Daniel McDonnell: Shamrock Rovers must take advantage of void created by early GAA finish

The GAA’s decision to call off inter-county activity before the start of August has created an Irish sports heat like no other.

You don’t need to be a GAA nut to realize that the rhythm of the calendar has gotten out of sync, creating a void in the national sports discourse next month.

It is the ideal window for individuals who crave more oxygen for their adventures to proceed in the light of the door opened for them.

The Premier League news cycle, which can be both fascinating and frustratingly repetitive in equal measure, is about to take hold.

But if there ever is a year for Irish clubs to do something in Europe, it is 2022.

Sligo Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic have a strong chance of completing conference league upsets against Motherwell and Mura, respectively, on Thursday night if they can replicate their first-leg performances and be even more clinical in their efforts. layer can be added.

Yet they have no room for error and it can be speculated that their expeditions may be dead and buried by 10 p.m. Thursday.

For Shamrock Rovers, on the other hand, a full month of European Games is guaranteed as they make their way backdoor by winning their opening Champions League bout with the Hibernians of Malta.

He has the power to become next month’s main Irish story.

Briefly in Tallaghat on Tuesday night, he threatened to create a sensation that led to football bulletins across the continent.

When a goal from Ludogorets’ side already in the night was reduced to ten men at the start of the second half, the door opened to the possibility of the greatest Irish Champions League return, which ended in a tie. , which was abandoned by almost everyone. Feather.

Ludogorets regrouped and their superior quality allowed them to see it through, but a win at night for hoops demonstrated the levels they could hit on a good day.

It was always going to be an extraordinary effort to remain in the premier competition, but Rovers now face a two-legged clash with North Macedonian champions Shakupi in the third round of the Europa League qualifiers. Winners are guaranteed Conference League group stage football and close to €3.4m in prize money with the opportunity to collect more by getting a shot at the Europa League.

Shukupi arrives in Dublin the following Thursday, before the return phase in Skopje five days later. Shkupi pushed Dinamo Zagreb closer, so they are clearly a decent outfit, but a two-legged tie with the best team in North Macedonia for the group stage run is a scenario that Stephen Bradley’s side saw the start of the year. will be paid in And if they lose they still get another chance.

If Rovers as a club are to take the next step, they need to start throwing their own weight into their own division. They were knocked out at the final handicap by the Estonian champions last year, yet both that league and North Macedonia’s top flight are ranked lower than the LOI in the UEFA charts. It is reasonable to expect better from the very experienced side.

His average age in both legs of the Ludogorets tie was north of 30. They know what progress will mean for their legacy and that self awareness and expectation may be creating a degree of pressure.

Stephen Kenny’s 2016 Dundalk team was small and playing without fear. The cores of this Rovers group are at a different stage in their lives, although young names such as Aimachu and Justin Ferrisz are worth watching, while Andy Lyon (21) has reached a stage that means he will leave Ireland this year.

An injury recovery for their most famous player, Jack Byrne, will certainly help Rovers’ prospects and also provide the wider public with another angle to look forward to.

However, what’s interesting about the rovers’ climate at the moment is that their crowds continue to grow regardless of TV performance.

A few idiots disgraced themselves by chopping plastic bottles on Tuesday, but more families and kids are attending the fixtures, where the ongoing construction of a fourth stand is a wholly justified rather than a luxury.

The post-lockdown enthusiasm for live events coincides with a year of European opportunity. They will never forgive themselves if it is passed.