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Derby Day in Dalymount

Wed, Apr 13 2011

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Like it or not, Shamrock Rovers versus Bohemians is probably the biggest game in Irish football.

Even people who are only vaguely aware that there is such a thing as a domestic league here usually have some knowledge of the notorious rivalry between these two Dublin clubs. I’m going to be optimistic this week and say that’s a good thing, even if it is only a Garda presence that catches their attention.

Traditionally it’s a battle between the north and the south sides of the city. It almost makes me feel a little bit sorry for St. Pats because in a way their meetings with either club get overshadowed compared to this one titanic fixture. Don’t get me wrong, St. Pats are one of the big three in Dublin (and I have such a soft spot for them and some of their fans) but nonetheless there is nothing like when both sides of the Liffey collide four times a year. It reminds me a little of Newcastle and Sunderland when they played Middlesborough in the Premier League, it was still a derby, just not the derby.

In a lot of ways it’s like a cup game because form goes out the window. Every one I’ve been to seems to have ended in a draw. It’s 2007 since our last win at Dalymount too, so a victory is long overdue. If you asked me last Monday what sort of a result I’d predict for the game I’d have said another draw coming out of defeat against Bray, the first smudge on our score sheet. But as I said I’m feeling optimistic today and I think we could win especially after the boost of travelling to the Showgrounds and beating Sligo there on Monday evening. I know it was a cup game but I still feel they are the team most likely to threaten this year and that win takes the sting from Friday’s defeat.

I’m disappointed I don’t have a ticket for Friday. Amazingly I can blag my way through Dublin airport’s security, which I did after I fell asleep at the wrong gate yesterday and had to ‘check in’ a second time (in my defence, it was 5am) but alas, fluttering of eyelashes will only get you so far when there’s a mere 1,000 tickets for the game every Rovers fan wants to go to.

Now I know the Connaught Street stand is closed for health and safety reasons but I can’t help thinking that of all the clubs in the Premier Division and considering their financial ‘woes’, you’d have thought the powers that be in Bohs might have tried a bit harder to do something about it. I mean the first thing you see on Bohs website is a big banner saying ‘save our club’. At least twice as many tickets would have sold and well, tickets translate into money to the club at the end of the day. Friday is an opportunity lost for them.

It’s hard to know how much of an effect not having Twiggy there will have on the rest of the squad. I know he was injured for a while last year and we coped - as in we still managed to win the league despite a few nerves showing on the home run. I think the team will still be able to pull together in his absence; God knows there’s a big enough squad and again, Monday’s result should echo that.

The only thing is Michael O’Neill has so many options to choose from when picking the team. It looks great on paper but how long will players be happy with that? Karl Sheppard played well and scored in Sligo, but is he getting to play as much football as he’d like to at the moment? Everybody wants to play as much as they possibly can, you can’t blame them for that. But the impression I have of Michael O’Neill is that as the gaffer he’s quite authoritative and the team’s success might come at the cost of one or two individual’s happiness. Danny Murphy wasn’t happy with not always being in the starting line-up and I do wonder how long it will take before that line of thinking sets in with one or two this year. It would be a lot better to stay focused on breaking through but come on, feeling like you’re ‘not good enough’ over time must suck.

I can’t help but wonder why have players moved to Shamrock Rovers when they could be playing every week at other clubs? Have they moved there just to be playing for the champions? Maybe it’s better at the minute to put on their CV that they’re in the Rovers squad rather than playing week-in week-out for another team with less silverware. But the risk is that by being a blade of grass in a field you’re not really going to stand out, are you?

I think that’s why when they do get a chance, in competitions like the EA Sports Cup, they must not look at it as pressure to perform but as an opportunity to show what they’re capable of. And of course, if they get the opportunity to do it against Bohs, that’s all the better for me too.

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