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Kenny pleased with second half comeback


http://www.extratime.ie/newsdesk/articles/7907/

Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Kenny had to be satisfied with a point from their game with Bray Wanderers in the Carlisle Grounds on Friday night. Rovers had a very poor first half and found themselves 2-0 down at the break. However, in a much-improved second half, they scored two and could have claimed a winner.

The visitors might have been going in at half time just a goal down as, just before the break, Gary Twigg earned a penalty for the Hoops. Darren Quigley saved Twigg’s penalty before Billy Dennehy put the ball in the net on the rebound. But referee Paul McLaughlin ruled it out to the confusion of many in the ground.

Speaking to extratime.ie after the game, Stephen Kenny was able to confirm that a free out was “given for encroachment” by a Rovers player. If Twigg had scored with that encroachment, the rules state the penalty would have to have been retaken. As the penalty was missed, the referee was correct in awarding a free to Bray.

The supporters on the night spent much of half time discussing these penalty infringement rules but Stephen Kenny was plotting with his team how they could turn around the two-goal deficit. Kenny asked for his team to step up physically, especially in midfield, and they responded with a much better performance in the second half

“The midfield area was problematic in the first half,” admitted Kenny, “but in the second half it was much much better. We had to believe in ourselves and be physically stronger. I felt we had the capacity to get back into the game as we have the ability to score goals and create chances. We were much stronger in the second half.”

Additional strength was provided by second half substitute Daryl Kavanagh who played a key part in both of Shamrock Rovers goals. Just after the hour mark Kavanagh replaced Gary O’Neill who had taken a knock to his ankle. Having scored his first goal for the Hoops in last week’s 6-0 win over Dundalk, Kavanagh first got a touch to play the ball into Ronan Finn for Rovers’ opener. He then held off a couple of Bray challenges in midfield before sliding a ball through to Gary Twigg who got the equaliser eight minutes from time.

“Daryl had a good energy and gave us a good impetus,” said Kavanagh’s manager. “He did well for us getting us back into the game. The two goals we got were outstanding goals but the disappointment was that we couldn’t get the third goal that we needed.”

Shamrock Rovers now face into back-to-back games against Derry City. The Hoops travel to the Brandywell on Monday night for the second leg of the Setanta Sports Cup semi-final 3-0 down after the first leg. They will then play Derry again, this time at home, in the Airtricity League as Stephen Kenny faces the team he managed last year. “We’ve got Derry on Monday and Friday. Monday is a tall order. Friday is a big one as we need to get back to winning ways in the league.”

Since we last met…

Published in Hoops Scene 1/2012 (Shamrock Rovers v Cliftonville FC, March 5)

Reigning Airtricity League of Ireland champions Shamrock Rovers began their 2012 season last Friday when they travelled to Drogheda. This week Rovers have two home games as they begin their defence of the Setanta Sports Cup against Cliftonville and then play Monaghan United in their first home league game.

Whilst it is four months since Rovers retained that League of Ireland crown, it has been a short and eventful close season for the back-to-back champions. The curtain didn’t come down on the 2011 season for Rovers until the very late date of December 15th. On that night, the Hoops welcomed Harry Redknapp’s Spurs side to Tallaght for their final Europa League Group A game. That was Michael O’Neill’s final game in charge of the Hoops as Rovers then entered the market to replace the man now in charge of Northern Ireland.

Rovers looked north of the border for their new man, headhunting Stephen Kenny from Derry City. In the normal quiet period between Christmas and New Year, Kenny was unveiled in Tallaght Stadium as the new manager. He was soon casting his eye over his squad and getting most to put pen to paper to re-sign with Rovers for the 2012 season and was looking to bring in new blood along side them.

Photo by George Kelly

A number of players have left Rovers since last season. Those include all three goalkeepers, defender Pat Sullivan, who headed down under, former captain Dan Murray who was released and subsequently went back down south to Cork City and two players who went to England. Karl Sheppard headed to Reading and Enda Stevens to Aston Villa.

Early in January, Rovers unveiled a host of new signings at Tallaght Stadium including players very familiar to fans of the League of Ireland. Graham Gartland was a player that had come close to signing for Rovers last summer from Scottish side St. Johnstone. Injury prevented that happening back then but Kenny was quick to sign up the Tallaght native when the opportunity presented itself.

Left back Conor Powell came in from Sligo and he will be looking to build on his career honours to date that already include two league titles and two FAI Cups. Stephen Kenny brought in a player he managed when they were both at Derry City as Killian Brennan made the switch from the red and black stripes of Bohemians to the green and white hoops of Shamrock Rovers. Daryl Kavanagh came in up front from St. Patrick’s Athletic where he scored seven goals last season.

Kenny has also brought in plenty of new faces into the Rovers back room team. Colin Hawkins has been brought in as a player/coach with Stephen O’Brien returning for his second spell as the Shamrock Rovers goalkeeping coach. Stephen Glass is the new number two as Kenny brought in the man who he worked with as a player when he managed Dunfermline.

In the last few weeks, additional key signings were made including two new goalkeepers. Conor Winn came in from Galway United and Oscar Jannson signed on loan from Spurs. Jannson is rated highly at Tottenham but currently has the combined age total of 109 years in front of him in the ‘keeper pecking order with Friedal (40), Cudicini (38) and Gomes (31). Harry Redknapp was happy to send Jannson out on loan to Rovers having seen the set-up in Tallaght on his visit in December. The defensive and attacking options were also increased with former Arsenal player Kerrea Gilbert and Sligo player Aaron Greene added to the squad.

During pre-season Rovers played a series of friendlies against First Division opposition. In preparation for this week’s Setanta Cup game, they also played Irish League opposition, losing to Glentoran 2-1 in Belfast on St. Valentine’s Night. In addition the Hoops took the opportunity to take in a weeks training camp in the UK. The results got better with every home friendly match as Rovers doubled their goal tally with every game. They first beat Mervue United 1-0, next beat Wexford Youths 2-0, followed that up with a 4-0 win over Longford Town and finally thumped Waterford United 8-1. Expecting 16 goals tonight may be a bit much to ask for!

At the start of 2011, there was a certain level of expectation at Rovers but nobody could realistically have expected the success that the season brought. Along with retaining the league title and winning the Setanta Sports Cup at the first attempt, the season brought unparalleled success in Europe for an Irish club side. Their twelve game European campaign which saw Rovers play in the Europa League group stages means that there is an even higher level of expectation this year.

Stephen Kenny will need to manage that expectation level and hasn’t made, and isn’t likely to make, any rash predictions as to what 2012 will bring. “I will be trying to win matches and challenge for trophies,” said Kenny. “You want to be as successful as you can. I’m looking forward to coming here to put out a team to play exciting football.” The fans in Tallaght Stadium will get their first chance this week of seeing how Kenny’s exciting football fares in competitive football.

View from the Terraces – Shamrock Rovers

January 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Published on extra time.ie (http://www.extratime.ie/newsdesk/articles/7215/)

The best season ever. That pretty much sums up the 2011 season for this Shamrock Rovers fan. What Rovers managed to achieve over an 11-month and 60-match season was unprecedented in Irish football as we retained our league title, won the Setanta Sports Cup and qualified for the group stages of the Europa League.

This success is even more significant when compared with where the club was just six years ago when we were a decision of the High Court away from going out of business. Back then the fans stepped in to fund the club helping it emerge from Examinership in the ownership of its supporters, bouncing back from relegation before eventually reaching the promised land of Tallaght in 2009. So forgive us Rovers fans if we are not going to enjoy these exciting times at our club!

In our debut season in the Setanta Cup, Rovers captain Dan Murray lifted the trophy following the 2-0 win over Dundalk in the final played at Tallaght Stadium. In the league, Derry City and Sligo Rovers pushed the Hoops hard. However, in the penultimate game of the season, Rovers secured our 17th league title thanks to Dean Kelly’s injury time winner. The celebrations involving players, substitutes and fans after the winning goal and final whistle will be indelible images of the season.

That league title win was made even more remarkable by Rovers achieving it whilst involved in a lengthy six-month, 12 game European odyssey in Tallinn, Copenhagen, Belgrade, London, Salonika and Kazan. Impressively, each time Rovers returned from Europe they won the next league game.

It was a privilege for me to have been part of the small group of 43 Rovers fans who were in Belgrade in August to see Irish domestic football history made, as the club became the first Irish side to qualify for the group stages of a European competition. Against Partizan, Rovers won thanks to Pat Sullivan’s superb second half volley and Stephen O’Donnell’s pressure penalty six minutes from the end of extra time. The celebrations in the away section of the stadium included screaming, shouting, hugging and tears – and that was just my reaction! At the final whistle on an unforgettable night, there was delirium on the pitch and in the stands with the celebrations going long into the night back at the team hotel where the travelling party of players, officials and fans watched the highlights of the game together.

In the Europa League, the Hoops, whilst never disgraced, were well beaten in all of the home games. There is no doubt that the highlight of the group stages was going 1-0 up in White Hart Lane. Stephen Rice’s goal celebrated with great gusto in front of the 4,000 strong travelling support saw the Hoops lead Spurs for ten glorious second half minutes before eventually losing 3-1. It is never nice to lose a game but I can safely say that it was the most enjoyable defeat I’ve witnessed in my 25 years supporting the Hoops!

With the departure from Rovers this month of Michael O’Neill, who has taken over as Northern Ireland manager, Stephen Kenny was quickly installed as the new Rovers manager. The club’s chairman Jonathan Roche speaking this week made it clear that Kenny was “the board’s unanimous choice” appointed because of “what we think we can achieve together in the future.” That future should see a greater emphasis on the quality of football played at Rovers following criticisms in some quarters of the style under Michael O’Neill. “I’m looking forward to coming here to put out a team to play exciting football,” said Kenny speaking at Tallaght Stadium on Wednesday. “I want to entertain the fans. I want them to look forward to coming to games, to be exhilarated and excited by the football that they come to watch.” If that style is also effective in winning trophies, then everyone at Rovers will be very happy.

Stephen Kenny: A sort of homecoming

December 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Published on the official Shamrock Rovers website:

http://www.shamrockrovers.ie/news/35-news/2346-press-conference

It was a sort of homecoming for Stephen Kenny today as he was unveiled as the new Shamrock Rovers manager. The Tallaght native was given a warm welcome by the Shamrock Rovers fans that were present at this afternoon’s press conference. Today’s event was held in the Glenmalure Suite in the Tallaght Stadium overlooking the Rovers pitch; the pitch that Kenny himself captained his schoolboy team on.

Photo by George Kelly

“This is where I’m from,” said Kenny. “It is home for me. The school I went to is just across the road. I captained my school team and this is where we played our matches. This is the pitch more or less. I’ve a great affinity for the area. It is a terrific club, with the infrastructure and the way the club has developed in recent years. It is a great honour to be asked to manage Shamrock Rovers.”

Club Chairman Jonathan Roche sitting beside Kenny looked and sounded very happy to get his new manager who brings a strong CV to the job. “We’ve appointed him on his career so far. It is a massive bonus that Stephen is from Dublin and more especially the area but that is not why he is the manager at Shamrock Rovers. It is his past record and what we think we can achieve together in the future on a similar budget to this year. It is an added bonus that he knows the club and knows the area.”

On the day that former Shamrock Rovers manager Michael O’Neill was named the new Northern Ireland manager, there was a certain symmetry to Kenny coming in the opposite direction this time from Derry to Dublin. Kenny himself made it clear he wants to build on O’Neill’s recent Rovers success but didn’t make any rash predictions for the future. “The club has done terrific in the last few seasons with the last two managers being successful,” acknowledged Kenny. “Pat Scully taking the club up from the first division and Michael O’Neill of course in the past couple of seasons. I will be trying to win matches and challenge for trophies. I want to win as much as I can that has to be the objective. We want to try and fill the stadium. I want to see passionate support and to be playing in front of full houses.”

“It is a new chapter for me coming here. It is a club with a great history. There has been a huge transformation here in the last few years after having no home for so many years when the supporters kept the club going through that difficult period. They’ve had a couple of successful seasons and we want to build on that. You want to be the best you can be as a coach and as a manager. You want to be as successful as you can.”

Kenny will look to bring a positive and exciting brand of football to Tallaght Stadium and build on the tradition of good football played at Shamrock Rovers. “I’m looking forward to coming here to put out a team to play exciting football. I want to entertain the fans. I want them to look forward to coming to games and getting behind the team. I want them to be exhilarated and excited by the football that they come to watch. I’m looking forward to working here at the biggest club in the country.”

Kenny tasked to build on O’Neill’s tenure in Tallaght

December 27, 2011 Leave a comment

On Wednesday, Tallaght Stadium will see the official unveiling of Stephen Kenny as the new Shamrock Rovers manager. The Dubliner will replace Michael O’Neill who managed Rovers since the club’s move to Tallaght. It will be a tough act to follow for Kenny as O’Neill during this three year tenure captured two league titles, a Setanta All-Ireland cup and qualified Rovers for the Europa League. That success means that O’Neill looks set to be named manager of Northern Ireland early in the New Year. To be selected manager to the country he won 33 caps for will be quite an achievement for the man Rovers appointed from the relative managerial obscurity of Brechin City in December 2008.

It was a brave move by the Rovers board at the time to hire someone from outside the league with relatively little managerial experience. The Rovers director’s obviously felt O’Neill understood what Rovers was about; a fan’s owned club, working within budgetary constraints and, at the time, a club on the verge of the long awaited move to their new stadium in Tallaght. The faith given to O’Neill by the board was rewarded with Rovers enjoying their most successful time since the 4-in-a-row era of the mid-1980s.

It was interesting to hear O’Neill talk on his departure of his most fond memory of his time at Rovers. He didn’t pick winning one of the three major trophies claimed during his tenure in Tallaght or one of those amazing nights against heavyweights of European football like Real Madrid, Juventus, Partizan Belgrade or Spurs. “The most enjoyable night was my first night here at Tallaght, when we beat Sligo,” recalled O’Neill of opening night in the new stadium. “To see the look on the supporters faces after being 20 years on the road and just to see what it meant for them was fantastic.”

Following that emotional first win in Tallaght, Rovers went on to mount a serious challenge for the league in O’Neill’s first season finishing runners up. His team would go one better the following year in a dramatic conclusion to the 2010 season. O’Neill’s charges prevailed over rivals Bohemians winning the league on goal difference by a mere two goals.

2011 would prove to be O’Neill’s, and possibly Shamrock Rovers, best ever season. His side began as overwhelming league favourites having assembled a mix of experience and exciting young talent. New signings like Ronan Finn, Karl Sheppard and Conor McCormack would be valuable editions to the squad in a season that would eventually stretch over 11 months and 60 games. The Hoops would go on not only to retain their title and win the Setanta All-Ireland cup but would become the first team from Ireland to qualify for the group stages of a European competition.

It was not all plain sailing for O’Neill during the year with the manager under immense pressure just as he was about to face into his first European game. O’Neill’s style of football never won over all the Hoops supporters, many of whom have high expectations in how their team performs on the pitch. In June when his side lost to away to Sligo Rovers and Trevor Croly, O’Neill’s assistant, resigned because his “football relationship with the manager differed”, there was talk that O’Neill may be forced out of the club. It was a defining moment in O’Neill’s time at Rovers. He successfully rallied his players around a new management team bringing in his friend and highly experienced player and coach, Jim Magilton, to help out as Rovers began their European campaign.

They overcame Estonian champions Flora Tallinn in their first tie, before coming against FC Copenhagen in the next Champions League qualifying round. Rovers put in a very credible performance against Copenhagen losing away in the first leg 1-0 to a side that made the last 16 in the previous year. O’Neill spoke afterwards about the “hint of disappointment to have lost the game” which was a measure of his team’s disciplined performance and standard he was looking. The Hoops would be eliminated following the second leg 2-0 defeat with O’Neill’s team placed into the play off round of the Europa League.

Gary McCabe’s late equaliser in first leg of the play off in Tallaght against Partizan meant Rovers travelled to Belgrade with a chance of progression even if they went with little expectation. O’Neill’s men were to make Irish footballing history by winning 2-1 thanks to Pat Sullivan’s superb second half volley and Stephen O’Donnell’s pressure penalty six minutes from the end of extra time. The win generated massive publicity and revenue netting €1million for a club whose annual turnover is only €2.5million.

O’Neill’s masterminding of that win was the high point of the European campaign. Drawn in a difficult Europa League group, the Hoops lost all six games shipping heavy home defeats. However, away from home O’Neill’s men gave a good account of themselves especially against Spurs, where they led 1-0 in White Hart Lane after the hour mark, and in Salonika where they went closest to getting a point in the 2-1 defeat to PAOK.

All these European ties didn’t distract O’Neill’s team domestically as they won each of the league games on their return from Europe where they wrapped up the league with one game to spare. With O’Neill’s contact up in December, there was much speculation surrounding the northerner and vacancies at his former club Hibernian and also the Northern Ireland job, where it is understood Jim Magilton was also a candidate. The day before the last Europa League game, the club confirmed O’Neill would be leaving. It was clear by that time that relationships were strained between O’Neill and the board that had brought him in from Brechin. “I wouldn’t say it’s amicable,” O’Neill said of the breakdown in discussions on a new contract and future direction of the club.

It is probably too early to say what legacy O’Neill leaves behind him at Rovers. There is no doubt that the Irish champions are in a much stronger position now than three years ago when O’Neill took on the task. Of course, he was greatly helped by the new found stability within the club that was brought about by the move to Tallaght. The new stadium generated considerable amounts of money due to the large crowds and new commercial sponsorships, far in excess of that available during Rovers’ recent arrangements renting from their rival Dublin clubs. Depending on results in seasons to come, both for O’Neill with his national team and for Rovers under Stephen Kenny, it may be seen as a mistake for Rovers not to renew O’Neill’s contract.

O’Neill himself summed up his time with Shamrock Rovers by saying that “the three years have been very enjoyable, hard work and a huge challenge. It will be up to the supporters and members, who subsidise the club, to look back and hopefully say they’ve enjoyed what I’ve done here.” With those back-to-back league wins and extended European campaign, suffice to say that most Rovers fans will look back fondly on O’Neill’s time at Rovers and will hope for a continuation of that success in years to come. Over to you Stephen Kenny.