THE EUROPA CONFERENCE The League is lucrative ground – but Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley insists his side are not motivated by the prize money on offer.
Rovers have already cashed in a guaranteed €3.3m by qualifying for the group stages, and will earn an additional €500,000 for each group match they win and €166,000 for a draw. For context, Rovers would need to win five league titles to top the prize money offered for just one win in their six group games in this year’s campaign.
Bradley, however, thinks nothing of it.
“No, we are not interested. It’s all about making sure we’re performing. If we perform, let’s see if it can bring the result. That’s all we focus on.
The campaign begins tomorrow night at Tallaght Stadium against Sweden’s Djurgardens, who are the top seeds in the group but by no means the minnows. They are second in the Swedish league, one point off the top with nine games remaining.
“A tough challenge,” Bradley said when asked what challenge they would pose.
“They’re a really good team, they’re close to the top of their domestic league and when you watch them you can see they’re really well trained, some really dangerous players in the squad and they play with structure and a real plan, they are a very good team.
Rovers, however, had an outstanding home record in Europe this year, beating all Hibernians, Ludogorets, Shkupi and Ferencvaros. Victories against Ludogorets and Ferencvaros brought comfort and confidence after heavy defeats in the first leg.
“It’s not just these games, it’s what we’ve been doing for a few years,” Bradley said of his team’s growing confidence. “What we’ve built, the style we play, has been adapted when we play in Europe. That helps and suits us and we don’t have to change. We know they’re a tough team, a good team, but we believe that when we reach our levels we can cause problems for any team and hurt any team and Djurgardens will be no different.
“We think we can win games in this group. Is it going to be difficult? Yeah. Is it against good teams, big clubs? Yeah. But at the end of the day it’s 11 men against 11 men on the pitch and we believe we can win games in this group. You need certain things to follow your path, but we believe we can win games.
That said, Bradley made Djurgardens the favorite for tomorrow’s game when asked, and listed Norway’s Molde as the group favourite, with Belgium’s Gent completing the group quartet.
Rovers will have Graham Burke and Simon Power available tomorrow night through injuries, but Richie Towell was undoubtedly dealt a knock in the league defeat to the Bohemians last week. Roberto Lopes is close to fitness following a knee injury and is expected to be available within the next 10 days.
Elsewhere on the home front, Rovers’ lead at Premier Division summit 0ver Dundalk was reduced to three points today as Dundalk cruised to a 3-0 win in what was a 2-0 defeat at the pitch against Sligo at the end. of August. Rovers have two games in hand against Dundalk.
Sligo wrongly fielded Adam McDonnell in the game, who should have been suspended from the game. In a statement, Sligo said it admitted making a mistake, but said it was confused that McDonnell’s name had been omitted from two weekly suspension lists issued by the FAI to all clubs.
“I think it’s the right decision, it had to be. It was really the only result. I think the procedure needs to be tightened up in terms of sending and reading emails because I think clubs are evangelized by them and rightly or wrongly that’s the way it is, but I think we need to be put away because that can very easily happen, because the outcome was always going to be that outcome. It doesn’t affect what we have to do. We know what we need to do domestically, we know what games we need to win and we will fully focus on that when it happens. ”