Date: 26 July 2022
Competition: UEFA Champion’s League Second Qualifying Round
Result: Shamrock Rovers 2 – 1 Ludogorets (aggregate 2-4)
Tickets: €20 (adult), €7 (kids)
Game Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The game: I make a point of trying to get to a couple of the games involving Irish teams in Europe every summer, and I’ve seen some absolutely belting games (Dundalk hammering BATE 3-0 in this ground particularly stands out). This was no exception. Shamrock Rovers were slightly unfortunate to be 3-0 down returning from Bulgaria, having been easily the match of Ludogorets for the second half of the match. In this game, at times it looked like Rovers might overrun the Bulgarians, though overturning the 3-0 deficit only briefly looked possible.
There’s a gulf in class between these sides on paper, but from the off Rovers were on top, and threatened on numerous occasions in the first half, with a rebound slammed away by Aaron Greene around midway through giving them the lead.
Ludogorets were aggressive and frustrating, with a lot of professional fouls and time wasting, and deservedly received a red card – perhaps a combination of endless niggly fouls – about 55 minutes in, which seemed to signal an opening for Rovers. Placing much of the team behind the ball, however, Ludogorets were able to hold out until the 88th minute, when Rovers got a second and briefly threatened to take the tie to extra time. With most of the team pressed forward, though, Ludogorets finally came out of their shell and caught them on the counter attack, ending the tie as a contest. Really impressive from Rovers, though, considering the gap in budgets.
The ground: I was slightly disappointed there weren’t more people in the Tallaght Stadium, perhaps because of the heavy first round loss. There were a few hundred empty seats which I have no doubt would have been full had it felt like the tie was wide open.
Still, the south stand as usual made quite a racket, and the new north stand, still a ball-catching area of mud and machinery, is going to nicely round off the stadium when it’s done. I enjoy visiting here, though many other Irish grounds have more of that charmingly rundown feel that brings back 90s football, and I’d probably prefer that on balance. It’s a great spot for kids, though, especially with the McDonald’s over the road!
Extras: Programme, club shop, and they’ve started selling slushies, which my son goes absolutely wild for. It’s a bit full on getting served at half time and I had to go on a comical chase around the Main Stand to grab a programme from a fast-moving seller, but generally speaking the place is set, and very nice to visit.
Assorted asides: If you sit at the very back on the Main (West) stand, not only can you freely stand without annoying anyone, but there is a raised concrete area behind the seats that allows kids to see perfectly.
My totals for the year so far:
Games: 4. Home wins: 2. Draws: 0 Away wins: 2
Goals: 13. Home goals: 6. Away goals: 7. Goals per game: 3.25