herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Hoops go to heaven and back

SHAMROCK ROVERS fans who endured all that heartache and agony, from losing their home ground to seeing the club in court and the team relegated, a team who had to play a home match in Cork once because they couldn't find a ground in Dublin, all that pain and misery was washed away for six hundred seconds on a balmy night in London.

That scoreline of ‘Tottenham Hotspur 0 Shamrock Rovers 1' was snapped and downloaded by Rovers fans in White Hart Lane last night so many times that it's burned into the memory, even though the scoreboard at the end of the 90 minutes read 3-1 in favour of the home side.

Dermot Keely has said that one of his sweetest memories in football is seeing the look of worry on the face of Dick Advocaat as the scoreboard read ‘Glasgow Rangers 0 Shelbourne 3' in their European game 13 years ago, and even though Rangers went on to win the game 5-3 at Prenton Park, the memory still remains for Keely.

And maybe it will be the same for the 2,500 Rovers fans who were in White Hart Lane last night, as that 10-minute period when they led the game, thanks to Stephen Rice's goal, is something undreamed of before.

Of course, Spurs very soon took back control of the game and ran out easy winners, but the names of the players who scored for Harry Redknapp's |side underlines the gulf between the clubs: the equaliser was from Roman Pavlyuchenko (£14m), the lead goal from Jermain Defoe (£15m) and |then the third goal smashed home by Giovanni Dos Santos (£6m).

Rovers needed heroics from a number of their men to prevent further goals from Spurs, captain Dan Murray blocking numerous shots, keeper Richard Brush saving effort after effort, and don't forget that Rovers had midfielder Stephen O'Donnell – taken off at half time last night – to thank for clearing off the line on 38 minutes when the game was still warming up and Spurs were still without a goal. So Spurs ran out comfortable winners in the end and go into Sunday's Premier League game against Arsenal in confident mood.

No tales of daylight robbery from the Irish side or hard luck stories, though a small question about ‘what might have been?' if the Rovers defence could have stood up to Spurs for just a bit longer.

“Spurs were getting agitated in the first half, we said at half time to stay in the game and we'd have a chance, as their bench and their fans were getting edgy, they expected us to roll over,” said Rice, one of the outstanding players on the night for the side as he delivered his best display in a Rovers shirt.

“We have done ourselves proud, but it's still not nice to lose. “I'm massively disappointed that we lost the game, to go 1-0 up and lose 3-1 is a disappointment. We had been so good defensively before they got their first, not just the back four but as an XI.

“But then they started to get a bit of joy down the left wing and put in some crosses, which gave them the goals.

“They were disappointing goals to concede, the first two goals were identical and the two boys in central defence had been so good all night,” added Rice.

“If someone scores from a brilliant free kick or a shot from 30 yards out then fair enough, but to let in goals the way we did was a let down. But it's another learning curve for us and we have to make sure we learn from it. We go again now in the Europa next month when we play in Greece (against PAOK Salonika), we have to believe we can get some points.

“No one believed that we could take the lead away to Spurs so we have the belief that we can go on in the next game and get something,” he continued.

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