‘Pats will be hungry coming to Tallaght but we are hungry to retain our title and improve on last year’ - Hoops boss Bradley ahead of Patrick’s Day clash with the Saints
The results so far this season haven’t been what Shamrock Rovers would have wanted as their current side begin their quest to win four-in-a-row and match the club’s legendary 1980s team who are the only League of Ireland side to manage that feat.
However Hoops Head Coach Stephen Bradley is happy with the level of performance from his side as they face into a St. Patrick’s Day 5pm clash in Tallaght Stadium against St. Patrick’s Athletic.
Bradley understands a certain level of frustration from some Hoops fans who have yet to see their team win a game from their first five league matches – their worst start for 18 years.
“I really like where we are performance wise,” Bradley told extratime.com this week. “I understand people's frustration with the points (four from the 15 available). It is not what we want either. I understand that people react to results but our job is to look at the overall picture and what we are doing. I know we are right there.
“I think our performances have been getting better and better. Against Shels [in the scoreless draw last Friday] we could have won the game quite comfortably. We had opportunities but we didn't take them. We know that is the final bit that we need to work on but I've no doubt that will come.
“If you don't concede late in Sligo and Drogheda, it looks a completely different picture. If we score one against Shels, people will say ‘what a performance’. It is important that within the dressing room they understand what we are working towards, what is working and not working and we build from that.”
Looking ahead to Friday’s visit of St. Pats to Tallaght (where the Athletic haven’t won in the league for eight years), Bradley talked about both team’s desire. “Pats will be hungry coming to Tallaght but we are hungry to retain our league and improve on last year.”
Alan Mannus last week in Tolka Park equalled the club record of 120 clean sheets in all competitions held by Alan O’Neill and talking about that landmark Bradley called it “an incredible achievement” for the 40-year-old goalkeeper.
“Over the years, across two stints at the club, he has been incredible. For him to equal that record is great and hopefully he'll have lots more clean sheets this season. It is an incredible achievement but it doesn't surprise you when you see how he lives his life, how professional he is and how focused he is.
“I'm sure it is a proud one for him and his family to look back on when he does hang up his gloves. It will be hard for anyone to break that record. We know he is a top keeper and probably the best in the country. We are lucky to have him.”
Alan O’Neill, who was Rovers’ number one in two spells either side of the four-in-a-row, has been generous in praising Mannus saying previously: “He has been so consistent for Rovers down through the years and produces top saves when needed. He is a top, top goalkeeper.”
Steeped in Hoops history
Many of the players who were part of the title winning side from the final four seasons of the Milltown era can be spotted every match in Tallaght supporting the current Hoops side.
“That is what Rovers is about,” said Bradley about the generous support he sees from those four-in-a-row players. “This club is steeped in history and when you have players who have been part of winning teams and broken records, it is really important that they are still involved in the club.
“I believe they have so much to offer to the current team and the club as a whole. We have been very lucky with that four in a row team, the amount of them who have helped us in recent years. They send us messages and come in and meet the players. You only have to call them and they are there to help you.
“When you play for Rovers, you get a real feel for how special this club is. There is a real connection with the club. When you are successful, there is no place like it. That four-in-a-row team still have that connection and it is brilliant. It shows our current players what this club means to those players who have done it in the 80s. They are still rightly regarded here as heroes and legends. It is important for our players today to see that.”
Leinster Senior Cup exit
Bradley was speaking to extratime.com after Rovers were beaten 2-1 by Bray Wanderers in the Leinster Senior Cup at the Carlisle Grounds on Monday. It was a youthful Hoops side which started the quarter-final with five teenagers including 16-year-old Orlandas Jakas.
In previous seasons for this competitions Rovers have played an underage team with Aidan Price, Head of Coaching at the Rovers Academey, in charge of the side. However, Bradley was in the dugout on Monday with his side skippered by Sean Gannon and a team that included Justin Ferizaj who scored his first goal for the club in the match.
“We don't usually take the Leinster Senior Cup games but as we have so many players that need games, it was important that we played them and got them minutes. It was good to see Liam (Burt) get 90 minutes and Conan (Noonan), Darragh (Nugent), Kieran Cruise and Justin get games. It was disappointing for Simon (Power). He pulled up with his hamstring (after 16 minutes) and he is the one we really wanted to get 90 minutes in.
“Justin’s first half wasn't good enough but he was excellent in the second half. To play in the team you have to be on your top level and second half he showed glimpses of that. We need to keep working with him and trusting him. We know he has ability - we saw that last year. You have to earn the right to play in the team.”