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Tallaght Time book launch

July 16, 2013 1 comment

The official launch of Tallaght Time took place in the Gala Room in Tallaght Stadium on Friday 12th July ahead of the Shamrock Rovers v Derry City game. Broadcaster, and well known Hoops fan, Con Murphy officially launched the book and it was great for the authors to have Con do the honours and to have so many friends and family there for the launch.

Con Murphy with the authors of Tallaght Time

Con Murphy with the authors of Tallaght Time

There are some more photos of the launch on the book’s facebook page here.

On the night in Hoops Scene, Shamrock Rovers’ matchday programme, there was an edited extract from Chapter Seven of Tallaght Time describing the dramatic conclusion to title battle between Rovers and Bohs in 2010 when the Hoops travelled to Bray on the final night of the season.


Chapter 7: Who wants to be League Champions? 2010 Title Run-in

A draw was all that was needed for Rovers to be crowned champions unless Bohs could put a hatful past Dundalk in Dalymount Park. It was first blood to Bohs who went 1-0 up against Dundalk after only 12 minutes. When Bray scored eight minutes later, it meant that if results stayed that way, it would be three in a row for Bohs. Gary Twigg was not going to let that happen without a fight as he latched onto a through ball from Craig Sives just before the break in Bray.

7-2 Gary Twigg about to score against Bray bb

Gary Twigg
The ball gets down the side and the boy’s slipped and I was in. I saw the keeper coming and I took it around him. I don’t know why but for some reason I let the boy get back on the line. I’d usually hit it first time. I kept taking it in. The boy was closing me and I had nowhere to go except through his legs so I took it with the outside of my left foot. Thinking about it now I don’t know how I kept so calm with the pressure! The roar that went up that night when it went in was unreal. I think there was a lot of nervous energy going out from everyone.

Stephen Rice
With that goal other strikers may have snatched at it but Twiggy showed why he was the best striker in the league.

photo-22
The Rovers fans’ nerves were eased when Twigg’s strike partner Thomas Stewart rounded off a fine passing move one minute into the second half giving Rovers a 2-1 lead while Bohs had conceded and were now only drawing their game. In the season that was in it, there was to be another twist when Gary Shaw’s diving header equalised for Bray after 69 minutes and Bohs went 2-1 up 10 minutes later. Rovers went into the three minutes of injury time at the Carlisle Grounds knowing that one more goal for Bray would mean the end for Rovers’ title ambitions.

In Dalymount Park, the final whistle went with Bohs 3-1 winners. In Bray, the Rovers fans beseeched referee Alan Kelly to blow up with a cacophony of whistles of their own. Alan Mannus had to make one final save but the referee blew up after what seemed the longest few minutes ever of injury time. The Hoops had waited 16 years to win the league but they had to wait no longer.

Rovers fans swarmed onto the pitch to celebrate with the players. Fans embraced each other with tears streaming down their faces. After all the ups and mostly downs since the last league title in 1994, this meant so much to the Shamrock Rovers fans. Nobody ever said winning the league would be easy but Rovers had managed to do it the very hard way. After 36 games, just two goals separated them from Bohemians at the end of the season.

There was a chaotic trophy presentation on the pitch. Surrounded by thousands of Rovers fans, captain Dan Murray managed to get his hands on the trophy alongside Stephen Rice to lift the coveted trophy to the backdrop of confetti and flares. In the melee that followed with fans swarming the podium, Pat Flynn was cracked over the head with the trophy, cutting his head open with blood flowing down his face. It was champagne though that flowed in the Rovers dressing room when they eventually got there.

Stephen Rice
The trophy presentation was poor but if you had to present me that league trophy in hell with fire and demons running around me, I would have taken it! It was crazy stuff. It was a massive night for the club and all of us players. It is something that we will never forget. It was incredible that some of the young fans out in Bray that night weren’t even alive when we won the last title.

Gary Twigg
What a night. If anybody says to me what is your best night playing for Shamrock Rovers, well the answer is that is the best night. That night will never be beaten for me, that was pure emotion.

The league trophy ready to be presented on the pitch in Bray

The league trophy ready to be presented on the pitch in Bray

Trevor Croly
My daughter was at the game with my mam and dad, and I wanted to stand and watch the presentation with her. I had her in my arms and I just watched the guys. I just wanted to see the lads get their reward. It was an emotional night, one of those special moments in your life.

Justin Mason
It was mayhem but who cares. It was brilliant. There was a guy in a wheelchair in front of us and he was trying to get on the pitch with two of his mates. We came down and lifted the wheelchair over the wall so he could get on the pitch! I thought Pat Flynn had head butted the trophy because he is that mad. I didn’t realise it was accidental!

Buzz O’Neill
We went into a pub in Bray and what struck me was that it was all the same faces who had been in those meetings in the Plaza Hotel back in 2005, who had gone to the High Court hearings, who had been in Cobh back in 2006 [when Rovers won the first division]. A friend was there with her Dad and I started hugging her Dad and she was saying, ‘oh, by the way Dad, this is Buzz’. Never met the man before in my life! We limped over the line to a degree but when they engrave the League of Ireland trophy it doesn’t say ‘won it by one goal’, it just says ‘champions’.

Match Facts
Two or more teams had finished level on points at the top of the table five times before in League of Ireland history. Shelbourne had a superior goal difference to Derry City in 2006 and three titles were decided by playoffs, including Cork Hibernians’ 3-1 win over Shamrock Rovers in 1970/71.

15 Rovers players won the first League of Ireland medal of their careers that night. In the modern era, seven players have won the Premier Division with three different clubs. All of them played with Rovers and, with the exception of Joseph Ndo and Colin Hawkins, they all won a title at Rovers – John Coady, Mick Neville, Paul Doolan, Neale Fenn and Gary O’Neill.

© Macdara Ferris and Karl Reilly / The Liffey Press (2013)

Tallaght Time, published by The Liffey Press, tells the remarkable tale of Shamrock Rovers’ recent history since the club moved to their new home told through the words of those closely involved; Rovers officials, players and fans. In depth interviews were carried out specifically for the book with a number of Rovers officials and players including Gary Twigg, Stephen Rice, Dan Murray, Trevor Croly, Stephen Kenny and Jonathan Roche amongst many others.

The book describes the many magical nights since the Hoops moved to Tallaght such as Cristiano Ronaldo making his debut for Real Madrid against Rovers; the visit of Alessandro Del Piero and his star-studded Juventus team and winning their first league title since 1994. The book also charts Rovers’ extraordinary 2011 European campaign including the never-to-be-forgotten win over Partizan Belgrade in Serbia and the trip to White Hart Lane.

The book is 320 pages in length with over 70 colour photos by club photographers Bobby Best and George Kelly and includes historical inserts and detailed appendices with results, appearances and scorers for all Rovers matches from 2009 to 2012.

Tallaght Time is available from the Shamrock Rovers megastore, online and in Easons, Reads and Dubray Books.

Front cover Tallaght Time

 

Tallaght Time: Shamrock Rovers 2009 – 2012

“Tallaght Time: Shamrock Rovers 2009-2012” the book I’ve written with Karl Reilly, with photos by Bobby Best & George Kelly, has gone to print. Published by The Liffey Press, it should be available for purchase around end of June.

Front cover Tallaght Time

Tallaght Time tells the remarkable story of Shamrock Rovers’ recent history since the club moved to Tallaght. After a nightmare decade-long journey, they finally got to play in their new home in 2009 after overcoming near financial ruin, planning pitfalls and High Court cases. Only in their wildest dreams could supporters of the club have foreseen the success that would come while playing in the venue. Rovers, now owned by its fans, would win back-to-back league titles and qualify for the Europa League group stages during their short tenure in Tallaght.

https://www.facebook.com/TallaghtTime

Told through the words of those closely involved, including Shamrock Rovers’ managers, officials, players and fans, Tallaght Time describes the many magical nights since
the Hoops moved to their new stadium: Cristiano Ronaldo making his debut for Real Madrid against Rovers; taking on Alessandro Del Piero and his star-studded Juventus team
in 2010; and winning their first league title since 1994. The book also charts Rovers’ extraordinary 2011 European campaign when they made history by becoming the first Irish team to reach the group stages of a major European competition after a never-to-be-forgotten win over Partizan Belgrade in Serbia.

13-1 Europa League football comes to Tallaght MF

ISBN 978-1-908308-44-3

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)

Hoops mark Milltown 25th anniversary

http://extratime.ie/newsdesk/articles/7856/hoops-mark-milltown-25th-anniversary/

Article for extratime.ie

This week marked the 25th anniversary of Shamrock Rovers’ last game in Milltown. On Friday to commemorate that last game, Shamrock Rovers and their club’s Heritage Trust organised a walk from the monument outside Milltown to Rovers’ new home in Tallaght.

The walk began with a small ceremony in Milltown that was addressed by former Rovers player Mick Byrne, scorer of the last Rovers goal in Milltown, in front of a crowd of around 200 club supporters. The fans then set out on the 10km walk to Tallaght Stadium ahead of that evening’s game against Dundalk.

Extratime.ie spoke with Mick Byrne and asked him about his memories of Milltown.
“I used to walk through the gates here on Sunday and know we were going to win the match,” recalled Byrne who was an integral part of the Rovers team that won four-in-a-row league titles in Milltown in the 1980’s. “My fondest memory is just coming here and scoring goals here.”

The journey on Friday night took two hours to complete as the fans walked from Milltown through Dartry, Rathgar, Terenure, Templogue before arriving in Tallaght Stadium. The highly controversial decision by the Kilcoyne family to sell Glenmalure Park in 1987 meant it was a 22-year journey for the football club to get from Milltown to Tallaght.

Addressing the crowd on Friday evening was James Cooke who was involved in the Keep Rovers at Milltown (KRAM) campaign and is now a member of the Rovers Heritage Trust. “When those gates closed 25 years ago, this football club was effectively thrown on the scrap heap of Irish football,” said Cooke. “To have survived 22 years not knowing from season to season where we were going to play was a miracle. This football club is stronger now than at any other period in our history.”

At different stages after leaving Milltown, Rovers played games in Tolka Park, Dalymount Park, RDS, Morton Stadium, Richmond Park and even played one home game 200km from Milltown in Turners Cross in Cork. Rovers eventually played their first game in Tallaght three years ago.

When the club organised a ceremony at Milltown for the 20th anniversary back in 2007, at the time it remained to be seen would Rovers even get to Tallaght as the GAA had taken out a High Court Judicial Review over access to the stadium. This 25th anniversary has seen some ghosts laid to rest as in the five years since that last ceremony, the club is now firmly embedded in Tallaght Stadium, playing in front of crowds in excess of 3,000 and are back-to-back League of Ireland champions.

In the month that Louis Kilcoyne died, the club are in as strong a position as they have been since Kilcoyne sold Glenmalure Park for housing. So can the club close the chapter on the controversy of the sale of Milltown? “I think we should do now,” said Mick Byrne. “It is unfortunate that it happened at the time. But I think the club is in a much better place now and we have to get over it.”

When the fans arrived in Tallaght after the walk, the club laid on some drinks in the ‘Glenmalure Suite’ function room in the stadium as reward for making the 10km trek to Tallaght. On the pitch Rovers rewarded the fans with an impressive 6-0 victory over Dundalk.

Shamrock Rovers 3 – 1 Monaghan United (match report)

http://extratime.ie/newsdesk/articles/7576/

Shamrock Rovers were made to work hard for their victory in Tallaght on Friday night, trailing at half time to Willo McDonagh’s early goal for Monaghan United. However, three second half goals from Killian Brennan, Billy Dennehy and Aaron Green were the difference on the night for the league champions.

Monaghan manager Roddy Collins, on his return to face his former side, won’t have been too happy with his team’s second half performance where they were not helped by the
fact that they played the last twenty minutes with ten men.

The champions flag had barely been raised at Tallaght Stadium, with it being the first home league game of the season, before the Hoops were 1-0 down in the game. After just three minutes Monaghan United won a free kick which was floated in by Darragh Reynor. Willo McDonagh, the former Shamrock Rovers player, got on the end of it and his flicked
backwards header found the top left corner of the net for the opening goal.

Monaghan didn’t just sit back on their lead and threatened the Rovers goal sporadically during the first half. Owen Humphreys played most of the half pushed right onto the Rovers right back Kerrea Gilbert, which created a hole in the middle for Monaghan’s midfield runners to try and exploit. This tactic went someway to preventing Gilbert going on the offensive. Gilbert was able to link up with Killian Brennan occasionally down the right wing but there wasn’t enough end product for strikers Gary O’Neill and Gary Twigg to capitalise on.

As early as the 18th minute, there was a Monaghan booking due to a spot of time wasting. Mons ‘keeper Chris Bennion stepped away from a free kick well outside his area to allow Darragh Reynor to take it but referee George Kelly ran out of patience and produced the yellow card for Reynor when maybe it was Bennion that should have been booked. It was a decision would have an influence on proceedings later in the game.

Monaghan forced the Rovers defence into conceding a number of first half corners with Craig Sives and Conor Powell having to clear their lines. However, poor deliveries meant United couldn’t add to their first half lead.

On the half hour mark Rovers had two great chances to get the equaliser. Killian Brennan’s shot seemed destined for the top left hand corner of the goal but the midfielder’s effort was pushed around the post by the head of Alan Byrne. The Monaghan captain then almost turned villain straight afterwards as his slip presented the ball at Gary Twigg’s lethal feet. However, Twigg’s curling left foot shot flew just by the left hand post for a goal kick.

Monaghan’s Tony Griffiths had the first chance of the second half but his tame shot on 47 minutes was gathered by Oscar Jannson in the Rovers goal before Stephen Kenny’s men came very close to scoring a minute later. Billy Dennehy won a corner off Stephen Maher and, as Killian Brennan swung it in, Craig Sives downwards header was cleared off the line by Maher.

It was from the next corner on 55 minutes though that Rovers got the equaliser. Billy Dennehy swung the ball in towards Brennan who was running away from goal. To the delight of the home fans his back heeled volley found the back of the net.

On 64 minutes Rovers were in front. After a nice passing move, Stephen Rice fed Dennehy the ball 25 yards from goal. The Kerryman took a touch and then let fly with a stunning strike to find the top left hand corner of the goal. Now behind in the game, Monaghan soon found themselves reduced to ten men. Reynor went in with a heavy challenge on Stephen Rice and received his second card from referee Graham Kelly and was off.

Ronan Finn really should have scored for the home side after 75 minutes when Twigg played him in on goal. However, Bennion was able to save Finn’s low shot with his feet. Rovers then began to exploit the space available to them due to the sending off. Another fine passing move came to Billy Dennehy on the wing and his cross was met by Brennan, but the cross bar prevented Rovers getting a third at that time.

Twigg next went close following a build up involving Turner and O’Neill but the Scotsman couldn’t keep his shot down. Aaron Green, a late second half substitute, wrapped it up
for the Hoops in injury time, getting on the end of Gary McCabe’s through ball to make it 3-1 with virtually the last kick of game.

Shamrock Rovers: Oscar Jansson; Kerrea Gilbert (Chris Turner, 68), Ken Oman (c), Craig Sives, Conor Powell; Billy Dennehy, Stephen Rice, Ronan Finn, Killian Brennan (Gary McCabe, 87); Gary Twigg, Gary O’Neill (Aaron Greene, 85).
Subs not used: Lee Steacy (GK), Graham Gartland, Stephen O’Donnell, Daryl Kavanagh.
Bookings: Powell (52), Dennehy (66).

Monaghan United: Chris Bennion; Stephen Maher, Conor McMahon, Alan Byrne (c), Darragh Reynor; Michael Isichei (Conor Murphy, 60), Willo McDonagh, Keith Quinn, Jordan Keegan; Tony Griffiths (Jason Marks, 65), Owen Humphrey (Daniel McGuinness, 46).
Subs not used: Michael Schlingermann (GK), Roddy Collins, Bobby Ryan, Shane Dunne.
Bookings: Reynor (19), Willo McDonagh (40), Keith Quinn (65).
Sendings Off: Reynor (71)

Referee: Graham Kelly
Attendance: 3,100
Extratime.ie man of the match: Killian Brennan

Four Continent Football: Part 4 – Europe (Shamrock Rovers’ first game in Tallaght)

Four Continent Football: Part 4 – Europe (Shamrock Rovers’ first game in Tallaght)

It seemed over a two decade period that Shamrock Rovers had played home games in the four corners of the world even if that wasn’t actually the case. This time three years ago everyone at the club was building up for probably the biggest home game ever – our first proper home match since the eviction from Milltown back in 1986.

I’ve reminised recently about attending football matches across four continents including Asia, South America and Africa but in this final blogpost of Four Continent Football, we are in Europe and I’m bringing it back home for Shamrock Rovers’ first game in Tallaght.

Since leaving Milltown, it was only really in the time period at the RDS (1990 to 1996) that it felt like they were home games for Rovers. In the years since Milltown, home matches were played in various grounds rented off our rivals including playing in Tolka Park, Dalymount Park, Richmond Park and, probably most embarrasingly, Turners Cross. That night in Cork when the Hoops ran out to play a home game over 250km from Dublin not actually wearing hoops but their away strip, was one of the very many low points that has surrounded the club during my time as a supporter.

The build-up to certain big games can seem like years but the build up to Rovers’ first game in Tallaght was that, it was over a decade in the making. Planning Permission had been granted in 1997, the sod had been turned with the builders coming on the site in 2000, they came off site the following year, and finally come back on the site in May 2008. In that period Rovers went bust, had the fans take over the club and got relegated. South Dublin County Council had taken ownership of the site and a lengthy court case had ensued when the GAA tried unsuccesfully to get their grubby little hands on the keys to access the stadium.

When the 2009 fixtures came out, we could finally see in black and white Rovers were finally scheduled to play in Tallaght. There was symmtery to the fixture with Sligo Rovers providing the opposition for the first game in Tallaght, just as they had done for the final game in Milltown. The first game in the RDS back in 1990 was awful and half of the 20,000 crowd didn’t come back for the next game. I was somewhat worried that the game would be an anti-climax but it wasn’t. It was everything I’d hoped for and more. There were goals, there was drama and there was a Shamrock Rovers win. We’ve kept coming back for more ever since.

That day so many people came up to me in work and wished me and the club well. It was one of those days where it was very hard to concentrate on anything but the match. At around 4 o’clock my boss told me to head off. He knew what it meant for me. Everyone knew what it meant. I got countless e-mail and texts from friends telling me to enjoy the game and enjoy it I would. When I got into stadium, people were hugging each other. This was the moment we had dreamed about for so long and now it was a reality. People were walking around trying to take it all in with a permanent smile on their faces and a ball hadn’t even been kicked at that stage.

As well as being Rovers’ first game in Tallaght, it was Michael O’Neill’s first home game in charge of Rovers. It was a much changed Rovers side with a new strike partnership of Dessie Baker and Gary Twigg. The fans were wondering who this Twigg player was that O’Neill had paid out a transfer fee for to bring from the Scottish Second Division and could he combine with Baker, a player most thought was past it.

It was telling last December when Michael O’Neill took leave of Shamrock Rovers that he spoke about that night. He was asked about what he would remember most from this tenure in Tallaght. He didn’t pick winning one of the three major trophies claimed during his time managing Rovers or one of those amazing nights against a heavyweight 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.”
The passion and noise generated as the teams came out was almost overwhelming and many a tear was shed on the night. 22 years of pent up frustration at the loss of Milltown and a home of our own, spilled out in a wall of noise when the teams emerged. I certainly let out a primiordal roar anyway!

It was a horrible night weather wise in Tallaght but in every other way it was perfect. If we were wondering would Twigg do the business in Tallaght, we weren’t wondering much longer after the opening period of the game. First Twigg had a goal dissallowed. Then after 18 minutes we saw what we now know as classic Gary Twigg. He got a sniff of the ball in the box and scored. It seemed that as soon as he swiviled and got his shot away over his shoulder, the ball was in the back of the net and he was celebrating in front of the Ultras.

On opening night, there was only one stand constructed in the stadium and it was filled to 3,500 capacity and probably a bit more! In front of the live TV cameras, Shamrock Rovers searched out a second goal early in the second half and got it. Ollie Cahill made a great run down the left and found Dessie Baker whose finish put the Hoops 2-0 in front. The Baker-Twigg strikeforce would continue to do damage during the rest of the season with Rovers finishing runner’s up in the league at the end of the year.

This wasn’t an exhibition game though and Sligo did not come just to make up the numbers. The home side had to earn their win and there was some nervous moments toward the end of the game following Gavin Peer’s 82nd minute goal for Sligo. The Hoops never make it easy but had to go an earn that win on opening night. The celebrations at the final whistle continued long into the night. The win, our first home win in over two decades, was a long time coming. We were home.
KOH!

Rovers mixed artistry yields octagon result

February 25, 2012 Leave a comment

My debut match report for extra time.ie

http://extratime.ie/fixtures/detail/18084/2/

Shamrock Rovers 8 – 1 Waterford United
by Macdara Ferris
Fri, Feb 24 2012

Shamrock Rovers had a more than convincing win over Waterford United at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night in their final friendly before the start of the league campaign. It finished 8-1 on the night for Stephen Kenny’s men with Gary O’Neill hitting a hat-trick for the Hoops. It was a confidence sapping result for Paul O’Brien’s men who are expected to be challenging for promotion out of the First Division.

It was an even opening period to the game that didn’t give a hint of the dominance that would follow later. Craig Sives was unlucky not to open the scoring after 12 minutes when his header from around the penalty spot shaved the post from a Billy Dennehy cross.

The opening goal of the game came after 14 minutes for the champions from a deep Killian Brennan corner. The corner was sent back across the box by the head of defender Dylan Mernagh. The ball found its way to Ken Oman who had an acre of space in front of goal to slot the ball home low into the net. Waterford’s first chance of the game came from the kick off but Ben Ryan’s shot didn’t trouble Oscar Jannson in goal as it flew over the bar.

Rovers doubled their lead on 26 minutes with a fine individual effort from Daryl Kavanagh. He picked up the ball in midfield and ghosted by two players and with great vision chipped the ball over Robbie Hughes into the top corner from all of 25 yards.

Photo by George Kelly

Brennan was fouled in a dangerous position in front of goal on 33 minutes. Dennehy struck the free with his left into the bottom corner to make it 3-0. The Blues pulled a goal back straight away as Jannson misread the flight of Paul Phelan’s corner allowing United skipper David Breen to head home. Just before half time, Ronan Finn found the net for the fourth with a fine flicked header from a Kerrea Gilbert cross.

United went close early in the second half as Gary Dempsey’s free was headed over by Seamus Long. A Sives chance went close before Rovers added three goals in a devastating five-minute spell before the hour mark. An O’Neill header at the backpost from substitute Aaron Green’s cross made it five for the Hoops.

Rovers then had half a dozen goals when Finn made a probing run down the right with his ball handing O’Neill the simplest of tap ins from inside the six yard box. Substitute Gary McCabe scored next following a mazy run. He beat Paul Carey on the left, cut inside and slammed the ball high into the roof of the net to make it 7-1 on the hour mark. Waterford did have a chance to get their second on 65 minutes when sub Seany Maguire played in Darragh Walshe but Jannson was on hand to save his shot.

Photo by George Kelly

Greene had a couple of chances to increase his sides tally. First when he ran in on goal but was forced wide by Hughes and his subsequent shot went over the bar. Next he claimed a long ball over the top but his left foot shot bounced back off the post.

The home side continued to pile on the misery with United going 8-1 down. Six minutes from time Gary O’Neill completed his hat-trick and the overall goal scoring for the evening. Breene bundled into the back of O’Neill in the box. At the infamous car park end of Tallaght Stadium, O’Neill managed to do what very few players have done there and scored from the penalty spot. The last bit of play saw Dempsey chip the ball over the Rovers defence onto sub Seany Maguire’s chest but Jannson was able to smother the ball at the player’s feet.

Stephen Kenny will no doubt be happy with the performance of his side and he used that squad to the fullest extent with eight second half substitutions. Blues boss O’Brien will have to pick up his men after this dispiriting result. He will be emphasising that the quality of opposition will not be as strong for United in the First Division as they faced from the back-to-back League of Irelands champions in Tallaght. Waterford will be thankful for that.

Shamrock Rovers: Oscar Jannson; Kerrea Gilbert (Sean Gannon, 65), Craig Sives (Graham Gartland, 65), Ken Oman (Colin Hawkins, 84), Conor Powell (Conor McCormack, 84); Killian Brennan, Stephen Rice (Stephen O’Donnell 65), Ronan Finn (Chris Turner, 72), Billy Dennehy (Gary McCabe 45); Gary O’Neill, Daryl Kavanagh (Aaron Greene, 45)
Subs not used: Lee Stacey

Waterford United: Robbie Hughes; Paul Carey (Thomas Whitty, 89), Craig Burns (Seany Maguire, 65), David Breen, Dylan Mernagh; Ben Ryan (Peter Keegan, 72), Gary Dunphy (Peter Higgins), Seamus Long, Paul Phelan; Gary Dempsey, Darragh Walshe (Nathan West)

Subs not used: Packie Holden
Bookings: Ben Ryan

Referee: Tom Connolly

Attendance: 1000 (estimate)

extratime.ie Man of the Match: Gary O’Neill who, in addition to scoring a hat-trick, was very effective in holding the ball up and involving other Rovers players

Cousins scored the goals by the dozens

February 20, 2012 Leave a comment

“There’s only one Tony Cousins, he scores the goals by the dozens, when you think you’ve lost it, he scores in the last minute, walking in a Cousins wonderland”

On Tuesday night Tony Cousins, the former Shamrock Rovers striker, will bring the Longford Town team he manages to Tallaght Stadium for a pre-season game. Back in 1996 when Cousins joined Shamrock Rovers the club had just announced they would be moving to Tallaght. Cousins would play six years for the club but would never get a chance to pull on the green and white hoops of Rovers in Tallaght. Tonight he gets the chance to manage his team in the Dublin 24 venue.

With a long and successful history, Shamrock Rovers have many players that they can call legends. There is always a healthy debate when fans get together and discuss who is their favourite player and who would make their all time Shamrock Rovers XI. For many fans who watched Rovers during their tenure in Morton Stadium and Tolka Park, Cousins would make their favourite Rovers XI.
Tony Cousin’s legendary status is alluded to in the song sung to the tune of Winter Wonderland. The man that scored late goals when all seemed lost was a fans favourite despite his troubling past i.e. his time at Bohemians!

A former Ireland U21 international, Cousins was on Chelsea’s books as a youth. He returned to Ireland to play for Dundalk before Liverpool paid a £70,000 transfer to secure his services. On a number of occasions he was on the subs bench for the first team but failed to get on the pitch and was hampered with injuries throughout his time at Anfield. He signed for Bohs and played with the Gypsies for three seasons before joining the Hoops. During his six seasons at Rovers he found the back of the net 46 times. It is especially the number of late goals that he is fondly remembered for, particularily in the 1996/97 season when the move to Tallaght was first being mooted.

Last Saturday night, Rovers won 2-0 against Wexford Youths as part of their pre-season preperation ahead of this season’s opener in a few weeks time against Drogheda United. I was reminded by a friend on leaving the ground last Saturday night of Cousins hat-trick from 1996 in a league game against Drogheda. It was a perfect hat-trick that night as Rovers won 3-1. He got one with his left foot, one with his right and one with the head. His opening goal just before half time was probably his best goal as he beat Drogheda’s John Coady to the ball before unleashing an unstoppable shot low into the net.

Many Friday nights in that 1996/97 season, Cousins was staring in his own late late show and was instrumental in pulling Rovers away from the relegation zone that season. In the second part of the season, Cousins hit a rich vein of form that cemented his legendary status. At the end of January he got a late goal to secure all three points in a 2-1 win over Sligo Rovers.

In February he couldn’t stop scoring. He scored both goals to grab a point in a 2-2 draw against Finn Harps. He got a hat trick in a feast of goals when Rovers secured a 6-4 win ‘away’ to Shelbourne in Tolka. Cousins notched up both goals in a 2-2 draw against Saint Patrick’s Athletic and then somehow rescued a point at home to Bray Wanderers when the Hoops trailed by two goals going into the final minutes. His two late goals that night, with his equaliser deep in stoppage time, sparked joyous scenes amongst the home fans that night and were immortalised in song.

He finished top scorer in the League that season with 16 goals in a side that eventually finished 7th in the table. In the intervening time only Gary Twigg has scored more goals for Rovers in a season (with Twigg’s late goals in the first home game against Bohemians being Cousins-like late specials!). In recognition of his goalscoring that season he picked up the Shamrock Rovers Player of the Year award. The following season he scored more goals by the dozens this time netting 15 times. His 46 league goals in 145 appearances puts him 15th in the list of all time Rovers goalscorers.

When he finished playing he worked as Under 21 manager and assistant manager at Shamrock Rovers. He has also had spells as manager at Galway United and at Kildare County but will come to Tallaght as Longford manager. He will be in for a warm welcome from everyone who remembers Cousins from his playing days at the Hoops.

Dan’s departure ends captain’s run

January 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Published on Shamrock Rovers club website 14/01/2012
http://www.shamrockrovers.ie/news/35-news/2361-thanks-muzz

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.

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.”