Tuesday 25th October 2011. Title no.17 became reality.
Shamrock Rovers sealed back to back Airtricity League titles with a late late winner at the UCD Bowl. Dean Kelly getting the goal that sealed the second successive title under manager Michael O’Neill. Kelly’s goal not only clinched the win against UCD by 2 goals to 1 but it now means that the tally of 74 points that Rovers have amassed will not be caught.
2011 has been remarkable for all involved at Shamrock Rovers.
The first Irish side to ever participate in a group stage of European competition. Some felt this would be a bridge too far to compete in the Europa League while trying to retain the league title.
Not the case it has panned out. It’s over with a game to spare.
It is a phenominal triumph for this Rovers side.
Including Leinster Senior Cup games, Rovers will have played no fewer than 60 competitive games by the conclusion of the Europa League group stages in mid-December. With injuries, and the usual ”raise the game v the big boys” mentality in this league. This is an excellent triumph.
I find it very fitting that two players that missed so many games this season through injury, Dean Kelly & Ken Oman were the ones that got our goals last night.
Personally I’ll be able to enjoy it more than last season. It felt like two horses struggling in the final mile of the national last year with Bohs. Neither could finish it for themselves but got helping hands along the way.
Rovers will have played almost a half a season more than the third placed side Derry City. Twelve Euro games Rovers have had to play.
Not many sides do that in any season. Even most Champions League clubs will not play that many games. Rovers 12 European games consisted of two legged ties v Flora Tallinn & two legged ties v FC Copenhagen in Champions League qualifiers.
As well as that Rovers also had another two legged tie v Partizan Belgrade in Europe League qualifier, plus the 6 Europa League group stage games against Rubin Kazan, Tottenham & PAOK Salonica.
In the three seasons at Shamrock Rovers, manager Michael O’Neill has exceeded expectations. And they have him on the radar of clubs and even on the international stage where he is one of the front runners for the Northern Ireland vacancy.
He hasn’t had the resources that other clubs have had. Yet has gone further than them all in Europe as well has bagged two league titles, runners-up in his first season when top four would have been deemed to be our level.
In the cups he has brought us to Aviva Stadium last year for the FAI Cup Final only to lose on penalties to this year’s league runners-up Sligo Rovers but rectified it in May winning the Setanta Cup against Dundalk.
The only player he has purchased was striker Gary Twigg. Not bad business there Michael.
He has used the UK very well bringing over players like Twigg, but the likes of Craig Sives have been excellent additions in his time in charge.
Both are arguably the best players in the position in this country.
Even after getting to the group stages, he(along with Jim Magilton) managed to use UK contacts to get in Jim Paterson & Rohan Ricketts on deadline day.
I also feel that Jim Magilton and Andy Myler have helped to steady the ship in the wake of Trevor Croly’s departure. Credit must go to both.
Magilton is odds-on to become the next Northern Ireland manager, while Myler will surely be an Airtricity League manager in his own right in the not too distant future.
Shamrock Rovers- simply the best.