Dave Webster, pictured in action against Derry City, is the only member of the Rovers squad to have scored a goal in Europe, against Progres Niederkorn in Tallaght two years ago.

Europa League Preview: Stjarnan -v- Shamrock Rovers
Published: June 29, 2017

STJARNAN

Finishing runners up in last season’s Icelandic Urvalsdelid league earned Stjarnan a place in this season’s Europa League qualification phase. They welcome Shamrock Rovers to their small Samsung Vollurinn Stadium outside of Reykjavik on Thursday evening (kick off 8.15pm Irish time). The winner of the tie will face Mlada Boleslav from the Czech Republic in the next round.

 

The side managed by Runar Pall Sigmundsson come into the game without a win since late May. They’ve lost three times and drawn this month during a time when Rovers have won three and drawn one match in the League of Ireland.

 

The home team have some decent recent European pedigree. Three seasons ago they reached the play off round of the Europa League by eliminating Bangor City, Motherwell and Lech Poznan before Inter Milan prevented them from reaching the group stages. They played Celtic two seasons ago (who Rovers face in a friendly in Tallaght on 8 July) last season, losing 6-1 on aggregate.

 

Stjarnan, who were Icelandic champions in 2014, are currently third in the table. They have been doing their homework on the Hoops with their assistant manager, and former Reading midfielder, Brynjar Gunnarsson running the rule over Rovers when he came to Tallaght last Friday to see Rovers beat Drogheda United. Stephen Bradley came the opposite way to watch Stjarnan draw 2-2 at home with IA Akranas, the team who are second from bottom.

 

“Having watched Stjarnan on Saturday, they're an attacking threat from set plays and open play,” said Bradley, speaking to shamrockrovers.ie.

 

“They're very strong from set plays, long throw ins and corners and they're a big, physical team.

 

“So we have to make sure we're switched on from set plays and not give away anything silly. In terms of their weakness, I feel that if we play to our attacking strengths we can definitely get at them."

 

Find out more about Stjarnan and their League of Ireland link in our piece, 'Who are Stjarnan?'

 

 

SHAMROCK ROVERS

Last season Rovers changed managers between their Europa League First Qualifying Round first and second legs. The Hoops were beaten by Finnish side ROPS Rovaniemi 2-0 in Tallaght in the first leg – a loss which precipitated Pat Fenlon’s departure from the club. Stephen Bradley stepped up to take over in the second leg on a caretaker basis but the Hoops drew 1-1 in the Arctic Circle and were eliminated early from Europe.

 

12 months on and Rovers with Bradley now permanently in charge as Hoops Head Coach head once again close to the Arctic Circle. On Thursday they will take on Stjarnan in Iceland. However it is a much changed Hoops side on the pitch only four players remain at the club from the starting XI from a year ago in Europe.

 

Goalkeeper Craig Hyland is now a fireman in the Dublin Fire Brigade while goalscorer Gary McCabe has taken his talents to the seaside in Bray. Gavin and Killian Brennan are long since gone from the club, along with Rob Cornwall, Pat Cregg and Dean Clarke.

 

Bradley continues to give youth their chance to shine with three teenagers on the scoresheet in the second half in last week’s 4-1 league win over Drogheda including 17-year-old Aaron Bolger who became the youngest player to score for Rovers in the league in 28 years.

 

However the Hoops boss will likely bring back in some more experienced players for a tie worth in excess of €200,000 if they can progress. Dave McAllister and Graham Burke, who are both in the middle of domestic suspensions, will likely to come back into the team.

 

“It's massive for this group, being a new group,” said Bradley. “We've a lot of players that haven't played in Europe together. I believe if we play to our ability we can definitely give them a game and keep the tie alive going back to Tallaght.

 

“That would be massive because we know we'll get a big crowd and we've been playing well at home this year,” said Bradley about his Rovers team that are unbeaten at home in ten games going back to St. Patrick’s Day.

 

The Hoops did get through a round in the season before with David Webster on the scoresheet for Rovers in their 3-0 home win over Progres Niederkorn (after the Hoops had drawn 0-0 in the first leg away from home). Webster is the only player in the Rovers squad who has scored in Europe but he was only a substitute in Europe last year.

 

“I’m really looking forward to it and the whole squad is,” said Webster, speaking in the latest Rovers match programme about playing in Europa League qualification.

 

“It is the first time in Europe for many of the squad. Playing and scoring in Europe against Progres was a great experience so I was a bit devastated we didn’t get a run in Europe last year.”

 

Ronan Finn will continue to captain the side as he is set to play his 30th game in Europe and his first European game for Shamrock Rovers since he played against Spurs in the Europa League group stages in December 2011 (only Gary Rogers from the current players playing in the league with 33 Euro games has more European appearances).

 

There is a doubt over Luke Byrne, who picked up an injury to his shoulder in training and had his arm in a sling in Dublin Airport prior to departure. His manager confirmed that “the doctor is worried about it at the moment but Luke, the type he is, he said he'll take an injection or tablets or whatever he needs to do to play so hopefully he's okay.”

 

 

Referee: Tomasz Musial (Poland).

 

 

MATCH STATS

There have been 20 matches between teams from the League of Ireland and Iceland with the teams from the land of fire and ice having a slightly better record. Irish sides have six wins while Icelandic teams have eight victories.

 

The referee Tomasz Musial was part of the Polish officiating team for April's Champions League quarter final first leg between Juventus and Barcelona. He was one of the extra officials behind the goal for that tie in Turin.

 

Rovers' record European result came against Icelandic opposition 35 years ago. The Hoops beat Fram Reykjavik 3-0 in the away leg in Iceland before winning 4-0 in the return leg in Milltown.

 

 

BETTING

Stjarnan 11/10 ; Draw 23/10; Rovers 11/5.

 

PREDICTION

Stjarnan 1 – 1 Shamrock Rovers

 

 

Stjarnan

Injured: Unknown.

Suspended: None.

 

Shamrock Rovers

Injured: Paul Corry (knee), Darren Meenan (ill).

Doubtful: Luke Byrne (shoulder).

Suspended: None.


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Macdara Ferris

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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