Irish Daily Mirror

It has clicked with Rovers


I ADMIRED how Shamrock Rovers puffed out their chest and stuck it to Ludogorets.

I’m always struck by the swagger of some of these European teams when they come to play Irish clubs.

They ooze self-belief and radiate positivity when, for the most part, our teams don’t. We’re a small fish in a big European pond and sometimes we project that. But not Rovers. Not this time. Body language and attitude is more than half the battle, believe me. And when the signs are right, our teams can achieve great things.

That’s why I believe Rovers will reach the group stages this year – and possibly of the Europa League itself, rather than the Conference.

With any Irish club that goes on a decent European run, there’s always a turning point in their campaign and Tuesday night was it for Rovers.

You can see how they matured in the space of a week. The 2-1 win in Tallaght was the lightbulb moment.

Ludogorets are an excellent team but

Rovers knew they made a mess of things in Bulgaria. They were not themselves. And I was worried about them because that frustratio­n can fester and eat away at you.

It can lead to a toxic environmen­t and unsettle a group but Stephen Bradley and his players had the self-belief to almost turn it around.

It was Rovers who had the swagger and confidence – not Ludogorets. Had luck and some refereeing decisions gone their way, they would still be in the Champions League. But they have turned a big corner and I give them a huge chance against Shkupi over two legs.

Get through and they secure a ticket for the Conference League group stage at worst but it’s the Europa League they want.

Daniel Cleary’s (inset) arrival in defence is going to soften the blow after the injury sustained by Pico Lopes.

But the Simon Power signing interests me more. He’s a speed merchant and the ex-norwich City flyer played for Stephen Kenny’s Ireland Under-21s.

In our league, Rovers are masters at fast ball retention in the final third and teams sit in and allow them play. It’s all very intricate and they must break teams down the hard way, yet it’s no problem with Jack Byrne pulling strings.

But with Jack currently injured, they need better options and pace is one thing they’ve always lacked.

You could be the best defender on the planet but unless you’ve pace to match, you won’t cope. And with their Euro adventure only starting, that’s why Power is a clever addition.

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A SHOT Rovers just fell short on
WE GAVE IT A SHOT Rovers just fell short on Tuesday

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