Friday, 25 May 2012

Is This The Year?

With our last FAI Cup success now 25 years ago we all feel we are overdue an FAI Cup win, with two cup final losses against Galway and the Derry City the final against Sligo two years ago seemed like destiny as the first one in the new Aviva Stadium looked all set to be the scene of a double winning success until a penalty shoot-out nightmare!
I don’t usually buy into superstition and faith but after waiting 16 years before we eventually won out 16th league title in 2010 could it now be that we could win our 25th FAI Cup after a 25 year wait?!! It sounds like a nice story and hopefully it will have a happy ending but it got of to a difficult start as the first chapter put us up against Division 1 title favourites Limerick. With many experienced Premier Division players in their squad it seemed like this would be a tricky proposition but with Joe Gamble and Dennis Behan missing and Stephen Bradley only fit enough for the bench our task was made slightly easier.
After a bright start the game went flat and we went into the break 0-0. Similar to the Monaghan game on Monday we failed to create many chances until the introduction of Daryl Kavanagh for O’Neill. It was also good to see the re-introduction of Stephen O’Donnell who played so well against Pats a few back in the Leinster Senior Cup and it was the substitutes that made the difference when Kavanaghs 25 short was parried by former Hoop Barry Ryan and O’Donnell slotted home to put us 1 up.
After that you would think we could relax and play football and hopefully extend our lead but due to our fragile confidence we looked edgy and Limerick pushed hard for an equalizer, they introduced Bradley, substituted a centre half for an extra striker but they were hampered when Paudie Quinns high tackle on Gilbert was punished with a straight red card. We managed to see out the game but not before some nervy moments particularly from corner kicks but a much needed clean sheet was enough to see us into the next round.
After Sligos shock loss to Monaghan it means the champions of the last 2 seasons are out and we will now be the favourites to win but with no other shocks tonight there is still a very strong list of teams involved and we will be hoping for another home game in the next round.
Keep on Hooping!

Away Day Blues

After Fridays positive result the perfect follow up was surely a game against the leagues bottom side but with only one win away from home this season which was on the opening day of the season we should have foreseen what was going to happen!
Although Stephen Kenny selected the same team that beat Drogheda I was disappointed to see that we didn’t select a more attacking line-up. We started off well and as Monaghan played with no centre forwards our two centre backs were getting plenty of time on the ball but the constant long diagonal balls from Sives and Oman was getting frustrating. We had some half chances but we went into half time level at 0-0 and we had failed to have a single shot on target.
The second half started off better with more balls going to O’Neill and Twiggs feet but we still failed to breach the Monaghan defence and it wasn’t until Daryl Kavanagh was introduced on the hour mark that we got our first shot on target. From that point on we put constant pressure on the Monaghan backline and although we huffed and puffed we lack the quality needed score and we were handed 3 guilt edge chances all from 6 yards or else we hit the post, fired wide and Bennion stopped Sives late effort which he knew nothing about and we ran out of time as the game finished scoreless.
It was a frustrating night and we were left wondering why we couldn’t have started off on the front foot and played with the high tempo we finished with as Monaghan were certainly there for the taking, its also worrying that unless Twiggy gets on the scoresheet we really struggle to score as we lacked another goalscorer but most worrying of all is that we have now played 6 away games and only won 1. This is certainly not the form of potential champions and we will need to get a lot more wins on the road it we are to retain our league title. The cup game against Limerick on Friday will be a welcome distraction from the league!

Keep on Hooping!

A New Series of Games, A New Start

After a disappointing 19 points from the first series of games, the start of the second series of games was seen as a fresh start and thankfully we started with a good win against Drogheda. It took 30 minutes to open the scoring as Gary McCabe finished off a great team move with a fine strike although Sava would be disappointed he was beaten at his near post.
The second half started off well with Twiggy doubling the lead and continuing his fine early season form, it was a superb bit of interplay between the two front men as Twigg headed down to O’Neill who chested it back to Twigg and he finished superbly with a curling right footed effort.
We had loads of chances to extend the lead but it took until the 82nd minute to make it 3 when Omans header from a Dennehy corner was cleared off the line but Twigg was on hand to head home. All that was left now was for Rovers to keep a clean sheet but typical of the way we have defended this season we did end up conceding as Declan O’Brien took advantage of poor defending from Sives and finished past Jansson.
All in all it was a good performance and kept our unbeaten home record going and we have started the weekend with 3 points which we will hopefully double on Monday night in Monaghan.

Keep on Hooping!

Unwanted 4 in a Row!

For the first time ever we have now lost 4 games in a row against Sligo. On the way down we felt that this was the real starting point of our season and a win in Sligo would be a boost of confidence for the whole team and would certainly appease the fans.
Pre-match optimism was high amongst us as we enjoyed a bit of grub and a few pints in Mooneys and when we got into the ground the pitch was in perfect condition and the fans were in high spirits. Then I saw the team sheet and I was a little disappointed but we started pretty well and it was an even game until the opening goal. Poor defending allowed Quigley to run unchallenged until Brennans well timed tackle unfortunately fell into the path of North who finished at Pieterse’s near post as the debutant got his angles all wrong. We needed to hold out from there and re-group but within 10 minutes we were 2 down when Pieterse’s poor punch fell to the edge of the box and McCabe failed to clear and Cawley finished superbly. From there it was always going to be an uphill battle and we rued Gary Twiggs early missed chance when it was still 0-0.
The second half started brightly as we took the game to Sligo but the game was all over when Chris Turner was sent off for a push on Alan Keane, the first yellow was in no doubt after a bad tackle on Ventre but when Keane needlessly got involved Turners reaction was stupid but Keanes theatrics were disgraceful and to see a grown man go down holding his face when he was pushed in the chest was very disappointing.
A third goal duly arrived when Sives was replaced by Hawkins the big Galway defenders first involvement was a fresh air kick that left North in the clear and another questionable piece of goalkeeping from Pieterse left North celebrating his 12th of the season. A depressing day was capped off when Gartland was sent off for a second yellow, again it was harsh but the way the day was going it was inevitable.
The drive home was full of debate most circled around team selection and a hope that Stephen Kenny would soon turn things around before our season slips away.

Keep on Hooping!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Back to Winning Ways

It may only have been the Leinster Senior Cup but it was important for us to bounce back after Fridays disappointing draw with UCD. Only 750 in attendance for a game that many viewed as irrelevant but with the disgraceful lack of a reserve league this competition is important for keeping squad players fresh so they have games under their belt if they are needed to step into the first team.
It was a comprehensive 3-0 win against a poor St. Pats side and I went home pleased with the performances of both the first team and U-19 players on show. Pieterese had very little to do in goals but anything he did he did well. He was quick off his line to deal with any threats Pats posed and he made a few good saves when called upon. His distribution was good from his hands and his kicking off the ground was excellent, all in all it was another good game from the young South African.
At the back Memery had another decent game but I can’t see him being good enough to remain with the first team and we still are in big need for another left back in the June transfer window. Gilbert was just average and although only back from injury I would have expected more from him. Branagan was very composed alongside the experienced Hawkins, who once again really impressed me. I taught he was finished when he came here as a coach but he still has a lot to offer and his reading of the game is second to none in our squad. It was positive that we kept a clean sheet and hopefully we can starting doing it more often in the league now.
In midfield I was delighted to see Conor McCormack but he was very poor and it was disappointing to see him so sloppy in possession as I have been campaigning for him to play in there in the league games, I still believe he is the man for that position but he would need to play a lot better than he did on Monday! Alongside him O’Donnell was very good, nothing spectacular but he controlled the whole game and everything went through him when we got possession. Sean Gannon played in an unfamiliar right wing position but did well and got the vital first goal with a fine finish just before half-time. Left winger Lorcan Shannon was the most impressive of the young lads and had a superb first half, he got in plenty of crosses, set=piece deliveries were good and he was a constant threat, in the second half he began to tire as the game went on, as he did in the last round against Bohs as well, so with that in mind he would surely need to improve his fitness levels to play for the first team on a regular basis.
Up front Aaron Greene was very disappointing again but then he had a 10 minute spell towards the end where he smashed the crossbar with a cracking right footed effort before he scored the third goal after a superb turn and left footed finish. I was expecting better from Aaron when he signed but he has failed to get going and looks set to just be a squad player. Alongside him young Dean Ebbe showed his potential with a really well taken goal, our 2nd on the day, he collected Conor McCormacks pass from just inside the box he curled home a fine left footed effort. His game isn’t about running and pressing the opposition and its something he will need to work on if he wants to step up a level but he does look to have a touch of class, if he wants to play centre forward at this level he will also need to learn how to hold the ball up better and he could learn a lot about movement by training alongside players like Gary Twigg.
None of the substitutes had long enough to impress but all in all it was a good win and we now face Shels in Tolka Park in the semi-final on May 28th. With UCD and Pats CY in the other semi-final it is a good chance for us to earn some silverware by winning the famous old cup.
Keep on Hooping!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Bring Back SRFC TV

There was outrage amongst Rovers fans last month when the online SRFC TV was ordered not to stream live games by the FAI. This volunteer, free of charge service was being provided by a group of dedicated Rovers fans who put their own matchday experience second to the job of providing coverage for the many Hoops around the world who couldn’t make it to Rovers games on Friday nights.

I do see the FAI’s point that showing the games live online could affect attendances and could affect MNS viewing figures but I think this isn’t the case and they have got this one grossly wrong. In my opinion they should be thinking how to embrace the excellent work of SRFC TV and how other clubs can do something similar to enhance the interest in the league both at home and abroad.
I think the FAI should be providing a small grant for all clubs to set-up an online TV channel. I think the clubs should be asked to add this service to their main club website. The grant could be used for clubs to buy the necessary camera equipment and put in the necessary ISDN line and everything else needed for live streaming.
With video analysis becoming a big part of coaching in recent years most managers will ask for their clubs to provide them with DVD’s of the game each week so they can analysis it and use it as a coaching tool when they do video analysis with their players in preparations for the following game. With this in mind most clubs have somebody videoing games each week anyway so if they could put this on a live stream on the club websites as part of the club TV channel then this could be streamed to anybody who wants to watch the games outside of Ireland. You can easily block people on this island from watching the stream but we should be trying to promote to league to people living abroad. You can easily do this the same as the RTE player and BBC iPlayer can stop people in certain regions watching certain TV shows, so the current technology for live streaming in certain regions is already in place all we need to do is use it.
One of our Trim Hoops members is currently in Cambodia doing volunteer work and relied on SRFC TV to watch games every week but now he can only see Rovers games if they are on RTE which is a big disappointment to him and countless others who used SRFC TV around the world.
Then after MNS the clubs should be encouraged to post up extended highlights on the new club TV channels like SRFC TV do at the minute, this could be an official part of the media strategy for the league and it would bring traffic to main club website as well. The online channels should also be used for regular player interviews and coaching staff interviews as well as giving a view of what goes on behind the scences at the LoI clubs on a daily basis. Clubs should also be encouraged to post highlights from there U-19s and Women’s Teams games.
With children increasingly using the internet more and more each day the best way we can get them to fall in love with their local club rather than foreign teams is to provide them with enjoyable and interactive ways to stay in touch with the latest news and updates from their club. Most clubs are embracing Twitter and Facebook well at the minute and club TV channels would be a big boost to this and with the little or no coverage the league gets on national TV the internet is the best tool we have to market our clubs and our league.
I would urge the FAI to re-visit this decision, relax the rules on it and use SRFC TV as a benchmark for other clubs and then work with clubs to develop their online TV channels.
Keep on Hooping!

Friday v Saturday

I think that Friday fixtures are detrimental to attendances with people coming from work, school, college etc its hard for families to get there and very hard for fans to get to long distance away games. Further to my previous blog on creating an 18 team Premier Division I would much prefer to see 8 of the 9 fixtures take place at a new 7pm kick-off time on Saturday evening, this would be late enough that anybody who plays Saturday football, works on a Saturday or even wants to watch football on TV earlier in the day can do so and still manage to get to their local LoI ground in time for kick-off. It would be much easier to get to away games and would be much better for groups travelling together to meet up and enjoy pre-match drinks etc. People would still be home in time to go out on a Saturday night if they wish and kids wouldn’t be out too late either!
The perfect build up to this would be the other remaining game to take place at 8pm live on TV on a Friday night. A decent TV deal that demands one game every Friday with decent pre-match and post match coverage would be prefect viewing for all LoI fans and a chance to convert others who then might be convinced to go to any of the other 8 games on the following night. At present the random nature of the TV coverage means its not ingrained into the mind of the public that Friday night is “live game night” and Saturday night is “go to a match night”. This would surely boost attendances I can guarantee you that.
Monday night MNS could still remain as the perfect way to end the weekend with all the highlights from the weekends action but this programme needs to be improved also with more match highlights and less talking!
There is a reason that no other top flight division in Europe plays on a Friday night because it is a terrible night for fixtures and attendances but could as I said be a good night for a single game live on TV.
Furthermore no other league in Europe plays games at the same time as a live game is on TV, this is just bizarre. Take England for example, no live football is allowed at 3pm on a Saturday because if a live game was on then a lot of fans wouldn’t be bothered going to games in League 1, League 2 or the conference etc. Fans are encouraged to go to games at their local club and then watch the big game of the weekend live on tv on a Sunday or even before or after the teams games on a Saturday. So by us having for example Rovers v Sligo live on TV at the same time as other league games you are basically hitting the same target markets twice and that’s why TV viewing numbers are so low and that has knock-on effect when looking for TV money because TV companies say: “well look when we put on a game not enough people watch it so we aren’t bothered putting on anymore matches”. Its a very simple concept and I can’t understand why the FAI, League of Ireland department and the League of Ireland clubs can’t see this.
I would love all clubs to read this and take it on board then try this for one season. If I’m wrong fine but I think you will find that attendances will go up, TV viewing figures will go up and the league will be a better place for this.
Keep on Hooping!