When we spoke before Thursday’s game against Ferencvaros, you said we would try to win the game. That was evident in how we came out of the blocks. Were you pleased with the performance?
“I was delighted with how we approached the game. We were all hurting from the first leg result, we didn’t feel it was a 4-0 game. We know we’re better than that and wanted to put that right. I felt we did that with large parts of the performance. It was kind of a similar story to the week before, we could’ve been a couple ahead before they got an opportunity in the game. I said before the game if you don’t take your chances, these teams hurt you. We know they have the quality with eight internationals who started, and another four on the bench, so you have to take your opportunities and we didn’t do that. Then they get a bit of luck with the first goal, and they show their quality then. But I was delighted with the performance and attitude of the players, how we attacked the game, and I was delighted with Kieran Cruise and Conan Noonan (handed their first European starts) and how they took that game in their stride. Young Kieran is a left back and he’s not going to play against many better than Traore, so it was a really tough test for him and, to be fair, he kept going and it was brilliant to see that fight in him. Conan also showed his quality at times, so all around, there were plenty of positives. We’re disappointed with the result, I didn’t think it was a 2-0 game, but we were playing a high-level opposition.”
As you alluded to regarding Conan and Kieran, they more than acquitted themselves well against Ferencvaros.
“I was delighted with them. We’ve been speaking about Conan for quite some time, and we’ve seen glimpses of him. Thursday was a difficult game for him to come into, but he had the right mix around him to show what he was about. His delivery at set plays was brilliant and he showed real maturity in his game which was a real positive.
Kieran as a left back as I said won’t often play against that calibre of player like Traore, so it was a real baptism of fire for him, a real ‘welcome to European football’ so, the pleasing thing for me was that he showed tremendous character in terms of never giving in. There was lots of learning for him in the game, the second goal, but he knows that and he’s a young boy learning his trade so with young players you have to accept they’ll make mistakes and it’s part of his development.”
Despite our injury issues, everyone on Thursday got good minutes into the legs, are you happy overall with our form coming into tomorrow’s league game?
Yes, all the substitutions were pre-planned, but Seán Hoare and Seán Gannon got knocks that we need to check this morning. It was great to get Dylan back on the pitch and Graham and Johnny got an hour, Johnny was excellent again, so it was good to get everyone ready for tomorrow.”
Ferencvaros were knocked out of the Champions League by Klaksvik of the Faroe Islands who then knocked out Hacken of Sweden, indeed all of Sweden’s teams were beaten in Europe this week. Given some observers who used words like “failure” to describe Rovers in Europe this season, do those other results in the preliminary rounds put that “failure” into perspective?
“I’ve always said it’s important we don’t react to the noise and the hype and to understand it for what it is. When you look around those European results, you see a team who got to the last 16 last season knocked out, Ferencvaros had group stage Champions League aspirations and they were knocked out, Ludogorets were knocked out. It’s cup football, anything can happen, so if you look at the results around Europe this season there have been shocks in all competitions. People want to home in on us, that’s fine, I understand that and we’re there to be shot at as the best team in the country. But inside our club, we’ve got to understand it for what it is, a cup competition, it’s Europe and we have no divine right to win any game and these things can happen. If you come away from the noise and the agendas, you’ll see it for what it is, around Europe big teams are also falling at the first and second hurdles.”
After what seems an eternity, we finally get back to League action tomorrow at home to Cork City. Whilst nobody at the club likes being out of Europe and the FAI Cup in August, might that work to our advantage with eleven remaining league games on which to now focus all our attention?
“We haven’t had this in quite some time. So, we have to use it as a positive, it will give us loads of recovery time, and loads more time to prepare for games. We know how difficult it is when you’re travelling Thursday, after playing a difficult game and playing again domestically on a Sunday, we had that last season, but now we don’t, so we need to use that and turn it into a positive and I’m sure we will. I like where we’re at in terms of where performances are, apart from the first leg at home to Breidablik. But we need to start taking the opportunities and win games, there’s no getting away from that. If we can reach Thursday’s performance level, I’ve no doubt we’ll be ok.”
Cork have taken four points from us in the two previous games so will staff and players will be demanding the highest levels of each other tomorrow?
“We know that nothing but our best is going to be enough to win tomorrow. We need to make sure we take Thursday’s mindset into tomorrow, to attack the game from the first minute, and impose ourselves on the game as soon as possible. We know Cork are going to come with a freedom and play so we have to make sure we’re ready for that and take over the game as soon as possible.”
What’s the latest on our inured players for tomorrow?
“Trevor Clarke is doing really well, he’s going to be ahead of schedule, we were fearing fourteen weeks for him, but it’s more likely 6-7 so that’s a credit to Trevor. Neil Farrugia is close, probably back next week as will Lee Grace. Rory Gaffney is back tomorrow, and Jack Byrne has seen a specialist in England, thankfully, he thinks that Jack is only a couple of more weeks out, which is great news. He’ll miss Shels next week, then we have got a break so he might be back for the home game v Dundalk the following week. So, we’re getting bodies back for this important part of the season.”