Jack Byrne, in training at Shamrock Rovers' training base in Roadstone. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
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Jack Byrne returns but mixed injury news for Shamrock Rovers ahead of decisive Shkupi tie

Rovers, meanwhile, are working to confirm access to a livestream of the game, as it won’t be broadcast on Irish television.

JACK BYRNE IS available for Shamrock Rovers’ Europa League third qualifying round second leg away to Shkupi of North Macedonia tomorrow night, having recovered from injury. 

With that good news for Rovers comes a but: influential midfielder Chris McCann will be absent with the calf injury that forced him off during last week’s 3-1 first leg win. 

Byrne has barely featured in Rovers’ European run to date, playing just 20 minutes off the bench in the Champions League first qualifying round draw away to Hibernians of Malta. That marked a return from injury, but he has since been sidelined with a hip flexor issue. Byrne is now fit to return for tomorrow’s second leg in Skopje, where progress will guarantee Rovers’ a place in the group phase of the third-tier Europa Conference League while offering a shot at the richer rewards of the Europa League group phase, as they will face a two-legged play-off against either Qarabag or Ferencvaros. 

McCann, however, will be a signficant loss: the experienced midfielder was man-of-the match in last Thursday’s first leg win at Tallaght Stadium. 

Rovers have not been beset by too much travel difficulty ahead of this game, taking a charter flight from Dublin to the game, and they will return via Shannon. 

“Yeah, thankfully our travel was good, flight, hotel, everything was perfect, a lot better than what we’ve had on our previous trip [to Bulgaria]“, said Rovers manager Stephen Bradley.

Despite the two-goal cushion on aggregate, Bradley says he wants to see his side up their performance levels from the first leg. 

“We’re one game away from it”, says Bradley of the guarantee of group stage football. “We know it’s a tough one but we’ve worked hard to get ourselves into this position and it’s a nice position to be in

“Second half, they showed the quality we knew that they had, for 25 minutes we needed Alan [Mannus] to keep us in the game and they showed their quality in that moment and tomorrow I’d imagine we’ll bring that from the first minute so we’ve got to make sure we go up the levels tomorrow.

“It’s needed, we need to go up a few levels to win the game tomorrow night. Alan was fantastic last week, he made some really important saves, too many important saves for our liking so we’ve got to make sure that we go up a few levels.”

The game will not be broadcast on Irish television: Shamrock Rovers offered their European ties to RTÉ, Virgin Media and TG4 at the start of the summer, but thus far only RTÉ have shown ties. RTÉ, having screened St Pat’s victory away to CSKA Sofia last week, are understood to be showing the return leg at Tallaght Stadium on Thursday. 

Despite requests, Rovers have not yet been able to confirm access to a live stream that can be viewed via the LOI TV platform, as has been the case for the ties that have not been televised thus far. The club are hopeful further progress on this front will be made at a meeting with Shkupi club delegates later this evening. 

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