The rapid decline of Shamrock Rovers

by Alan Feehely

Just 12 short months ago, Shamrock Rovers Football Club and their fans were on top of the world. They had qualified for the group stages of the Europa League – being the first (and so far only) club from the Republic of Ireland to ever do so. By beating Serbian club Partizan Belgrade – a club with quadruple Rovers’ wage budget – they had made history, as well as hopefully paving the way for their fellow countrymen to follow them into European adventures that lasted beyond early-August.

Unfortunately for Shamrock Rovers, their success proved to be their eventual downfall. Having led Shams to continental success, manager Michael O’Neill was summoned by his native Northern Ireland to coach his home nation. Of course, this was a real honour for him, but a hammer blow to the Tallaght club and any prospect of future success.

Swiftly following the gaffer out the door was a number of key players. Right-back Pat Sullivan left for Australia. Centre-back and leader Dan Murray returned to his adopted home of Cork. Left-back Enda Stevens earned a move cross-channel to Premier League side Aston Villa.  Striker and primary goal scorer Karl Sheppard left for Reading.

In came Stephen Kenny, a Tallaght native who made his name with Northern club Derry City – who he led to First Division glory and third in the Premier Division. On paper, he was the ideal appointment. A near-flawless record on home shores, and he played football in a similar vein to his predecessor Mick O’Neill. But as the famous saying goes – “football is played on grass, not on paper”.

Signs of a slump in this Rovers’ side were early. Very early. In the first league game, at the classically named ‘Hunky Dory’s Park’, they went one-nil down against Drogheda United, through a long-distance strike from Dean Marshall. Although they recovered to triumph 2-1, a trained eye could spot flaws in this Shamrock Rovers team – flaws that would become painfully apparent very soon.

From then on everything went pretty much downhill. Particular low-lights for the Rovers’ faithful include a 5-1 defeat at the hands of St. Patrick’s Athletic, a 3-0 loss to title rivals Sligo Rovers, and – most painfully – a 4-0 spanking to hated rivals Bohemians. Add to this a European exit at the earliest possible interval – and to Lithuanian minnows FC Ekranas – and you have some very unhappy campers in Tallaght Stadium.

Stephen Kenny is the universal favourite to be ‘relieved of his duties’ in the not so distant future, amidst rumours that he has totally lost the dressing room (which, as we know, is nigh impossible to win back).

As things stand, Rovers are third in the league, and not quite showing the prestige they did in their previous two campaigns – where they claimed the league title on both occasions. They are already (as I previously stated) out of Europe, and the way things are going might not qualify for it next season.

On the pitch, the team looks thoroughly disjointed, lacking the fluency that stood them in such good stead last season (something that current league leaders Sligo Rovers have in abundance). They are far too reliant on Garry Twigg for goals, and are seriously lacking in any replacement should an injury befall their star man. At the back – their bread and butter in 2011 – they are, to put it kindly, hopeless. They are leaking goals all over the shop, and as we all know, defensive solidarity is the cornerstone of any title bid.

Should Stephen Kenny remain in charge, Sham’s will have make do with battling for Europe, as no realistic assault on the Airtricity League title can be mounted with the team in such a shambolic state.

“So much can change over the course of a year”. In the case of Shamrock Rovers, this is very much true.

5 Responses

  1. DmcD says:

    Kenny and O’neill played similar football??
    On the decline won the last two and kept 4 clean sheets in last five. If you’d seen any of the 6/7 games you’d see he hasn’t lost the dressing room. Poor preformance away in Europe in last 6 games.
    Shambolic state? Beat Sligo next weekend and it’s 5 points to be made up in ten games.

    1. Niall Mooney says:

      How often does the author of this article watch “Sham’s”?!

      No mention of the club still chasing all four domestic trophies.

      Kenny and O’Neill play a completely different brand of football!

  2. Dean says:

    Sham’s??? At least have the respect and courtesy to get the name of the football club right.

    I can smell the bitterness and jealousy all over this article. Considering the shambles cork football has been recently ROVERS are miles ahead of all the rest.

    Still Champions.

  3. Paul Mac says:

    Who is this fool. Chap has not a clue. We are still challenging for all 4 trophies this season. Beat sligo and we will win the league and possibly the quadtruple.

  4. GerryF says:

    We really need to get away from calling any European team that is not from the big 5 or 6 leagues a minnow

    FK Ekranes European record is played 42 won 14 drew 7 lost 21

    Compare with Rovers who have played 66 won 13 drawn 12 lost 41

    Think that tells its own story, Ekranes had a number of internationals, Rovers do not. Just because as a nation we are better than Lithuania don’t assume that our league clubs are, I’m sure there are fans in the Baltic states referring to Irish teams as European minnows.

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