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Late call doesn't dampen O'Neill's spirits

THEY'VE waited 24 years to see their team land back-to-back league titles, so Shamrock Rovers supporters can endure another 24 hours.

The torrential rain in Dublin yesterday forced the postponement of the Hoops' penultimate game of the season, away to UCD, where a win will guarantee Michael O'Neill's side a second successive title for the first time since 1987. The game is refixed for the same venue at the same kick-off time (7.05) this evening.

It's a delay which the Hoops could have done without as their squad was already in situ in Belfield when referee Neil Doyle called the game off 90 minutes before kick-off, but boss O'Neill had no issues with the official's decision.

Parts of the surface were playable at the time of the evening pitch inspection but other areas of the pitch were covered in water and would have been deemed dangerous to players.

There was also an issue over public safety, as many of the expected crowd of 3,000 would have been standing out in the open on grass banks, and with the sheer volume of rain there could have been a crowd safety issue.

"The referee made the right decision, the way the pitch was it would have been a lottery to play the game," said O'Neill. "It's disappointing for the supporters, for everyone, as we wanted to play the game and get the job done. But we'll come back for the game tonight and hopefully we'll be ready.

"They were expecting a big crowd last night but three-quarters of the arena at UCD is uncovered and it would not have been ideal for the people coming to the game, or as a spectacle on TV it would have been poor. Hopefully the weather will be a lot more kind."

The 24-hour delay has given Rovers stars Enda Stevens and Karl Sheppard some more time to prove their fitness, having picked up knocks in last week's Europa League defeat in Greece, but the Hoops are definitely without the suspended trio of Billy Dennehy, Chris Turner and Gary Twigg.

The suspension is a blow for Dennehy as he loses his record as the only player to have appeared in every league game for the Hoops this season. And that form from the Kerry native has caused a stir as a return to England could be on the cards for the former Sunderland trainee, who is out of contract when the season ends after the final game of the Europa League phase, against Tottenham in December.

"It remains to be seen what happens now, other stuff happening off the field and there might be a bit of interest from across the water. My contract is up at the end of the season. I am a Shamrock Rovers player and I want to win more things at the club," says Dennehy, who has managed to rebuild his career, with Derry City, Cork City and then Rovers, following the disappointment of his release by Sunderland in 2008.

"I think I have proved, to myself as much as anyone else, that I can step up in the European games and play at a high level. I always felt that I could but I needed to prove that to myself.

"I'm very happy at Rovers, I have won things but I want to win more medals and trophies. If the club keeps progressing and if the manager stays, if the club push on, I'd be happy to stay. I've been at Shamrock Rovers for two years now, I have a taste for winning trophies but I want more of that."