SHAMROCK Rovers boss Stephen Bradley says his squad’s pre-season trip to the Algarve has given them an edge in their preparation for the new League of Ireland season.
The Hoops were invited to take part in the week-long Atlantic Cup in Portugal, where they faced Swedish sides Dalkurd FF, Hammarby IF and IFK Norrkoping on their way to a fourth-place finish.
And Bradley feels that, added to the quality of the opposition in all three games, the warm-weather training has allowed them to focus more on the tactical side of the game.
“It helped us training,” Bradley told the Dublin Gazette. “We could do a lot of tactical stuff we wanted to do and not have to worry about the snow or the rain or the wind. That was a big part of why we went, that and the games.
“Yeah, the standard over there was good – really intense games, really good games. I think the lads are ready to go, but it’s always different when it’s a league game, always.”
An up-and-down start to the 2017 season, which saw the Hoops lose six of their first ten matches, meant Bradley’s side were never really in the title race as Cork City raced clear.
The Tallaght native had stressed all along that his squad – which was much-changed from the one inherited from Pat Fenlon – would take time to gel.
That showed with wins over Cork and Dundalk in the final series of games, though they lost out to the Lilywhites in both the EA Sports Cup final and FAI Cup semi-final on their own turf.
With an away Dublin derby at Bohemians followed by Dundalk at home in the second round, Bradley feels the pressure to perform early-on will create the ideal environment for his side.
“I think it’s perfect. Other than Bohs at home, [games] don’t come much bigger for us. A sell-out, it’s going to be a rough and ready game.
“It mightn’t be a great spectacle but we know what type of games it’s going to be and we’ll be ready for it.
“In these games, it all goes out the window. It’s about the rivalry of us and them. You get out there and it’s intense and it’s hostile and it’s a strange one.
“Any derby is like that around the world – they’re all the same. Very rarely is it pretty to look at.”
Bradley confirmed the signing of striker Dan Carr earlier in the week, while ex-Leeds United attacker Eoghan Stokes may still earn a contract.
However, he was beaten to the signing of the former Liverpool defender Daniel Cleary – who spent the entirety of pre-season with his squad – when Dundalk made a late bit for the Dubliner.