Competition: Europa Conference League Group F
Date: 27 October 2022
Result: Shamrock Rovers 1 – 1 KAA Gent
Tickets: I’ve decided I’m all in for Shamrock Rovers Europa Conference League Group Stage. €75 for the three Shamrock Rovers home games. €30 for kids for the same. There were more expensive tickets, but I don’t need to be in the padded seats!
Game/ Experience Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Game: It’s amazing how often a dead rubber of a football match sees a team up their performance – “it’s already dead, lads” is one of the great frustrations of a football fan, and this was just such a case (though yeah, better they turn up at some stage, of course!). Shamrock Rovers, fresh from winning the League of Ireland for the third year in a row thanks to Derry failing to win in Sligo during the week, are already eliminated from the Europa Conference League, and should really have beaten KAA Gent, a far superior team on paper, here.
Rovers start well, scoring early through Rory Gaffney, who often looks the most dangerous player on the pitch when he plays. For much of the game they threatened to add to the tally, though Gent had their moments too. The game was spoiled a little bit a very picky referee, whose quick-fire approach to yellow cards eventually sees him send a Rovers player off for a pretty mild looking second yellow with 12 or 14 minutes to go, after which they conceded and looked like they might lose for a while. Hong Hyun Seok, the Korean substitute who got the equaliser, could have scored a couple more.
Bizarrely, one draw in the Europa Conference League is worth €166,000 in prize money, more than winning the League of Ireland title in full, so I suspect we’ll be seeing a bit more Rovers dominance on the domestic scene in the coming couple of seasons as they keep grabbing that European money. Despite a good performance at this one, they do look some way short of threatening to get out of a group: getting into one has to be the main aim again next year.
The ground: I love walking up to a football ground in the pitch black. With the floodlights and the colour, its like walking up to a spaceship on a decent clear winter night. I suspect I won’t be in Tallaght again until they have the fourth side of the ground done, and that should add to the atmosphere a lot, I think.
Extras: Gent fans start out making a hell of a lot of noise (we walked past a fairly manic lot on the way in), only to go pretty quiet when Rovers scored and stay that way. Something tells me they were expecting a fairly easy win! This result pushes Ireland’s European club coefficient even higher – dare we hold out hope of two sides in the group stages next year?
Assorted asides: Season over, really, apart from the relegation play offs. I might have to find my way down to UCD for one more LOI hit for 2022.
My totals for the year so far:
Games: 12. Home wins: 6 Draws: 2 Away wins: 4
Goals: 33. Home goals: 17. Away goals: 16. Goals per game: 2.75