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LEARNING: Roberto Lopes

LEARNING: Roberto Lopes

LEARNING: Roberto Lopes

Roberto Lopes was able to use lockdown to make improvements that might enhance his international career.

The Shamrock Rovers defender is looking to establish himself as a regular with the Cape Verde Islands, with the Dubliner receiving an unexpected call to make his debut last October.

He qualifies through his father, and was unable to build on his friendly appearance because the full paperwork needed to be processed to make him eligible.

The 28-year-old is now intent on featuring in their African Cup of Nations qualifying campaign, but one major thing he learned from his maiden meeting with his new teammates was that he needed to brush up on his Portuguese.

There were no excuses during the enforced break from work. 

"It was tough probably the first day or two because I felt like nobody spoke English. But, as the training days went on, I ended up picking up a few words and, the more you try, the more you get helped," said Lopes yesterday, speaking at the launch of the WatchLOI streaming service.

"A few of the lads did speak English, my roommate spoke English and a few of the coaches spoke English so I probably made it a bigger deal in my head before I went over, but it wasn't that bad. 

"I was actually eager to learn the language when I went home. That's what I've been doing during the lockdown, little bits.

"I am on the Duolingo app and you think you're flying and then someone says something to you or you hear it on the radio and you're like 'I haven't a clue what he's saying' so I still need a bit more practice on the ear, but it's coming along."

Lopes has a busy time of it ahead, with the picture of the title race changed by the cutting of the season in half.

Five wins from five including a dramatic win over rivals Dundalk represented a good start. Now it's more a case that they are three points clear with 13 games remaining.

The loss of Greg Bolger to a serious injury at the weekend almost brought home the reality that big games are around the corner and any slip-ups have the potential to be costly.

"I'm trying to focus on one game at the moment and that's how I've looked at it. I'm not trying to say this has to be done as quick as we can or as fast as we can," said Lopes.

"It's Finn Harps for us on the first day of the season (Saturday week) and we have to get three points on the board and start again, build momentum and pick up as many points as we can.

"The momentum has been halted so it's important to hit the ground running and be on it from the first whistle."

Meanwhile, Shelbourne have confirmed the signing of midfielder Brian McManus after his return home from Preston.

The 18-year-old played his schoolboy football with St Kevin's Boys and went to England with a lofty reputation.

"Brian is a fantastic addition," said Shels boss Ian Morris. "He can play in midfield and at full back."