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Bradley: 'We never said we would challenge for the title, we actually said that we couldn't'

Shamrock Rovers earned their fifth league win of the season on Friday night, but boss Stephen Bradley believes it will take time to catch up to Dundalk and Cork City.

Stephen Bradley.
Stephen Bradley.
Image: Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

SHAMROCK ROVERS HEAD coach Stephen Bradley reaffirmed his view that the Hoops would not be title challengers this season, stating that more progression was needed to catch both Dundalk and champions Cork City.

He was speaking after his side dispatched Sligo Rovers 1-0 at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night, with newly-signed striker Dan Carr bagging the winner with half an hour to go.

The win was Rovers’ fifth from nine games in the Premier Division this season, leaving them in fourth spot. However, boss Bradley repeated his assessment from the beginning of the year that his side would struggle to compete for top spot.

“We never said we’d challenge for the title,” he said. “We actually said that we couldn’t. We need time to catch Dundalk and Cork and nothing’s changed there.

“I think it’s everyone else outside saying they want us to challenge or expect us to challenge.

“We’ve never said that we’d challenge Dundalk or Cork this year, we finished a lot of points behind them last year. It takes time to make that up.”

Rovers last won the title in 2011, winning the Premier Division back-to-back under current Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill, but have finished no higher than third in the last five campaigns.

Stephen Bradley 2018 sees Bradley take charge for his second full season in charge at Tallaght Stadium. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

The side finished third in 2017, 22 points behind double-winners Cork City.

They maintain their spot in the European places following Friday night’s win, with Bradley admitting that the victory was hard-fought on a night where his side struggled to get going.

“No, it wasn’t our best performance and we know that,” Bradley said.

“We had patches where we played okay, but overall it’s probably our worst performance outside of Bohs [a 3-1 defeat]. But credit to the players, they dug in and in the second half it was a little bit better, and we got the win.

“When we play well we do play with a high tempo and move the ball quickly, but in the first half we were just off it. We had one of those nights where we were off it.

“Everything was slow, both in and out of possession. Look we were off it tonight, but we won the game. I think it’s one of those nights where you’re just off the pace.”

Daniel Carr after the game Daniel Carr scored the winner for Shamrock Rovers against Sligo. Source: Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

The 33-year-old praised goalscorer Carr, who signed at the beginning of the year having last played for Karlstad BK in Sweden following spells at both Huddersfield Town and Reading.

“Dan’s doing well, he’s a good player. We know Shawsy [Gary Shaw] is there, Sean Boyd is there. It’s a long season, there are a lot of games and all the strikers will get their run in the team. Right now Dan’s doing well, so he stays in the team.

“It was actually one of our best bits of play for the goal. We created an opening, got the ball to Sean [Kavanagh], it was a great delivery and to be fair to Dan it was a hard finish. Most forwards would give up on it because it goes on the wrong side of the centre half, but he kept going and it was a good finish.

“We didn’t do much in the game, to be honest. It was probably the worst we’ve been here in terms of our play, but the pleasing thing is that we showed a different side of our game to go and win 1-0.”

Reporting by Dave Donnelly

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