Shamrock Rovers enter Solskjaer’s Molde lair in Europa Conference League – The Irish Times

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Molde v Shamrock Rovers. Aker Stadium, 5:45 p.m. – Live Virgin Media 3 & BT Sport 4

Another trip to a true sporting nation and club with a well-rounded modern stadium. Another eye-catching chapter in the renaissance of Irish football.

Shamrock Rovers’ entire season can crystallize into a successful campaign over the next seven days. This result only matters if they draw or somehow manage to beat the runaway league leaders Norway.

What really matters is the win over Shelbourne at Tallaght on Sunday before Molde’s return visit the following Thursday.

Rovers manager Stephen Bradley will be watching these games as beating Shels a third consecutive league title will look certain, especially if Derry City slide at home against Finn Harps, before earning €500,000 for winning a group of the Europa Conference League. Game.

Rovers have the safety nets of Drogheda United away and St Patrick’s Athletic at home to cement their domestic dominance ahead of the visit to Ghent on October 27. So the club’s parallel goals – winning the league and a Group F match – remain fully on track.

Just in time for Cape Verdean international Pico Lopes to reappear at the heart of the Hoops defence. The fact that Bradley has dug into his squad and kept the starting XI competitive on two fronts is perhaps the most impressive aspect of Rovers’ season so far.

Jack Byrne, Danny Mandroiu and Lopes looked like essentials heading into the summer months, but Byrne was just rediscovering fitness and fitness, Mandroiu returned to England with Lincoln City and Lopes was carefully replaced by Daniel Cleary.

Cleary, the 26-year-old centre-half who started his professional career at Liverpool, looked like a shrewd signing in July until his mistake in Belgium ruined any chance of Rovers trouble Ghent. After the match, Bradley took the blame, insisting his players needed to play at fullback.

“It’s not entirely the gaffer’s fault, it’s also my fault,” Cleary said this week. “You probably get killed the exact same way [against Molde] for this – slip into your own six-meter box. But I like receiving the ball from the goalkeeper. I like to play this way.

“You would do it again and play from the back. I’m big and bold enough to take it on the chin. So I don’t let myself down.

It wasn’t to be the first time, and it won’t be the last, that Rovers have found themselves red-faced while remaining loyal to an enduring brand of football. Cleary’s error and another by Lee Grace against Ludogorets exposed a chasm in the technical standards of the League of Ireland at the lowest rung of the European club ladder.

Group F has yet to be settled, with Gent and Djurgardens four points ahead of their meeting in Belgium, although Molde will likely need to take at least four points from Rovers to reach the knockout stages. Even that would be criticized by their local media as they are 15 points clear of second-placed Bodo/Glimt in the Eliteserien with six games to play.

Gent overtook Rovers last month, but Bradley indicated the Norwegians are a stronger side, befitting a club that brought Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Erling Haaland to the Premier League.

Haaland’s cousin, teenager Albert Braut Tjåland, is rising through the ranks, but the main goal threat is Ivory Coast international Datro Fofana. The powerful striker has 14 goals in all competitions while veteran midfielder Magnus Wolff Eikrem is expected to eclipse Byrne’s influence in the creative stakes.

The Astro surface also offers another dimension to the discussions.

Former Republic of Ireland Under-21 goalkeeper Sean McDermott, who plays for Norwegian wrestlers Kristiansund, believes Rovers can leave their mark on the Conference League by returning to an old Irish tradition.

“They don’t like to be tough in the tackle, doing the dirty side,” McDermott told the Irish Daily Mirror. “They have it in them, but they don’t like it. They prefer teams to sit down and let them play their beautiful football.

The same could be said of the Rovers, but from the Killing Fields of Malta to the scolding nights in Bulgaria, Hungary and Belgium, the European upbringing of the Shamrock Rovers has evolved to a stage where they must be prepared to do whatever they want. it takes to plant a flag on the foreigner. floor.

Otherwise, win only once in Tallaght.

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