Daniel McDonnell Twitter
In this unintended era of closed-door sport, we have become accustomed to important moments set against a surreal backdrop of silence.
The prospect of Stephen Bradley’s Shamrock Rovers team breaking records in the Irish league of all time is wavering and there will be no fanfare as they avoid a home defeat to Waterford as expected and expand their unbeaten league run to 31 games.
That would surpass the Rovers team’s 1927 performance who played 30 games without a loss, a run that spanned three different seasons. Oddly enough, due to the shortened 2020 season with 18 games, Bradley’s Rovers group also built their sequence in three league campaigns. Their last league setback was in Dundalk in September 2019.
The players were encouraged to take the opportunity to write their names in the history books.
“The gaffer has said a team may never come back got the chance, “said defenseman Lee Grace yesterday at the club’s Roadstone complex, which has been full of activity compared to the past few months and where the local and local children have been practicing pitch and putt also open to action .
In truth, it would be a shock if they failed to beat an average Waterford side who only named three subs in their loss to Dundalk on Friday. Manager Kevin Sheedy claimed he didn’t want to put youngsters on the bench because he couldn’t trust umpires to protect them.
Bradley was reluctant to be drawn into the discussion but found it difficult to agree with Sheedy’s assessment that somehow, a league (where the age profile has dropped significantly in recent years) is not a safe place for young men.
He also pointed to the strength of Waterford’s underage division lately, but it’s difficult for outsiders, really to speak with authority about the workings of a club that has made a lot of headlines for non-football reasons.
The Hoops boss spoke happier about the determination of his own group. A noticeable feature of their games this season has been the proliferation of late goals, indicating both depth of character and options.
In seven of their eight league games this season, Rovers have scored important goals in the last 15 minutes . This run features consecutive stoppage time winners against Longford and Drogheda.
The crucial moments to keep their shot in history were the games with St. Patrick’s Athletic (H) and Sligo Rovers (A) , where the league champions fell behind in the last 10 minutes (87th and 82nd minutes respectively) and still recovered one point. “It shows where we were at that moment in these games,” said Bradley. “Sometimes when you’re a team that has backs against the walls and scores a goal it can really knock you down, but in both games we were on the rise and the ones who wanted to win the game.” It didn’t make us nervous, we felt comfortable and we knew we were playing well.
“We shouldn’t hide from it,” continued the Dubliner, pushing for the chance to turn 31. “We should be proud, we shouldn’t hide from the fact that it’s there and that we have the chance to make history.” It can be special for the group that is here now and for the groups in the past, players who left but helped us.
“It would be a fantastic achievement for the players and the club, and we know it’s there. ” It is a great challenge to stand before you to try to make this piece of history and we will of course do our best to do it. “
Goalkeeper Alan Mannus is the only Rovers player to feature in the last 30 games. Despite Bradley’s understandable efforts to point out that Waterford poses a greater threat than their results show, it is unlikely to be a lot of action focused on Mannus’ end of the field.
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