herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Fast start for Kenny

SOME first-night nerves but no major cock-ups for Shamrock Rovers as the new-look Hoops side gave their supporters a glimpse of what to expect this season with a 2-0 win over Cliftonville last night.

Rovers boss Stephen Kenny took a seat in the dugout at Tallaght for the first time in a competitive game - he had his first game in charge in the league last weekend but that was an away fixture - and while he admits that last night's fare didn't set Dublin on fire, he does hope for great things from his side once they get into their stride this season and get to know each other as a team.

A goal in each half from Billy Dennehy (12 minutes) and Colin Hawkins (71) in last night's first leg has left Rovers well-placed to make it through to the semi-finals, though Kenny has warned against any form of League of Ireland complacency which assumes Rovers will join the likes of Sligo Rovers, Derry City and Bohemians in the last four after positive results for the sides last night (Sligo won at home to Glentoran while Bohs and Derry both earned away draws).

"Even though we didn't play great, we created more chances than they did and we could have won by more," said Kenny.

"We had seven players making their home debuts so it was a lot to ask for them to come in and just be free-flowing.

"The front two of Aaron Greene and Daryl Kavanagh were playing together for the first time as a pair so it took us a while to get a stranglehold on the game.

Brave

"To give Cliftonville credit, in the first half they were brave, they took the ball from the keeper and played with three in midfield and sometimes we struggled to deal with that, we didn't get to grips with it.

"We scored a good goal, Billy finished it well.

"We improved in the second half and could have had three or four goals, I don't know how Chris Turner's chance didn't go in," added Kenny.

Pre-match, much of the focus from the Rovers support was on their new signings -- seven in the starting XI last night -- who were making their home debuts for the Hoops.

But it was one of the old reliables, winger Dennehy, who put Rovers ahead from close range after 12 minutes, Dennehy opening his account for the season after some good work by Gary McCabe.

That goal knocked Cliftonville off their stride and really sucked the life out of the game for a spell.

Things perked up a bit after the break, McCabe going close for Rovers and Reds keeper Ryan Brown making a stunning save to deny Chris Turner, before Hawkins made sure of the win with his first goal for Rovers, 19 minutes from time.

The Galway native joins the small band of players to have appeared for all of Dublin's Big Four, and if Hawkins can keep coming up with goals like last night, he'll have no bother in winning over the Hoops support, especially as he's already won a league title with St Pats, Bohemians and Shelbourne.

"It was important to keep a clean sheet, away goals count in this competition and that was key for us," added Kenny. "Two-nil is a good result for us.

"If we can score in Cliftonville they need to score four, but we will have a tough game up there.

"They are a good side - they beat St Pats home and away in the last round. They looked sharp, so we're just glad to win the game."

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