Shamrock Rovers


Groundhopping: Shamrock Rovers (v Breiðablik, Tallaght Stadium)

Competition: Champions League First Qualifying Round

Date: 11 July 2023

Result: Shamrock Rovers 0 – 1 Breiðablik

Tickets:  €20 for adults, €7 for kids.

Attendance: 7,216

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


Groundhopping: Shamrock Rovers (v KAA Gent, Tallaght Stadium)

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!

Attendance: 6,203

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


Groundhopping: Shamrock Rovers (v Molde, Tallaght Stadium)

Competition: Europa Conference League Group F

Date: 13 October 2022

Result: Shamrock Rovers 0 – 2 Molde

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!

Attendance: 5,860

Game/ Experience Rating:  ⭐⭐

The Game: With Shamrock Rovers coming under increasing pressure at the top of the League of Ireland, Stephen Bradley has made it clear their priority is no longer Europe, but ensuring they maintain their Irish title. Which is a shame, but I get it: trying to get out of this group was always going to be a big ask, and while any kind of result is worth a serious cash influx, it’s unlikely to top the totals involved in doing it all again from the position of Champions (which vastly increases your chances of a group stage as well as the obvious implicit benefit) next season.

This was not a sparkling performance, and I think that’s a shame as despite losing 0-3 away and 0-2 today, I feel Molde are beatable for Rovers on their day. In fact, had a very good chance in the opening minutes been put away – a fairly easy one on one – this could have been a very different story.

It turned out, instead, Molde got a relatively routine win in which Shamrock Rovers’ threat seemed to fade throughout. A disappointing performance and officially the end of the campaign, though it’ll be interesting to see KAA Gent drop by in a couple of weeks time.

Groundhopping: Shamrock Rovers (v Djurgårdens, Tallaght Stadium)

Competition: Europa Conference League Group F

Date: 8 September 2022

Result: Shamrock Rovers 0 – 0 Djurgårdens IF

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!

Attendance: 6,330

Game/ Experience Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐

The Game: Djurgårdens, oddly, are the fourth ranked team in Shamrock Rovers group, with Shamrock Rovers the third. I think its quite a balanced group with little between Molde, Djurgårdens and KAA Gent, though it’d be a stretch for Rovers to qualify.

Still, any kind of porgress is progress, and Djurgårdens looked pretty ordinary in this game, which on a better day Shamrock Rovers could have nicked. They grew into the game, particularly in a dominant period towards half time in which the Irish side were by far the better side. I’ve been hoping to see more of Jack Byrne, who has been struggling for fitness but is one of the best players I’ve seen in the League of Ireland, and when he did make it on, he was good but not outstanding.

Both sides could have won this, but neither really set the place alight. Still, a fairly comfortably point for Shamrock Rovers is great for the famous coefficient, the significant funding on offer for any kind of points in the Europa Conference League. They’ll certainly need to be home wins if they’re going to progress, though, so perhaps a missed opportunity.

The ground: Surprisingly, less are showing up to these group games than the knock out games (less riding on them as inidividual games, and slightly more expensive, perhaps). It’d be nice to see sell outs going forward. Tallaght was the same as always: a good, neat place to watch football but not one of Ireland’s most interesting stadiums.

Extras: This match made the news for a chant about the Queen that was a little bit tasteless. I didn’t hear it, as I was right down the other end of the ground (in fact, where I usually sit in Tallaght, the away fans are easier to hear than the home ones). What I did hear was Rovers fans chanting for Djurgårdens rivals Hammarby, and a vocal response from the away end, which was fairly comic.

Assorted asides: Djurgårdens has the best away fans I’ve seen of any European side in Ireland to date. Which is interesting as I’d rank Norkopping, who I saw play St Patrick’s Athletic a few years ago, second. The Swedes are a bit mad, but likeably so.

Groundhopping: Shamrock Rovers (v Ludogorets Razgrad, Tallaght Stadium)

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)

Attendance: 6,322

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