The Shamrock Rovers head coach Stephen Bradley made his way down the corridor from the Hoops dressing room to the assembled media with a smile on his face.
No doubt part of the reason was that his team had deservedly earned all three points in Eamonn Deacy Park with a 2-1 win over Galway United. But it was also because President Michael D Higgins was coming the other way to chat with Bradley.
The President, above party politics and local football club affiliations, offered hearty congratulations to Bradley on the win. Bradley afterwards then offered his own opinion to the media on the game and the challenge that faces the Hoops in playing Cork City this Friday and challenging for the title.
“I keep saying that I trust this group and I believe in them,” said Bradley of his team that now have two wins (against Bohs and Galway) and two defeats (against Dundalk and Derry).
“They are really strong. They are together and will only get better as the season goes on.”
Bradley has brought together a squad that is significantly different from the one that finished fourth last season. He is looking for some patience from fans and takes some inspiration from when he joined the club as a player.
He was signed by Michael O’Neill in 2009 in the first season in Tallaght. The Hoops finished second that year, before winning the title on goal difference the following season.
“It is going to take us time,” said Bradley. “It is not going to happen in one season. People think I’m lying or messing when I say that but I understand as I was in a team that had to build to go and catch Bohs. I believe with what we have that we are going in the right direction. The supporters demand that.”
On Friday they face a Cork City side that crushed Bradley’s team in the FAI Cup last year. The 5-0 quarter-final defeat in Tallaght was the low point of last season for the Hoops.
“People are saying that we are title contenders because of the signings we made but it takes time. Cork and Dundalk have built for three or four years and Cork haven’t managed to get near them. They’ve been second, second, second but this year might be different.
“Over the course of the season you have to understand where we are coming from and where we are going to and where they (Cork) have been. It takes time. We go to beat them on Friday. I believe we can beat them.”
On Monday the Hoops deservedly beat Galway United even if they were made work hard by the Tribesmen. “We were in control of the game,” said Bradley about the match that started with Gary Shaw giving Rovers the lead after less than 90 seconds. However an errant Dan Devine pass gave Galway a lifeline back into the game in the second half which Ronan Murray took.
Bradley had spoken after his team’s 1-0 home loss to Derry City last week about his team being flat but he was happy with the response he saw on Monday night even if Rovers never got into top gear. Gary Shaw scored his second on 65 minutes and that was enough to earn all three points.
“I was disappointed on Friday with how we played but when we watched it back we weren’t as bad as I thought we were. There are really strong characters [in the dressing room]. I knew that they would bounce back, that they had that in them. I believe in them 100% coming here or going anywhere that we can get results.”
Bradley will be able to call upon the services of Graham Burke and Paul Corry for the game on Friday but Trevor Clarke may be a doubt. “Graham is itching to go,” said Bradley about the midfielder who has now fully served his suspension from the opening night red card in Oriel Park.
“I know the sending off was a moment of madness. If you speak to him or you know his character that is not him. It is going to be a big plus to have him back. He is quality and we will all see that.”
Paul Corry, coming off the bench in Galway, played his first competitive game for the Hoops but Bradley will continue to ease the player into action.
“It was great to get him on. On the ball there is not many who can pass like Paul. We have to be patient with him and understand where he has come from with his knee and gradually build him in.”
18 months between tonight and my last competitive game ???????? good to be finally back ????????— Paul Corry (@paul_corry) March 13, 2017
Bradley described Trevor Clarke as “unbelievable” as the young left back playing through the pain barrier. “Anyone else, they wouldn’t have played.
“He popped his shoulder at the weekend and straight away the doctor said to me when he came off that he was gone for five or six weeks. Trevor says ‘no, I’m not’.
“He went and had acupuncture on it and an injection this morning and he said he was ready to go. That wore off after 60 minutes and he felt the pain but he was brilliant all night.”
Macdara Ferris is a contributor since 2007 to Hoops Scene (Shamrock Rovers' match day programme) and the co-author of Tallaght Time: Shamrock Rovers 2009 to 2012. He still believes that one day he will see Rovers win the FAI Cup. The first international game he attended was Luxembourg being dispatched 2-1 at Lansdowne Road by Jack Charlton's Ireland team.
He has been a writer with extratime.ie since 2012 covering the League of Ireland, the Irish National team and a few Champions League finals. He has also been known to pop up in far flung places like Ballybofey, Belfast, Berlin and Brazil to report for extratime.
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