Monday, 30 April 2012

Familiarity Breaths Contempt

Playing Derry for the third time in 11 days hardly got the pulse racing but we went into the game with optimism after Mondays performance. We were disappointed to see a change back to 4-4-2 but it was understandable that we wouldn’t throw caution to the wind straight away. We missed some great early chances and when Gary McCabe cut inside two defenders to win a penalty it looked like we eventually had the breakthrough but another change in penalty taker ensued and Dennehys spot kick was saved by Doherty, leaving fans to ask why Twiggy didn’t step-up and take it.
0-0 at half-time and the overriding feeling was that we should have been 3 up at least and hopefully we wouldn’t be punished for missed chances. A minute into the second half our fears were temporarily alleviated when Twiggy hooked home to put us one up. We continued to dominate and when McEleney received a second yellow for diving it seemed like we would go on and press home our advantage. O’Neill came on for Kavanagh and we never really looked like scoring after that.
Gartlands silly foul gave Derry a rare chance to push men forward and when Sives failed to deal with the first ball we allowed Derry to grab an equalizer as we conceded from yet another set-piece. Greene had a great chance late on to grab a winner but typical of his poor recent form he slide the effort wide and the game finished 1-1.
Again fans were disgruntled and despondent at the final whistle with the only positive thing being the 1-1 draw between Sligo and Pats at the Showgrounds. So after only 1 win in our last 4 league games we somehow only find ourselves 3 points of the top of the table and wins against UCD and away to Sligo in our next two games mean we can still end the first round of games on top of table, always look on the bright side of life!
Keep on Hooping!

The Impossible Comeback

3-0 down seemingly already out many fans had given up on the Setanta Sports Cup after the first leg performance. Only 50 or so Hoops travelled up to the Brandywell for this one and we had a small bit of optimism on the drive believing that we were going to witness one of our greatest comebacks of all time.
After only 5 minutes the comeback was nearly underway but Twigg missed a great chance when one on one with Doherty and an early goal really would have made things interesting. We started the game playing 3-5-2 and it was a change welcomed by the fans as we went for the game right from the off. Unfortunately we lost Oman before the break with an injury and lost an attacking threat from set pieces as a result. Despite our dominance first half we went in 0-0 at the break and we felt the Setanta Cup slipping away from us.
An early second half goal from Twiggy gave us a glimmer of hope and we pushed on in search of a second to set-up an exciting finale, we eventually got it when Twigg scrambled home his second of the game with seven minutes remaining but we never really created another chance after that and despite the spirited performance we ran out 3-2 losers over the two legs and Derry will o play Crusaders in the final in the Oval on May 12th.
Despite the loss of the tie we went home happy in the knowledge that we gave it a go and we were all impressed with the 3-5-2 system which Derry failed to deal with. The 3 centre backs of Gartland, Sives and Hawkins played well and we all felt that a similar set-up on Friday in the league against Derry would be our best option.
Keep on Hooping!

Oh I Do Hate To Be Beside The Seaside

Bray is right up there with the venues in the League of Ireland that I hate most! Crap area to stand, no decent flag space, no roof when it rains and coupled with all that we seem to have played shite there for the last few years!
We started off well dominating possession but when we got in decent positions to cross or shoot with failed to deliver. We almost got caught on the counter twice before Bray eventually scored and Kieran Marty Watters eventually punished us by firing across Jansson and putting Bray 1 up. Surely that would kick start us into action you think, well no it didn’t we got worse and found ourselves two down when Sives got too tight to Watters who spun and showed his right peg was as good as his left with a fine finish that gave Jansson no chance.
Just before the break we were given a lifeline after Twigg won a penalty which seemed a very harsh award but we weren’t complaining as it offered us a route back into a game we had never looked like getting back into. Unfortunately Twigg missed it and Dennehy slotted home the rebound but was correctly pulled up for encroachment and Bray got a free-kick as we trundled off 2-0 down at half-time the fans were not happy and demanded better.
To our credit second half we battled hard but still failed to really put Bray under pressure despite our dominance. The game was calling out for a change of system, with Bray only playing 1 up front, the largely immobile and ineffective Jason Byrne, I felt we could have switched to 3 at the back and pushed another man up front, 3-4-3 would have been my choice but Kenny kept faith with 4-4-2 and we got one back when Ronan Finn made a superb run to get on the end of Daryl Kavanaghs flick on from Conor McCormacks long ball. Finn took a great first touch and coolly slotted home to give us some hope.
It was Kavanagh who was making the difference and he was running at defenders and causing the Bray back four problems, something we hadn’t done all game. After a ridiculous change at left back Greene for Powell I felt we wouldn’t get the second by playing the same way but Kavanagh managed to wriggle his way through 5 players and slide a through ball to Twigg who took it in his stride and struck it past Quigley to rescue a point.
With 7 minutes left there was still time for a winner and Turner hit the post with a header but we couldn’t find a breakthrough and in truth we didn’t deserve to win. Fans becoming disgruntled with our performances but we still remain only 3 points off the top of the table.
Keep on Hooping!

Setanta Semi-Final

I was really looking forward to the Setanta Cup semi-final against Derry but was shocked and really disappointed to see the abysmal attendance in Tallaght for the first league. Reigning All-Ireland champions and an important competition in terms of budgets I was hoping for a bumper crowd and a good performance……I got neither!
We started off brightly until a blatant dive resulted in a peanltu for Derry and a straight red card for Reyaad Pieterse in only his second game for us. I felt sorry for the young South Africian especially after I saw the replay and saw no contact and then to hear that referee Alan Kelly said “it doesn’t matter you don’t have to” in response to Reyaads when he said “I never touched him”, this was really sickening and when Derry scored the penalty to go one up I feared the worst.
In fact we dominated possession for the rest of the half even with 10 men and it was very frustrating that we never troubled Doherty considering the strong wind we had in our favour. I pet hate of mine recently has been our inability to shoot when we get into range with no pressure on the ball, Finn in particular was guilty of this first half.
At half-time the general feeling was that we just needed to stay in the tie and go up o Derry for the return leg with 11 men and take the game to them. Unfortunately the 2nd half was a disaster and Patrick McEleney showed our midfielders and strikers how to do it by using the strong wind and unleashing a thunderbolt from 25 years which flew past Jansson.
As we searched for a goal back we conceded a third after Ryan McBride headed home from a corner we failed to clear properly and Rovers fans left frustrated and angry at the referee, the managers team selection and the inept performances of a number of our players.  Only a miracle next week will see us reach the final on May 12th
Keep on Hooping!

Dundalk Hit For Six

It was the type of performance we had been hoping for since the start of the season, clinical, ruthless and professional, the perfect response to the shocking performance against Pats last week! The first half an hour was cagey and Dundalk defended well but as soon as Chris Turner headed home there was no doubting the result.
Twigg added a second before the break and the floodgates open 2nd half when Dennehy hammered home the free kick only a minute in. 3-0 up and cruising the fans demanded more goals and wanted the team to push on and show our dominance. To our delighted we did exactly that and after a period of possession with no end product the final 10 minutes brought 3 more goals.
Twiggy bagged a brace to complete his hat-trick and despite all Twiggys goals he had amazingly only scored one previous hat-trick for Rovers (away to Galway in 2009) so this was his first hat-trick in Tallaght. I suppose it was probably down to the amount of times Mick O’Neill used to take him off to rest him when we were winning games well but it was great to see him being left on to bag the hat-trick. Strikers thrive on goals and as long as he feels fresh leave him on and let him keep racking up the goals. He could conceivable reach 100 Rovers goals by the end of the season or next season at the latest which will etch the great man even further into Rovers folklore.
With the game already won Daryl Kavanagh rounded of the scoring with a deft header, his first league goal for the club and he enjoyed it. Hopefully the start of a good run for Daryl because we haven’t seen much out of him yet.
In truth Dundalk were awful and with a very young and inexperienced team they will really struggle this season and seem destined to be involved in a relegation battle. I hope they stay up because with a strong fan base they certainly add to the league and they are making great strides at Youth level with their U-18’s and U-19’s having great season. Clubs who put resources into their Youth set-up deserve to reap rewards but for now it looks like a lean period ahead for Sean McCaffreys men.
Keep on Hooping!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

More Penalties!

Going down to Galway on Monday we all expected a big response after Fridays debacle and with the majority of Fridays team rested it was a chance for fringe players to force themselves into the managers thoughts with a good performance again Division 1’s bottom team SD Galway.
The game started in terrible conditions and it was a strange day of weather on the West coast. 150 or so Hoops made the journey and for those who couldn’t make it they didn’t miss much!! We needed two penalties to score against a team of journeymen and kids, most of whom wouldn’t even get in a Leinster Senior League team never mind a League of Ireland team.
The first penalty was early on when McCabe was fouled and he duly converted from the spot. We played poorly and created little and our bvest chance to extended the lead fell to Gary O’Neill shot straight at the keeper from 6 yards after the keeper had spilled a Killian Brennan free kick. The 2nd penalty was also converted by McCabe after a foul on Kavanagh and it was 2-0 Hoops at the break.
The goals galore we expected in the 2nd half never came and apart from one great passage of play which saw Powell hit the post after a quick counter attack we were poor again. Kavanagh missed a sitter late on when he fired over after finding himself one on one with the SD Galway keeper.
The change back to 4-4-2 didn’t seem to work and Rice and Brennan in centre midfield is a partnership I hope I never see again! In Kavanagh and O’Neill I have never seen two front men who look less likely to score, neither can run in behind and neither ever seem to want to shoot when they get into good areas. Greene and McCabe should have been far more capable of beating full backs in a game of this nature and they were both disappointing. Debutant keeper Reyaad Pieterse had little to do for his clean sheet but had one hairy moment when his attempted clearance was blocked and almost resulted in a goal, the young South African will hardly have an easier day in his career. The only positives on the day were the performances of Gartland and Powell and the return from injury of Conor McCormack. Powell surely needs to start this weekend and Gartland was a rock at the back although he was playing against the most toothless front line in the League of Ireland.
Another win but another frustrating day, surely there is better to come, please god tell me there is!!
Keep on Hooping!

Good Friday was a Bad Friday

For the third Friday in a row we had a Dublin derby to look forward to, this time away to St. Pats. We sold out our allocation of 1,000 tickets prior to last Friday and it was disappointing that Pats didn’t realise an extra allocation to our fans despite a large amount of empty seats in the round in the home sections. It seems silly that in this day and age clubs are turning down much need revenue, anyway back to on field matters and despite the return of Powell and McCabe from suspension it was somewhat of a surprise that Stephen Kenny decided to remain with the same team that defeated Bohs the previous week.
Pats were obviously a far stronger and much more attacking team so the decision to start Killian Brennan was one that surprised us prior to the game when we seen the starting line up. Sadly we were proved right and from the outset Pats bombarded Brennan and were rewarded when Forrester opened the scoring cutting in from the Pats right, past Brennan and fired a left foot shot past Jansson.
The 2nd goal again came from Forrester cutting in from that side and when his effort on goal was deflected it fell straight into the path of Russell who tapped home. Now by this stage everybody in the Rovers section could see we needed to change but Kenny kept it as we were and we got punished again with Brennan caught in the Pats half we lost possession and quick ball to Forrester was picked up by Fagan who back heeled to Forrester to audaciously lob the ball over Jansson and Pats fans were in dreamland, 3 up and cruising.
We managed to pull one back just before the break with Ken Oman powerfully heading home to make it 3-1 and give us a glimmer of hope. We expected changes at half-time and we really could have made all 3 but only Aaron Greene was replaced by McCabe. Nothing changed in terms of the flow of the game and late on with the game already getting away from us Christy Fagan scored twice to make it 5-1 and round of an embarrassing night for us all in attendance.
It was a shocking performance all round and Jansson had a nighmare between the sticks, the two full backs were poor and left exposed all to often. The two centre halves were seemingly doing the same job and were far too narrow providing very little cover for either full back and allowing our midfield to drop far too deep on top of them. Rice and Turner barely crossed the half way line and although Ricer was our best player in terms of effort and never say die attitude he was headless at times running out of position and trying to do jobs that others should have been doing. Finn was the least effect playmaker I have ever seen and provided absolutely no support to Twigg. Twigg himself was poor but very isolated and left to compete for 50/50 long balls and the few he won were easily picked up by Pats as we had nobody in support. Our wingers were terrible and looked they were neither playing as front men or wide midfielders.
It was an exhibition in how not to play 4-3-3 and looked like a poor 4-5-1 and we got what we deserved. A massive improvement will be needed next week and it was the opinion of most of the Rovers support that the result had been coming and we haven’t played well all year. Early days yet of course but Stephen Kenny is not endearing himself to the fans with our poor brand of football.
Keep on Hooping!

You’ll Never Win in Tallaght

With Tallaght becoming something of a fortress against our Dublin rivals Bohs ever since Gary Twiggs to late goals to secure victory in the first derby in 2009 there was plenty of optimism for this game especially considering the poor form Bohs had been in, failing to score in 4 outings so far this season.
We once again played a 4-3-3 formation should really have dominated possession particularly in the midfield area but Bohs playing a 4-5-1 frustrated and thwarted our attacks and would definitely have been the happier of the sides at the break with the score at 0-0.
Rovers fans expected better second half but it was more of the same and Stephen Kenny rung the changes after the hour mark with Gary O’Neill and Daryl Kavanagh entering the fray. It had the desired affect and with just over 12 minutes remaining, Ronan Finn managed to find some space and deliver a pin point cross to Twigg who expertly controlled and calmly slotted away in a crowded penalty area. He had been largely ineffective throughout the game but showed his true class at that moment to send the 5,000 plus crowd wild.
Bohs pushed on in search of an equaliser and could have had one in stoppage time after a dreadful error from Jansson lead to a chance which Bohs squandered much to our relief. Then with virtually the last kick of the game Billy Dennehy sealed the victory finishing off a quick counter attack which saw On’Neill find Kavanagh in the area and despite his poor first touch he found Dennehy who celebrated the goal with the home fans and of course our beloved Hooperman!
Chorus’ of “You’ll Never Win in Tallaght” rang out around the ground and thankfully we have yet to experience a Rovers loss against the old foe!
Keep on Hooping!

Shels Hit For Four

With our ineffective and unspiring performances to date, Stephen Kenny changed to a 4-3-3 formation for the game against Shels and it wasn’t long before it had the desired affect.Aaron Greene finding Dennehy who went to round Delaney in the Shels goal and the keepers foul resulted in a straight red and a penalty which Twigg converted to leave us 1 up and playing against 10 men after only 4 minutes.
A comical own goal led to our second as Stephen Hurleys back pass found the back of the net when substitute keeper Paul Skinner has drifted from his goal to try give an angle to receive the pass. Shels knew it wasn’t going to be there night and it went from bad to worse just before the break when Ronan Finns powerful drive went straight through Skinner and put us 3 up.
The biggest crowd of the season in the league with over 5,000 in attendance were left waiting until 15 minutes from time to see a fourth goal and it was another defensive mix-up that allowed Aaron Greene to steal in and tap home.
The game ended on a sour note when Gar McCabe was harshly adjudged to have dived and earned his 2nd yellow card and he was sent off after only being on the pitch for a little over 20 minutes. All in all it was a good result for us and an unhappy first competitive game in Tallaght for Shels!
Keep on Hooping!

Belfast Beckons

The 2nd leg of the Setanta Sports Cup Quarter Final against Cliftoville should have been a formality had we taken the chances we created in the first leg but instead we went to Solitude with a 2 goal lead and Cliftonville still in the tie. Scoring first we would have been a big part of Stephen Kennys team talk but instead we wnet into half time 1-0 down, playing poorly and again squandering the chances we created.
In the 2nd half we did create more and more chance but a combination of the woodwork, good goalkeeping and poor finishing meant we couldn’t finish of the tie and we got duly punished when Cliftonville forced extra time with a late goal to leave the scores 2-2 on aggregate.
After extra time and no further goals it was the 2nd consecutive Cup night penalty shoot out for us and thankfully it turned out to be the 2nd consecutive penalty shoot out success with Oscar Jansson again proving his worth with 2 saves and added to Cliftonville also hitting the post we won 3-1 on penalties. Dennehy, Turner and Gartland all successful from the spot  and it seems like the penalty hodoo has been lifted!
Again it was a matter of limping over the line rather than sprinting over it and we will need to do an awful lot better in the Semi-Final against Derry City, who overcame Irish League champions Linfield in their quarter final, if we have aspirations of retaining our All-Ireland title from last season.
Keep on Hooping!

Return of the Rebels

It’s great to have Cork City back in the Premier Division, or at least it was prior to the game but we our poor record in Turners Cross in recent years and our patchy form so far this campaign we should have expected what we got. A first half that lack quality and goalmouth action was disappointing for our large contingent of supporters who made the trek despite the early kick-off and the fact that the game was on tv.
In the 2nd half Cork were on top but never looked like scoring until Gavin Kavanagh picked up possession after a poor pass from Ricer and Twigg failed to get first to it. Kavanagh hit a speculative effort from distance more out of hope than expectation and Jansson who was the hero on Monday night turned into the villain as he let it hop straight over him into the net to send the Shed End wild behind his goal.
Conor Powell was then harshly dismissed after a terrible pass from Billy sold him short and he received a straight red for diving in and catching the Cork player. We looked doomed but to our credited we pushed in search of an equaliser and went to 3 at the back with Greene working tirelessly to fill the gap left by Powell at left full.
With poor deliveries from set pieces and wide areas ll match we had one last corner in stoppage time, again it was disappointing and didn’t beat the front man. It fell back out to Dennehy who over hit the 2nd cross but Oman managed to get a head on it and find Twigg who nodded home from inside the 6 yard box to rescue an unlikey point and maintain our unbeaten start to the campaign. Much to ponder for our fans on the long journey home
Keep on Hooping!

Who Are Ya?

It was a case of who are you when I saw the Bohs team trot out onto the Tallaght pitch for the Leinster Senior Cup tie, a mixture of fringe players and U-19s made up both sides but the obvious different in strength and depth was there for all to see with players such as Gartland, Turner, McCabe and Greene all on display for us and no real players of note for Bohs. Early injurys to Turner and McCabe halted their chances to impress the manager and it was a poor game that never really got the smaller than normal crowd excited.
We did take the lead through a Sean Dixon goal early in the 2nd half and the youngster can be proud of his finish but Bohs equalised 15 minutes later and we no further goals the groans were to be heard amongst the crowd when we realised we had to sit through 30 minutes of extra time!
Tired legs on both sides led to mistake creeping into the game and we were lucky on two occasions not concede and when substitute Niall Forrester was deservedly sent off for two silly challenges in the space of 5 minutes it seemed that hanging on for penalties was our best option but then again with our penalty record who knows!
Penalties it was and thankfully not at the car park end! O’Donnell, Greene and Gartland all showed composure to score our first 3 and Jansson saved Bohs third to put us in the driving seat, Sean Gannon saw his effort saved and then Jack Memery and Dean Ebbe converted before Jansson saved again to make himself the hero on the night! A less than inspiring victory in a less than inspiring competition but always nice to beat Bohs anyway!
Keep on Hooping!

Roddy Returns

I have never been a fan of Roddy Collins from his time at Bohs and his ill fated spell in charge of us but I must compliment how his Monaghan team attempted to play when they came to Tallaght. They started off brightly in our faces and scored from a set-piece, a worrying trend in our early season games. To rub salt into the wounds it was former player Willo McDonagh who scored.
At that point I felt they would sit back and put everybody behind the bal and try to frustrate and contain us and they even picked up a first half yellow card for time wasting although Reynor was unlucky to receive the caution that would later come back to haunt him. To their credit they continued to play ball and attacked at every opportunity despite their limited quality. They left their front 3 up at all times even on our set pieces and we were struggling to get into a rhythm. 
1-0 down at HT the East Stand was not impressed and luckily we equalised early in the 2nd half after a another poor Dennehy corner managed to find its way to Brennan who flicked home but in truth it should have been cleared. The players were buoyed by that and we took the lead 7 minutes later with asublime finish by Billy Dennehy but in truth he should never have got the opportunity to make room from the strike. Ricers poor pass was controlled at chest height by Billy and with no pressure from Monaghan he allowed it to hop 3 times vbefore setting himself to finish. Roddy would have been disappointed with his teams defending.
Reynor was then sent off after a late tackle on Ricer and this was a great sense of amusement to the crowd after he had taunted the East Stand in the first half when the score was 1-0, Karma is a bitch!! Aaron Greene wrapped up the scoring with an injury time goal after a nice move and we got the 3 points after another lacklustre display.
Keep on Hooping!