Competition: Champions League First Qualifying Round
Date: 11 July 2023
Result: Shamrock Rovers 0 – 1 Breiðablik
Tickets: €20 for adults, €7 for kids.
Game/ Experience Rating: ☆☆☆
The Game: I’ve made a habit of seeing some Irish clubs in Europe every season, as my groundhopping entries for the last few years show, and the Champions League appearance, being a knock out game for a single team, can often be very short lived, so I wanted to get to this one.
Shamrock Rovers have had some great runs in Europe in recent years but despite being top of the League of Ireland, they feel a bit off colour this year, and this game highlighted it. On balance it was fairly evenly matched, but Breiðablik’s tight close passing and defensive strength frustrated Rovers, who snatched as the best chances they created (including at least two clear one-on-ones) and always looked vulnerable at the back.
As it happened, the goal they conceded was a brilliantly worked free kick that was slightly moved when taken before being belted hard over the wall. Breiðablik are a much better side than I had expected, truth be told, with their neat midfield in particular impressing, but Rovers should have done much better, and now have the major challenge of going away to Iceland needing to win. Disappointing.
The ground: Tallaght is by some distance the best League of Ireland stadium in Dublin if what you’re looking for is something modern and comfortable (I prefer the old-world ones personally), and the final side is almost finished. We headed for our usual spot up the top of the west stand, where you’ve got a great view of the hills as well as what’s going on in front of you. Easy access and relaxed (especially on nights like tonight, where there were only about 50 away fans), it’s always a decent experience.
Extras: I saw programmes but didn’t buy one. The kids went mad on the sweet stalls as usual. Apparently the burgers are decent but I’ve never been bothered queuing for them to be honest.
Assorted asides: No Champions League music tonight. Apparently it can’t be played until the group stages. I mainly watch football in a country where no side has ever reached the group stages of the CHampions League. In terms of building atmosphere and making the occasion special, this seems a spectacularly shortsighted rule.
My totals for the year so far:
Games: 16. Home wins: 9 Draws: 4 Away wins: 3
Goals: 45. Home goals: 30. Away goals: 15. Goals per game: 2.81