Hoops switch a no-brainer
MICHAEL O'Neill and ecstatic Hoops supporters and romantics should forget straight away about the idea of playing Spurs anywhere else but the Aviva Stadium.
Rubin Kazan and PAOK can be accommodated in the Tallaght Stadium with a few alterations but when Harry Redknapp and his team come to town, Rovers have a chance to really showcase the League of Ireland and that can only be done at Lansdowne Road.
Pitch tickets at €30 and they'd set the turnstiles spinning for a game which will attract international interest and a big audience in England. “I would like the games, if possible, to be played in Tallaght if I'm honest,” said O'Neill yesterday and it is easy to understand why he would say that. “You know, there's a financial and a commercial opportunity for the club here and, if we can maximise that, obviously it will give the club greater stability and a platform to progress going forward so that had to be taken into consideration as well. But, in the ideal world, it would be nice to play the games in Tallaght, with hopefully an increased capacity.”
This isn't an ideal world and the chance of making an absolute killing at the Aviva will be impossible to ignore. Chairman Jonathan Roche claimed that Rovers will work with the FAI and UEFA to keep all the games at Tallaght but when everything settles down and heads come down out of the clouds, pragmatism should kick in.
Already, general manager Noel Byrne is taking a more practical view and hinted at a move to the Aviva for at least the Spurs game. “It's the one that throws the venue into doubt,” he said. “There's no doubt you could play the other two in Tallaght. Getting Spurs throws a spanner in the works, in a good way. We'll have to talk it over.” Tottenham representative Darren Eales also feels that Rovers might need some extra capacity although the fixture list places Rovers’ home game against Spurs as the fifth in a six-game series.
By then, and after some serious adventuring in Kazan and Palonika, Rovers could well be out of the running to qualify for the next round. “It should be a great night in Dublin. I know their stadium only holds 6,000 so I think they will need to find somewhere with a few more seats than that and it should be a cracking atmosphere there, and a great little trip for our fans,” added Eales.
“I must admit after we had Rubin Kazan first out of the hat and then PAOK from Greece I thought I might struggle to go back to White Hart Lane with that draw – but at least we got Shamrock,” he said. “It's a great fairytale for them, the first Irish club to get into the group stage of a European competition, and it's what European football is all about.” Roche made a mad dash from Belgrade to Monaco and only arrived to sit down for the fixtures meeting after missing the draw. “We would have taken anybody but it's a great draw for our fans,” said Roche. “It was a historic occasion for us and to top it off like this, it hasn't quite soaked in. It's been an unbelievable two days.
“Six years ago we were relegated, then the fans took over the club. We won the league for the first time in 16 years last season and hopefully this shows people that we play a good style of football. “It's not really about the money, but it's the whole razzmatazz and the whole profile of the football club. Hopefully we can do ourselves justice.”
ROVERS’ EUROPA LEAGUE SCHEDULE
September 15: v Rubin Kazan (H) – 6.0. September 29: v Tottenham Hotspur (A) – 8.05. October 20: v Paok (A) – 8.05. November 3: v Paok (H) – 6.0. November 30: v Rubin Kazan (A) – 5.0. December 15: v Spurs (H) – 6.0.