Giant pay day on the way as Rovers make Euro history
BIG-time European football is coming to Dublin and with it a big-time payday for Shamrock Rovers.
The Tallaght-based club won a scintillating play-off in Belgrade last night to book their place in the Europa League -- the first Irish club ever to do so.
The 2-1 extra time win over Serbia's Partizan Belgrade means Rovers will bank €1m in Uefa prize-money, as well as hundreds of thousands more in participation fees, TV money and gate receipts.
They went through on a night when both Scottish football giants, Celtic and Rangers, were knocked out.
Now European giants such as Spurs and Atletico Madrid lie in wait for the Dublin club in the draw for the group stages taking place today.
Chairman Jonathan Roche wants to stage the matches in the Hoops own stadium, rather than moving them to the Aviva.
Under existing Uefa regulations, Rovers would have to move their games to the larger venue. However, they could also install extra seats at their Tallaght ground, bringing it up to standard.
Only a few dozen fans from Dublin were able to make it to Belgrade to cheer their side on last night.
Rovers' success in the qualifying rounds has taken its toll on fans' pockets but they were in full voice among the 16,000 home support.
In 32C heat and following a gruelling extra time, they were finally able to celebrate.
The victory came courtesy of a Stephen O'Donnell penalty in extra time, following a stunning equaliser from Pat Sullivan.
Manager Michael O'Neill's side created history by becoming the first Irish side to make the group stages of a major European competition.
Rovers won 3-2 on aggregate following a 1-1 draw in the home leg.
O'Neill admitted that his team's progression had surpassed even his expectations, admitting he thought it would be "a step too far". He pointed out the squad was put together for just €600,000.
"I would doubt whether a club has been able to progress that far with that level of budget," he added.
The congratulations have been coming in thick and fast.
Labour councillor Dermot Looney, who represents Tallaght Central, said: "As a St Patrick's Athletic fan representing a Rovers-mad area, I have often had divided loyalties.
"However, tonight the Irish football fraternity is united in congratulating Rovers on a fantastic victory in Belgrade and in being the first Irish club ever to qualify for the group stages of a major European competition."
Mr Roche expressed the hope that the win would mean Irish football being taken more seriously.
"Clubs like Celtic and Rangers have gone out tonight while Shamrock Rovers are still in and representing Irish football," he said.
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