Friday night’s match in Tolka Park will be streamed live on LOITV. Kickoff is at 7.45 pm
Immediately after the 2-1 win over Cork City, your initial reaction was one of relief at winning the three points. It looked a convincing and controlled second half display by Rovers, but did you fear Cork could nick something?
“When it’s 2-1 anything can happen. Off the back of Thursday (v Ferencvaros), you knew that physical and mental fatigue could set in and with that, you can give up chances and opportunities so that’s the fear in that scenario. Even though we are comfortable in the game, one ricochet or deflection and it all changes. But I enjoyed the performance and for large parts, we were very good.”
Although competitively we had gone seven games without a win, it was only two in the league; considering we failed to win our first six league games, it wasn’t exactly crisis time amongst the group, was it?
“No, we were fine, we knew against Breidablik that we weren’t good enough over the two legs and the reasons for that. Ferencvaros for us was a really tough one to take because we felt we started both games really well but as I keep saying, if you don’t take your chances against big teams, you get punished. If you offered me the cup game (against Dundalk) tomorrow, I’d take it, everything in that game suggests we should win it. We didn’t take our chances and we made enough to win a few games that day. So, when you break those games down and understand them for what they were, we were ok. Going into the Cork game it was all about getting the win, off the back of Thursday and the squad being tight in terms of bodies, it was just about getting the win. I felt the performance on Thursday was good and we followed that into the Cork game, although we started sloppy, after that it was very good. So, there was no real panic, we were calm, and the players were calm. We’ve been here before, and we don’t listen to the noise, we focus on what we do.”
Liam Burt has looked the part recently with his clear run of fitness and his wonderful goal on Sunday. How were his spirits when nothing seemed to be going right for him injury-wise?
“It’s tough, he’s a top player as we’ve seen the last few years and that is the reason, we wanted to bring him in. He’s different to what we have, has different attributes to his game to what we have in the final third and that’s why we wanted him. But he’s been frustrated and hasn’t been able to produce that for a number of reasons. Thankfully, the past six weeks he’s been training fully, has had no issues and you can see that on the pitch. Liam is a really good age, a good profile, but he’s had the injuries and arrived here with injury, but Liam was never one for short-term thinking. He was more about how do we move the team; how do we get better, and we identified Liam as one who can bring us forward. So, while we wanted him to make an impact this year, it was also about the coming years, and we see him as a big player.”
Graham’s goal, another wonderful solo effort, was a great way to bring up 500 goals in your tenure as manager. Is that something you’re proud of given the four trophies you’ve collected to back up that impressive goal haul?
“Definitely. I think the goals illustrate how we play. We’ve always been told that we need to sign someone who’ll score thirty goals, but we’ve been the top scorers in the league for four years. The goals are shared amongst the team, but I’m delighted it was Graham who scored the 500th goal during my time at Rovers. He was here at the very start to help us build, and then we sold him, again to help us, we put that money into getting more players and then Graham came back and helped us to be successful, so I’m delighted it was Graham. He’s seen all the phases of it, he’s a top player and an Irish international.”
Our crowd against Cork was one of our smallest this season, the Manchester United v Atletic Bilbao game at the Aviva stadium without a doubt affected that attendance. What’s your take on these “glamour” friendlies, when they go up against domestic games to the detriment of fans coming through LOI clubs’ gates?
“I don’t agree with them, I don’t think they should be allowed when there are domestic games on. I understand our games get moved because of Europe and these friendlies are set in stone a few months out and logistically it’s tough, but, as a rule, going forward, I don’t think they should be allowed. We all know how important gate receipts are to every club in the country. Ours have been brilliant, our fans have been brilliant and it’s the August bank holiday, I get all that, but I don’t think there should be other games on when we’ve got domestic games.”
On to tomorrow night’s third meeting of the season with Shelbourne, we had a scoreless draw in the six games without a winning start to the season and then we had an exciting 2-2 draw at Tallaght after being two down, have those games been reviewed since then or have the players sufficient information about who and what they face tomorrow night?
“You do have to review the last few games and look back at how they played against us, but Shels have changed their shape in the past few weeks, they’re playing a different way. One thing that doesn’t change is they’ll be really well organised, Damien has them tactically well organised, and they don’t give up many chances or goals. That doesn’t change whatever system they play. Then you’ve to respect how they play in transition and how they can hurt you, as they did in Tallaght. So, we know what they’re going to bring to the table, so we have to respect what they’re good at and then when we get the opportunities that we take them.”
Did everyone come out of the Cork game ok and who’s back from the injured list?
“No new injuries from the Cork game, Rory got another week under his belt, Seán Gannon and Simon Power are back. Trevor Clarke is back; he trained this week which is great. We were told he would be out for up to 14 weeks but he’s back after 7 weeks. Neil Farrugia is probably another week, likewise Lee Grace and Seán Hoare.”