'Serious questions need to be asked' - Rovers boss Bradley hits out at 'unacceptable' flight chaos

Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley is frustrated at the ongoing troubles Irish sides are having in securing charter flights to European games.

Stephen Bradley celebrating after victory in North Macedonia.
Stephen Bradley celebrating after victory in North Macedonia.
Image: Kostadin Andonov/INPHO

SHAMROCK ROVERS TONIGHT extended their European run into the autumn, by progressing to the play-off round of the Europa League and guaranteeing group stage football. 

A 2-1 away to Shkupi of North Macedonia tonight sealed a 5-2 aggregate win to set up a tie with Ferencvaros of Hungary, where progress will earn Rovers a place in the Europa League proper. Defeat will mean a consolation prize of a a spot in the third-tier Conference League groups. 

With another four European trips now guaranteed, manager Stephen Bradley is hoping that the ongoing travel chaos affecting clubs flying in and out of Ireland is addressed, as he held his counsel until after tonight’s game to complain of the fact Rovers could only secure a charter flight in and out of Shannon airport for tonight’s game.

Rovers were unable to fly out of Dublin to the game because of staffing issues at the airport. This follows having to fly via Shannon to the tie against Hibernians of Malta in the first round of their European run, while they had to fly separately on a series of commercial flights to the away leg against Ludogorets of Bulgaria. 

Shkupi themselves complained of having to fly via Shannon to last week’s first leg, while St Patrick’s Athletic flew to last week’s tie away to CSKA Sofia via Knock. They were then unable to source a charter flight home from the Thursday night game, with their return delayed to Sunday morning, which forced the cancellation of their league game with Shelbourne. 

Not all clubs have been equally affected: CSKA Sofia and Ludogorets both secured charter arrivals and departures via Dublin. 

“We are really disappointed at that”, said Bradley at having to fly home via Shannon. “We find out, again, [CSKA] Sofia are flying in and out of Dublin. Serious questions have to be asked: how the Irish teams can’t do this, and it seems every team that comes here can do it. Serious questions need to be asked of the people who are making these decisions. It’s not acceptable.

“I understand travel is chaos for everyone at the moment. But it can’t be that both Bulgarian teams are flying in and out of Dublin direct, and we are going out through Shannon and have to go back through Shannon. Pat’s, and the trouble they are having – it’s not right. There needs to be serious questions asked of who is allowing this to happen and why it is happening.

“It cost us against Ludogorets, I have no doubt it cost us, our travel to the first leg. And I just hope it doesn’t affect St Pat’s at home, because it is not acceptable. It can’t be.” 

Asked to reflect on the achievement of qualifying for a group phase, Bradley said, “It’s difficult at the moment, as right away I am thinking of Derry and Friday night. Maybe tomorrow night when I am sitting down with my wife and a glass of wine that I’ll  definitely look at. It’s something we set out to do at the start of the year, and we have achieved it. But the job is not done. We are not just going to the group stages, [we are going] to win games and do our best to get out of the group. 

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“I thought the players were fantastic tonight. I knew we had to go up a few levels tonight and I felt we did that. We limited them to very little and possibly could have score a couple more on what was a really poor pitch and difficult conditions weather-wise, but I thought we handled that really well.”

Their meeting with Derry is going ahead on Friday, as Bradley said the League rejected Rovers’ request to have the game moved to Saturday or Sunday to allow them extra preparation time.

“We asked last week to move the game to Saturday or Sunday, we didn’t want the game off”, said Bradley. “The league came back and said no, which I find really strange. We are not asking for the game off, but the league have said it’s not possible. Which is really poor from them.” 

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