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‘It’s a proud moment to bring this special club back to the Aviva. This club belongs in cup finals’

Stephen Bradley believes Shamrock Rovers belong in cup finals after beating rivals Bohemians last night.

Roberto Lopes, Jack Byrne and Aaron McEneff celebrate.
Roberto Lopes, Jack Byrne and Aaron McEneff celebrate.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

STEPHEN BRADLEY IS hoping to avenge memories of 2010 as Shamrock Rovers prepare for an FAI Cup final showdown on the first weekend of November.

Goals in either half from Graham Burke and Aaron Greene helped the visitors to Dalymount Park secure a 2-0 semi-final win on Friday against Bohemians, who had Danny Mandroiu sent off late on.

Rovers, record FAI Cup holders with 24 titles to their name, have not won the competition since 1987 and have lost all three final appearances since.

Bradley was sent off in extra-time the last time they walked out at the Aviva Stadium, as the Hoops were beaten on penalties by Sligo Rovers in front of a record crowd of over 36,000 nine years ago.

Now in charge of the Tallaght side, the 34-year-old said reaching FAI Cup finals and competing for silverware is where the club rightfully belongs.

“It’s brilliant, it’s a proud moment for me to bring this special club back to the Aviva,” he said.

“But that’s where this club belongs, it belongs in cup finals and it belongs at the top of the table. We’ll go there to win the game. We’re fully focussed on winning the game.”

stephen-bradley-celebrates Shamrock Rovers head coach Stephen Bradley celebrates. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

After exiting the cup at the hands of First Division Drogheda United in the first-round last season, Bradley came under intense pressure from Rovers supporters, some of whom produced a banner which read: ‘It’s not working out, enough is enough’.

Having successfully navigated through that difficult spell in the summer of 2018, Bradley led Rovers to third place last campaign, second place this season and will now compete against either Dundalk or Sligo Rovers at the Aviva Stadium come November.

“The fans are demanding and I understand that,” he said. “I understood that when I came in. It was never an issue. The pleasing thing was that the board were nice and calm when that was going on.

“Their message was quite clear: there’s no change, relax, do what you do, we know where we’re going. So when you have that from your board and you have that backing, it’s very, very simple to do your job because you can be calm and you can make clear decisions.

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aaron-greene-celebrates Aaron Greene scored Shamrock Rovers' second goal at Dalymount Park. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We’ve done that and now we want to go and win it. We want to repay the fans and go and win it. ”

Bradley’s side were in total control throughout Friday’s semi-final showdown with rivals Bohemians. With five minutes on the clock Ireland international Burke headed Rovers into the lead.

With ten minutes remaining, and having held their opponents at arm’s length, Greene put the result beyond doubt by adding a second in the 80th minute.

A sold-out crowd of almost 4,000 fans packed into Dalymount for the affair and Bradley believes nights like Friday showcase the potential within domestic Irish football.

“I think if the game was in Tallaght you’d get 10,000 at it easy,” the Rovers head coach said. “The product is there, it’s getting better. We just need to keep promoting it, keep pushing it and keep believing in it, because the quality is there.

“We’ve three Irish internationals on the pitch tonight [Joey O'Brien, Graham Burke and Jack Byrne]. The quality is there, the product is there, we just need to keep believing in it and keep pushing.”

His side have already mathematically secured second place in the Premier Division. But with four league games remaining, Bradley says his players will certainly not be taking their eye off the ball between now and 3 November where they will face either Dundalk or Sligo, who meet at the Showgrounds on Sunday.

“We’ve played both a lot this year. There’ll be nothing different that we haven’t faced already. The two of them give you different challenges, but I’ll go and watch the [semi-final] on Sunday and see who comes out on top.

“Every game we go out now, it is an audition. Our players need to make sure they’re in the team for the final. It’s as simple as that: the jersey is there, go and grab it.”

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Aaron Gallagher

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