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Shamrock Rovers' European opponents vow to avenge the 'evil' of being forced to fly via Shannon Airport

Shkupi of North Macedonia have slammed the Irish government, describing the failure to fly via Dublin as a ‘cheap game that has no place in football.’

Shamrock Rovers' squad, ahead of a previous European tie against Hibernians of Malta.
Shamrock Rovers' squad, ahead of a previous European tie against Hibernians of Malta.
Image: Evan Treacy/INPHO

SHAMROCK ROVERS’ EUROPA League opponents, Shkupi of North Macedonia, have today published a dramatic statement vowing to avenge the “evil” of being forced to travel to the game via Shannon airport. 

As is generally custom, Shkupi travelled to today’s game in Tallaght via a charter plane, but were forced to fly into Shannon rather than Dublin airport. 

This exercised the club to the point they have now released a statement complaining of their treatment, questioning whether the same would happen a higher-ranked side, citing the fact Ludogorets of Bulgaria were able to fly via Dublin for their tie against Rovers last week. 

Shkupi ask the Irish government to intervene and arrange a return flight from Dublin, and have also fired a warning shot at Rovers, saying their detour has fostered an anger which will show itself on the field. They describe their route via Shannon as “cheap games” which “should have not a place in football”, saying they will not “bow down” and will respond “like lions on the field.” 

Their statement is inaccurate in a couple of respects: it exaggerates the distance between Dublin and Shannon, while a number of clubs have been affected by staffing issues at Dublin airport in recent weeks. Rovers themselves had to fly via Shannon for their first qualifying round game in Malta against Hibernians, and they couldn’t source a charter flight at all for their subsequent game away to Ludogorets in Bulgaria. St Patrick’s Athletic, meanwhile, flew to their tie against CSKA Sofia via Knock. Pat’s opponents in the previous round, Mura of Slovenia, were also forced to take a charter flight via Knock. 

“Our team is being interfered with by making small plays in such an unbecoming manner”, read the Shkupi statement. “Despite our budget, we were trying to keep our players comfortable by hiring a charter plane and paying thousands of euros to ensure that our players could make it to the Europa League in good health, but the Irish government did not listen to Uefa. Despite the intervention of Uefa, landed us 300 km away from Dublin and gave our team an undeserved treatment on this journey. 

“Likewise, after the match, [the government] will send it back 300 km and fly it from there. Unfortunately, this has not been done to any other team except the North Macedonia team, our loneliness has emerged again as we progressed on the European road.

“I beg your North Macedonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that we should at least arrange for tonight’s return to Dublin. In addition, we would like to say to the Irish that they should know well that we have a very characterful team.

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“The reward of being a team is to respond as a team to the evil done to you in the same way, today our team will show you what a character it is, like lions on the field, it will show that there is no team that will not bow down to such cheap games, such cheap games should not have a place in football, they should not go unpunished.

“You only landed FC Shkupi at the airport, but you landed PFC Ludogorets in Dublin, could you treat us the same if any Italian, Spanish, German or English team showed up? We hope that our government will respond to this situation, with my respect to the public.” 

Rovers’ face Shkupi at Tallaght Stadium tonight, with kick-off at 8pm. The return leg in North Macedonia takes place next Tuesday, for which Rovers have secured a charter flight. There is not enough staff at Dublin airport to facilitate a return flight immediately after the game, so Rovers plan to stay Tuesday night and return to Belfast on Wednesday, as they have a league game away to Derry City on the Friday night. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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