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'Sure we'll have a go at everything' - Gaffney hails Bradley influence as Rovers ride high

As the Hoops prepare to continue their European journey with a group stage campaign, influential striker insists domestic focus must now return.

Stephen Bradley (right) issues instructions to Rory Gaffney.
Stephen Bradley (right) issues instructions to Rory Gaffney.
Image: Kostadin Andonov/INPHO

RORY GAFFNEY HAS hailed the foresight of head coach Stephen Bradley with Shamrock Rovers set to embark on the second European group stage campaign in the club’s history.

The Hoops are guaranteed a place in the Europa Conference League after their 5-2 aggregate win over FC Shkupi saw them progress to the play-off round of the Europa League.

Victory over Hungarian champions Ferencvaros will see Rovers take their place in Europe’s second tier competition, where they could be drawn to play the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, or Jose Mourinho’s Roma.

The Conference League offers a safety net worth in the region of €3 million and Gaffney, whose deflected shot killed the tie last night and was brought to Tallaght Stadium in 2020 after spells in the English lower leagues, says lessons have been learned from a disappointing campaign last season.

“The manager, in fairness, when he’s gone through video clips, he has pointed out how teams have punished us at times. He’s always looking at the bigger picture.

“He might show a clip from a Finn Harps game and that could cost you in Europe. He’s been thinking about it and he’s been building this over the last number of years.

“It’s come this year,” the Galway native explained, citing how the chastening experiences of 12 months ago were not simply brushed aside and ignored.

rory-gaffney Gaffney in action last night. Source: Kostadin Andonov/INPHO

“Last year was my first time in Europe. Flora [Tallinn] were good. The first night over there, it could have been four or five, they probably disrespected us on the night. They didn’t finish us off.

“We got them back to Tallaght and put in a great performance. It wasn’t enough at the time. We took care of business handy enough against the Albanian team (Tueta).

“You were stepping into the unknown. Nobody knew much about the Estonia League, suppose Estonians didn’t know much about the Irish League. Flora showed how good they were on the night. They picked us off, in fairness.

“Afterwards, you were looking at their players playing against Belgium, used to playing in big games. They sat back and picked us off. This year, the gaffer worked on that, he spoke about that.

We knew how dangerous they were last week. They showed it again [last night]. We had a cushion. We had something to hold on to.”

The same goes on the domestic front, where Rovers go into Friday’s clash with third placed Derry City holding a six-point lead over Dundalk at the top of the Premier Division.

With a game in hand, that advantage could be stretched to nine, and Gaffney is well aware of the importance of the entire squad to ensure Rovers secure a third title in a row, which in turn means they will again enter the European qualification rounds on the champions’ path.

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“The club have invested in the squad. With Danny Mandroiu leaving as well. Pico (Roberto Lopes) has been brilliant for the club the last few years. If you were saying at the start of the season you’d have qualified for the group stages where was Pico injured, Chris McCann injured, Danny Mandroiu has left, Jack Byrne is coming back from injury, Graham Burke has been injured recently.

“It shows you the quality that’s in the squad. Dylan Watts has been brilliant. Aaron Greene has come in. Sean Gannon’s experience. We brought on Sean Kavanagh. There is a really good squad there. I wouldn’t know what our best XI is, maybe the manager doesn’t know either.

rovers-players-and-management-celebrate-after-the-game Source: Kostadin Andonov/INPHO

“If we don’t win the League we’d be at a huge disadvantage [in Europe] next season. We had a favourable tie against Hibs from Malta. Everyone was delighted to get them,” Gaffney added.

“Out of the five teams we could got that day, that was the one we wanted. It made things easier for us. We’d have taken a team from North Macedonia, Shkupi, compared to somebody else we could have got.

“We will want to have a go at the group stages, trying to win the League is our bread and butter. It’s my main focus. Sure, we’ll have a go at everything.”

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