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'I didn't mean to kick him in the face. Not at 2-0 up anyways. If I was 2-0 down maybe!'

Shamrock Rovers striker Rory Gaffney insists there was no malice intended when he connected with a kick to the face of Gabriel Izquier Artiles

Rory Gaffney is dragged to the ground leading to the incident.
Rory Gaffney is dragged to the ground leading to the incident.
Image: Evan Treacy/INPHO

RORY GAFFNEY INSISTED there was no malice intended when he connected with a kick to the face of Gabriel Izquier Artiles following a collision that saw both players end up on the ground.

The Shamrock Rovers striker put it in a man-of-the-match display as the Hoops cruised to a 3-0 win over Hibernians of Malta in the first leg of their first round Champions League qualifier.

Gaffney delivered two first-half assists, first for Ronan Finn and then Dylan Watts, before striking a killer third goal 12 minutes from time.

But there was controversy when he clashed with Izquier Artiles, with replay suggesting he could have easily have been shown a red instead of yellow.

“I definitely caught him, I didn’t mean to. I thought he was on me and I was trying to get him off me but he obviously dragged me to the floor,” Gaffney explained.

“I’ve got sent off once in my life and never meant to kick him in the face. I suppose I have kicked him but I didn’t go out to kick him in the face, not at 2-0 up anyways. If I was 2-0 down maybe.”

rory-gaffney-scores-a-goal Gaffney scores Rovers' third goal. Source: Evan Treacy/INPHO

The Rovers front man was also keen to praise captain Finn and midfielder Watts for their finishes on the end of his assists.

“A great finish from Finner and unbelievable from Wattsy, he’s been brilliant the last few weeks. It wasn’t a great ball into the box but the way he opened up and finished it, he made it.”

His third goal sealed the win and, most likely, progress to a second-round qualifier with Ludogrets, who hold a 2-0 lead from their own first-leg.

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“I was trying to pass to Wattsy, the defender never came across and I thought, ‘shit, I’ve to hit it here so thankfully it went in’. We were watching videos of Hibernians and you never know what they are like until you play against them.

“But I think after 20 minutes we kind of looked comfortable didn’t we? It’s nice to go over there with a lead, I’m sure it’s going to be warm over there so we’ll be able to sit in a bit more rather than go at it. They showed they were good on the break. Now we’ve a 3-0 lead, we don’t have to give them that space.

“I suppose if we take care of this tie, we kind of have a free hit at it don’t we, a free run. All we have to do is win two games out of four (including the Hibs game) and we make group stages isn’t it?

“We want to do it, this Conference League gives us clubs a chance to get a run in Europe because it’s difficult to make the Champions League and Europa League

“We’ve taken care of business tonight and just have to do it next week.”

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