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We knew we needed to start quick - Stephen Bradley on Shamrock Rovers' season so far

Sun, Mar 17 2019

Stephen Bradley Credit: Michael P Ryan (ETPhotos)

The superb start to the season for Shamrock Rovers has seen the Hoops take an early lead at the top of the table.

The Hoops have failed to mount a title challenge since winning back-to-back League of Ireland titles in 2010 and 2011 but have begun the 2019 campaign brightly.

They have gathered 16 points from the opening 21 on offer – a better return from the first seven games than in either of their last title winning seasons. 

After a 3-0 home win over Sligo Rovers last Friday, the Hoops have a four point gap over second placed Dundalk – albeit having played one more game than last season’s double winners.

“I’d take this over last year,” said Hoops Head Coach Stephen Bradley on Friday when speaking to extratime.ie about the start to the season. “We know it is early. 

“We aren’t getting carried away but our aim in pre-season was to get as many points on the board as early as possible because Cork and Dundalk have proven over the years that you don’t get much leeway with them. 

“We knew we needed to start quick.”

Much talk ahead of the season was where Rovers would get the goals from to mount a title challenge but so far this season Aaron Greene has scored a couple (along with having another couple incorrectly for offside) with plenty of goals coming from the high quality midfielders that Bradley can call on.

Dan Carr, Ronan Finn and Jack Byrne were the goalscorers last Friday – with all three getting their first goals of the season. 

“We have goals from all over the team.

"I believe with Aaron McEneff, Jack Byrne Dylan Watts, Ronan Finn and Dan Carr – they have shown over the years in this league and in their careers that they score goals as well as their good play. It is about being ruthless and having a finishing touch." 

Mick McCarthy was watching on from the stands in Tallaght on Friday and on the back of his excellent performance – capped by a cracker of a goal – Jack Byrne has been called into the Ireland squad for the upcoming EURO 2020 qualifiers (see here).

When extratime.ie asked Shamrock Rovers Head Coach Stephen Bradley on Friday about Byrne and a possible call up for the Boys in Green, Bradley said “that is out of my hands but the pleasing thing for me is that Jack looks really happy in his game and in himself. 

“He is getting fitter and stronger. He is working hard and his quality is coming through.”

With Byrne called up to the senior Republic of Ireland squad, and with Trevor Clarke in Stephen Kenny’s under-21 squad for the game against Luxembourg, it remains to be seen if Rovers will look to postpone next Friday’s away game with Finn Harps.

With all the other Premier Division games off due to other international call-ups, if it goes ahead it would give the Hoops a chance to go seven points clear if Rovers could take the win.

“It is a massive opportunity for us to get three more points on the board,” was Bradley’s assessment on Friday. “No one else plays. 

“It is simple for us – just go and win the game. It will be a difficult game though. Finn Harps have proved to be difficult to beat at home but I fully believe we are ready and focussed.”