitzpatrick – Forward (34)

League winner with Shelbourne and Drogheda United. Was involved in the coaching set up at Broadford Rovers in the Leinster Senior League.

 

Alan Reynolds – Midfielder (41)

Returned for two spells at his hometown club Waterford before winning the league with Shelbourne in 2006. Is now part of Liam Buckley’s coaching staff at St. Pat’s.

 

Stephen Grant – Forward (38)

Ended his professional football career the following season at the age of 27 before taking up golf full time. He is a member of the European Challenge Tour.

 

Substitutes

Trevor Molloy – Sub in both legs (38)

The former bronze medal winner with Ireland from the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship, left Rovers in 2006 for St. Pat’s before moving to play with Motherwell. He ended his professional playing career with Glenavon in 2011. He was assistant manager to Roddy Collins with Monaghan United before they left the League of Ireland. After managing Duleek last season, he is currently managing Ardee Celtic in the North East Football League.

 

Stephen McGuinness – Unplayed Substitute (41)

He was unavailable for the second round away leg against Slovan Liberec as he was getting married. He is now PFAI General Secretary.

 

Derek Treacy – Sub in second leg (44)

A one-club player, Treacy is a Shamrock Rovers legend who played close to 500 games for the Hoops. Still supporting Rovers, Treacy played in the Shamrock Rovers Pride of Ringsend football tournament earlier this month.

 

Glen Lacey – Sub in second leg

Played subsequently with Drogheda United and Shelbourne before playing non-league football with Glebe North.

 

Manager

Liam Buckley

Currently manager at St. Patrick’s Athletic where he has led the club to a league title and an FAI Cup in the last two seasons.

 

 

 

 

No Finnish to Robinson’s career

August 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Former Hoops favourite Shane Robinson is currently scoring for fun in the Finnish league. Hoops Scene caught up with Shane for a chat about Rovers, goals and being an overseas Hoop…

Shane Robinson began his professional football career with Shamrock Rovers back in 1999 and played with the club over two spells in between a successful stint at Drogheda United. He now plays his football in Finland where he is club captain with Haka and Hoops Scene chatted to the midfielder recently from his base in Valkeakoski.

Robinson was the right man to lead Rovers out for the opening night in Tallaght Stadium in 2009 as he knew the significance of the occasion. The honour of captaining the team that night is one he is very proud of. ‘It is probably the memory that sticks with me the most,” recalled Robinson. “I’ve won leagues but as a one off night that was special.

“That first night in Tallaght was emotional for everyone that knew the history of the club. I was so proud to lead the team out and to make sure that we didn’t lose that game. I knew walking out onto the pitch, what was said in the dressing room and what was said the night before, that we wouldn’t lose the game. It was a night to remember.

“It was an honour for me and I felt I led the old team into the new ground as I’d been there in ’99. I thought of Derek Treacy and people like him that never got to play there. The likes of Derek sacrificed winning trophies to try and play in that ground. I was representing that group and the fans that night.”

“I knew exactly what it meant to people. I had played in Santry when nobody wanted to go to games and they still did. I played in Tolka and even played a home game in Turners Cross. When I was in my first spell, speaking to the board they were saying we’d be in the stadium next year and that was in 2003!”

Photo by George Kelly

During Robinson’s first stint at the club, the Hoops always seemed to be on the verge of getting to Tallaght but continued to play out of a succession of home grounds without much success. The winger left the club at the end of 2004 as Rovers went into financial free fall. It was a much-changed club when Robinson in 2009 arrived back for his second spell at Shamrock Rovers.

“It was a totally different club,” said Robinson about his return to Rovers. “The only thing that didn’t change was the supporters. It was funny in the first few games to meet supporters who I’d seen in Santry or Tolka and places like that. That was the thing I loved at Rovers. The people knew what the club had been through. They were there in the first year in Tallaght and I’m sure they are still there.”

So how did it come about that Robinson is playing his football in Finland? “I went to Australia when I left Rovers. There were options with other teams but I didn’t want to play elsewhere in Ireland. I enjoyed the year in Australia but I didn’t really enjoy the football. When my girlfriend and myself came back at Christmas, we were just coming home for a break but there were issues with a visa getting back. I was kind of struggling to think what I could do if I couldn’t get back to Australia when I got a phone call from Sami Ristila (Haka manager) who played with me in Drogheda. He asked me to come out to see if I liked it in the first instance.

“I came out in February and it was pretty cold! I took a bit of convincing to come back! I love it here though. It is a very professional club. I loved playing for Rovers where things were done right. But when you look at clubs here and the facilities that they have that they own themselves, it is great. Everyone is full time.”

Haka are currently sitting third from bottom in the Veikkausliga, the top division in domestic Finnish football with HJK currently top of the table. “We have struggled a bit this year. Our budget is one of the lowest here. There are 12 strong teams with good stadiums in the league. We are pretty familiar with each other over here as we play each other three times. I would describe the standard here as similar to the League of Ireland but totally different in the way they play. HJK are on a different level than the League of Ireland. They play Celtic in this round of the Champions League.”

While this season hasn’t been going too well for Haka, who finished 10th last year, on a personal level Robinson is having a good season. He has been in fine goalscoring form, netting his first career hat-trick and in Finnish tradition has picked up a bunch of flowers and a hat for the privilege! “That was my first hat-trick I’ve ever scored,” admitted Robinson. “Giving you a hat is what they do here – they take it literally but it was nice to get! The flowers are not very manly but if you’re getting flowers or a hat, you are doing fairly well!

“I’ve scored nine goals from midfield so far which is pretty good by my standards. I’m not particularly known for scoring goals so this is the most I’ve every scored. I scored seven last season so I’m doing alright.”

Robinson is currently enjoying the fine Finnish summer with sun set times much later than here in Tallaght where we will require the floodlights for tonight’s game. The lifestyle and climate are a change from Ireland. “The culture is totally different. The people are very different; they are very shy and not so outgoing. It takes them to have a drink or a sauna before they talk to you! It is all strange to me but I enjoy it as well.

“They really enjoy their summers as the winters are so harsh. I was home for four months of their winter. I don’t know how they do the winter. It is 24 hours darkness but now it is long evenings. It doesn’t get dark now so I’ve had to get the black out blinds!”

Just as Robinson was captain with Rovers, he is captain of Haka, so how is his Finnish? “Not so good,” admitted the 31 year old. “We all speak English. We have a pretty mixed squad. We have a Brazilian, a Sierre Leone international, an Estonian and Shane McFaul who was with Pat’s. It is easier that we speak English. I’m not sure the boys understand some of the bad language I throw into the pre-match huddle; I think it goes over their head!”

Not only does Robinson captain the club’s senior team but he also coaches one of the youth teams at Haka. “We train in the morning and I train the kids in the afternoon. I coach the year younger than the reserve team. I work with boys born in 1996, it is a national league and a good standard.

“Over here I’ve so much time as my girlfriend works in Dublin and only gets over once a month. We train at 10 in the morning and I wanted to something else to do. I’ve my UEFA B badge. I really enjoy it and I didn’t think I would half as much. You can see why people do get the bug. There is an enjoyment seeing effectively your team playing the way you want them to play.”

Last season, Robinson helped Shamrock Rovers out with some scouting when Rovers drew the Estonian champions in Europe. Robinson produced a comprehensive dossier on FC Flora Tallinn who play a short ferry ride south of Finland. When Rovers travelled to Estonia, Robinson travelled over to help with the pre-match preparations.

“I got on very well with Michael (O’Neill) even though he released me at the end of the previous season. I had great respect for him and he had respect for me and that is why he asked me to do it. It was nice to help in anyway I could. Michael was thorough in his preparations and he couldn’t make Flora’s league match as Rovers were playing Bohs. So I went over and tried to do my best. I got a bit of stick from the boys like Ricer and Twiggy though. They were expecting a 30 minute chat before the game and Ricer said that it seemed like four hours later they got out!”

Robinson keeps an eye on Rovers over the Internet and was disappointed as any fan with the Hoops’ early European exit. “I watch most of the live streams that are there. I’m as big a supporter as anyone really. It was very disappointing to see the results in Europe after last year’s progress. When you look back at where we were 10 years ago though and where we are now, we are in a much better position. I know for a fact that we will get the act together. It was a good win in Derry. Things will definitely be better for the end of season.”

Article from Hoops Scene 15/2012 (Shamrock Rovers v Sligo Rovers – 13 August 2012)