Stephen Bradley wants his Shamrock Rovers side to follow the example of group stage regulars KAA Gent and ensure their presence at this stage of the UEFA competition is not a once-in-a-decade affair .
overs traveled to Belgium to face Ghent, a side who were unable to dominate domestically, a single league title in 2014/15, but are something of a force in Europe, with appearances in the later stages of the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League.
It’s only the second time he’s played in the group stages in Rovers’ history, and Bradley argues that for the club to really progress they need to make it an annual event.
“They are a club that have been very good in recent years in Europe. You see the level they have played at,” Bradley said of Ghent.
“We are in the group stage this year. The last time we were in the group stage was a long time ago (2011) and we don’t want that to happen again.
“We want this to become regular for this club and we want to continue to build and make the club bigger and stronger and everyone is working extremely hard to achieve this, the board, the players, the staff, the fans.
“I think we’re on the right track, but we have to keep working to make sure that happens regularly for us and we play in stadiums like this in games like this every year. It has to be our goal,” added Bradley.
Meanwhile, Gary O’Neill says the Hoops are relaxed about the task of facing the top seeds away from home as the pressure of trying to win until the next round has eased.
Rovers are in Belgium to face Ghent after starting the group campaign with a creditable 0-0 draw at home to Swedish side Djurgardens.
“I was in a room with Ronan Finn, we were talking about it, it’s a bit more relaxed this time around when it’s not Europa League qualification, when you have to change it from the first leg or hold on. a league or whatever, it’s a more relaxed feeling,” says O’Neill, a Kerry native.
“Obviously in this league we want to be competitive and those are the types of games you look forward to.
“I think we are in the group to be competitive. I think we showed last week that we will be competitive in this group. It’s not something I want to come in and say ‘that’s a bonus’ , we want to be really competitive,” added O’Neill, who denied away form in Europe would be a problem for the Hoops.
“Our home form has been very good over the last 12 months, be it in the Champions League, Europa League, Conference League and domestically, our form at home has been brilliant, our form away outside has been against us in Europe but it is not something that worries us too much,” he added.