UEFA conference league: hoops boss not in party mode yet

by Jonny Stapleton
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Jonny Stapleton

The Hoops faithful, and indeed the wider Irish footballing family, are in a celebratory mood after Rovers qualified for the Europa Conference League.

However, manager Stephen Bradley says there is work to be done before any champagne can be uncorked. The young coach points out that qualifying for the group stages wasn’t the end goal, progressing past the round-robin part of the tournament was always the plan.

“The talk in January wasn’t let’s get to the groups and go and have a party,” said Bradley, outlining how they want to become the first Irish side to reach a knockout stage.

“The aim is to get out of the group. We’re not silly. I know the draw has to be nice but that’s our aim.”

The draw wasn’t too harsh. Some might lament the absence of a  European name but Rovers will fancy their chances of being competitive alongside Gent, Molde and Djurgården. The Tallaght side will host Djurgården of Sweden in their Group F opener at Tallaght Stadium on Thursday, September 8, before trips to Belgium’s Gent and Molde of Norway on 15 September and 1 October respectively.

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One player who seems to have already benefited from the chance to show his wares in Europe is Andy Lyons. It was this week confirmed the 22-year-old will move to Blackpool in January for a fee believed to be in the region of £300,000.

“Andy has been with the club for eight months having signed to play as a full-time professional with European football opportunities and has excelled in his relatively short time at Rovers,” a club statement said.

“Playing in a position new to the player of left wing back, Andy has gone on to score eight goals in his 32 appearances to date.

“Andy will remain with the club until the end of the season as the Hoops go in search of a third consecutive league title, the FAI Cup and participate in the group stages of the Conference League.”

Shamrock Rovers’ Andy Lyons celebrates after scoring the winner in the UEFA Europa League Play-Off Second Leg against Ferencvaros at Tallaght Stadium. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

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