Any time you can have a five point lead it is brilliant - Stephen BradleySun, Aug 02 2020
Macdara Ferris reports from Tallaght Stadium
Amongst the 200 people who were able to make it inside Tallaght Stadium on Saturday was Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny.
On the pitch below him he watched Jack Byrne continue with the sparkling form he has shown during his time at Shamrock Rovers – both last season and during the five game spell prior to lockdown.
He provided two assists in Rovers’ 3-1 win over Finn Harps while his free kick, the first direct one scored in the Premier Division in 2020, was quick to go up on social media and was a delight to anyone watching on the WatchLOI stream – bar Harps fans maybe.
“That is what Jack does. He has that quality,” said Hoops Head Coach Stephen Bradley when speaking to extratime.com from a social distance pitchside after the game.
“That is why we got him on the pitch today. He hasn’t trained a lot as his back has been at him. He wins you the game in the first half.”
Rovers took their 3-1 lead into the break and while Bradley was pleased with the result, he wasn’t happy with how the Hoops played in the second half. Across the ten matches played behind closed doors in the League of Ireland on the re-start, Rovers were the only team to notch up a home win.
Bradley felt that the lack of home supporters didn’t help his team in the second half, having seen the Hoops play so well in the initial 45 minuts.
“I thought first half we were outstanding, the tempo and how we played. Second half I think we can be better - we were sloppy and slow. I think that is the effect of the long lay off and the second half wasn’t us.
“Where I think it (no supporters) takes affect is in the second half when we had that little lull. That wouldn’t happen if we had 5,000 fans here, they would let you know. They’d be on your back and they’d get you going. That is where as the home team you have to understand when that lull happens, the crowd isn’t there to help us through it. We need to admit to that quickly.
With Dundalk dropping two points at home to St. Pat’s on Friday, Bradley was “delighted” that his team were able to move five points clear at the top of the table. “We know there is a lot of football still to be played. Any time you can have a five point lead it is brilliant.”
This week marked the milestone of Bradley becoming the longest serving boss with the Hoops since John Giles’ spell in charge which ended in 1983. It took until last year for Bradley to win a trophy with the Hoops, but it was a significant one as Rovers lifted the FAI Cup for the first time for 32 years.
“It is credit to the Board that when we sat down we had a plan and we’ve stuck to it. It is by no means finished. We are only getting going. The cup win is the one to kick us off. We knew it would take time to change.”
On Saturday, Rovers confirmed that Graham Burke has extended his loan spell from Preston North End for another 12 months and that Aaron Bolger will return to Rovers on loan from Cardiff City – this will help the Hoops who have lost Greg Bolger for the rest of the season following leg surgery.
“Players want to play here now,” said Bradley. “When Graham was leaving Preston on loan, he had five or six options in England, Scotland and here and the club he wants to come to is here.”
Additional reporting by Oisin Langan