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Friday 24 November 2017

Hoops are keeping confident in project

Rovers success will not happen overnight, warns boss Bradley

Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley is remaining calm despite his side’s recent run of Premier Division results
Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley is remaining calm despite his side’s recent run of Premier Division results
Darren Meenan is congratulated by his Shamrock Rovers team-mates after scoring against Bohemians recently

Some honey-coated words from Robbie Keane on the Shamrock Rovers 'project' was another case of more good PR for the club in recent days.

Yet there are some among the Hoops supporters who would swap a lot of the platitudes and plaudits for some basic points on the board and a higher standing in the league table.

On the field, it's a struggle. The aim for Rovers at the start of this season was to reduce the gap between themselves and the top two of Cork City and Dundalk. "They finished that far ahead of us because they were that much better than us, there is a gap that we have to try and close," manager Stephen Bradley told this newspaper before the season started.

It's not going to plan: this time 12 months ago, Rovers were three points adrift of Cork. Today they are, astonishingly, 18 points behind them, a consequence of six defeats in 10 games.

Concern

"The points tally is not good enough and we know that," says Rovers defender Luke Byrne, likely to return to the side for tonight's test at home to Limerick after a long absence due to a broken leg.

Just three points between Rovers and the relegation zone, they are looking over their shoulder with concern. It's a by-product of an insane league in 2017 that, by 9.55pm this evening, Rovers could be perilously close to the drop zone or could be joint fourth.

A win at home to Limerick tonight would help, while of course a defeat would pile the pressure on Bradley, but for the Rovers boss, it's important to stress that the club should not be judged on where the first team are in the table as of April 2017 but where the Hoops are as a club in five years' time.

Matters like a tie-up with northside club Corduff FC, announced in the last 24 hours, sows seeds that will only be seen with the passing of time.

"A lot of nonsense gets talked outside the club. In terms of investing more in young players, it's not a huge investment. It's a no brainer. It's exciting for us to see but we'll have to wait and see the results as well, it's not going to be instant," says Shane Robinson, a former Hoops player now in charge of their youth set-up.

Bradley admits that it's hard to play two games at one time, competing in the top flight while also turning Rovers into a strong club and not just a side that occasionally wins trophies.

"Look, people ask do your plans change or do your targets change," Bradley says.

"Nothing changes in my head. I said it from the start we were creating a whole new team and whole new squad to build to win leagues on a regular basis. That takes time.

"Cork are flying now but it took them four years to get to that point.

"Just because it's Shamrock Rovers people think it happens overnight but it doesn't, it's going to take time.

"That doesn't mean we accept getting beaten and being so far off the top two. We've got to go and put a run together at some point in the season to get us close to the top two. That's what we have to do. Although we have long-term goals and targets, it doesn't mean in the short and medium term we accept where we are in the table because we don't accept that."

Some frustrated Hoops supporters have said they'd like to see the current investment into coaching and structures being instead spent on top-drawer players for the first team.

Yet Bradley insists the fans remain on board. "They've been brilliant, even last week," he says of their 4-2 loss to Bray.

"The fans are obviously frustrated, they know we should have more wins than we have. Are we where we want to be right now? No we're not. There is no panic. Our targets long term stay the same and short and medium term we need to be better."

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