With Dundalk guaranteed to become the second Irish team to play European group stage football following their win over BATE Borisov, we look back on the first team to do it. In 2011, Shamrock Rovers beat Partizan Belgrade 2-1 in Belgrade to qualify for the Europa League group stages. Games against Rubin Kazan, Tottenham Hotspur and PAOK followed and Rovers crashed out of the group stages without a point. Despite this the team will still go down in history. But where are they now?
GK- Ryan Thompson
Thompson signed for Rovers at the start of the 2011 season as backup keeper to Alan Mannus. When Mannus moved just before the start of the European campaign, Thompson became number one. Thompson saved a penalty against Rubin Kazan in the group stages and played in five of the matches. He was released at the end of the season and moved over to Swedish side Vasby. After a year with Vasby, he moved over to America to play in the USL (second tier of American football) for the Tampa Bay Rowdies. He was signed by the Pittsburgh Riverhounds a year later and now plays for St Louis FC. Thompson also plays for the Jamaica national side and was their backup goalkeeper for their recent Copa America campaign.
RB- Pat Sullivan
Sullivan joined the Hoops half way through the 2009 season following his release from Cork and quickly solidified his place at right back. Sullivan will always be remembered for his incredible volley against Partizan Belgrade to ensure the game went into extra time and played every game in the group stages also. Sullivan left Rovers to move down under to play for the Southern Stars at the end of the 2011 season. His spell there was brief and he returned to Rovers in June 2012. After another year and a half at Rovers, Sullivan opted to drop down a division to play for Longford. He helped Longford to promotion in 2014 and signed on for another year. After the 2015 season, Sullivan hung up his boots.
CB- Craig Sives
Sives signed for Rovers in May 2009 following his release from Hearts. He was a key member of the 2011 side winning Player of the Year. He played four of the group games and missed the final two due to injury. He played on in the 2012 season for Rovers before leaving for Australia in 2013 to play for Hume City. He only lasted a year in Australia before signing an 18 month deal with Livingston in January 2014. Following his release from Livingston at the end of last season, he signed for Cowdenbeath.
CB- Dan Murray
Murray joined Rovers after seven years at Cork for the 2010 season. Murray was influential in the European campaign and captained Rovers in all six group stage games. Following the Europa League journey, Murray was released and re-joined Cork where he played for four more seasons before retirement. Murray now plays for Munster Senior League side Midleton.
LB- Enda Stevens
Stevens signed on for the 2010 season after his contract with St Patricks ran out. One of the key players in the European campaign, Stevens agreed a deal to join Aston Villa on the 31st of August 2011 but was allowed to stay on loan with Rovers until January so he could play in the Europa League group stages. When he joined Aston Villa he only made seven first team appearances over three years. He also had spells on loan at Notts County, Doncaster Rovers and Northampton Town. Following his release from Aston Villa at the end of his three-year deal in 2015, he was signed by Portsmouth and is currently halfway through his two-year contract.
LM- Billy Dennehy
Signed at the start of the 2010 season after his contract with Cork was up. Dennehy went on to make 124 appearances over four seasons for Rovers. Dennehy played in all six group games and scored against PAOK in Tallaght. Dennehy moved back to Cork following his release from Tallaght at the end of the 2013 season and after a season with Cork, he moved back to Dublin to play for St Pats.
CM- Ronan Finn
Finn joined up with Rovers after the folding of Sporting Fingal at the start of the 2011 season. Finn made appearances in five out of the eight Europa League games and stayed in Tallaght for three more seasons afterwards. He left for Dundalk after his contract expired at the end of the 2014 season and is still a key part of their team today.
CM- Stephen Rice
Ricer joined Rovers from Bohemians for the start of the 2008 season and spent six seasons at Rovers before being controversially released when his contract was up at the end of the 2013 season by Trevor Croly. Rice will be famously remembered for his strike to put the Hoops a goal up against Tottenham at White Hart Lane. After his departure from Rovers, he moved down to Longford and helped them back into the top flight. He left Longford a year later though and joined Glentoran on a short-term deal at the start of the year. He only lasted a couple of months up North though before opting to leave to concentrate on his coaching role within the FAI.
CM- Chris Turner
After leaving Dundalk at the end of the 2009 season, Turner was snapped up by Michael O’Neill. He made appearances in five of the Europa League games. He departed halfway through the 2012 season to move across to Dumbarton. He has since played for Hamilton Academical but was released at the end of 2015. Turner now plays alongside Craig Sives for Cowdenbeath.
RM- Gary McCabe
McCabe joined Rovers from Sligo Rovers for the start of the 2011 season. McCabe is the only player to have played in the Europa League who is still playing in Tallaght today. He is currently in his sixth season with the club.
ST- Gary Twigg
Tallaght legend Gary Twigg joined Rovers from Brechin City at the start of the 2009 season. Although not scoring a goal across the 2011 Europa League campaign, Twigg will always be remembered for his goalscoring. His time in Tallaght came to an end after four seasons in 2012 when he left to join NIFL Premiership side Portadown. Twigg continued his goalscoring record up North for Portadown and following the end of his contract at the end of last season he left. He signed for Coleraine for the start of the 2016 season.
Manager- Micheal O’Neill
O’Neill joined Rovers alongside Twigg from Brechin City for the start of the 2009 season. O’Neill won two league titles, a Setanta Sports Cup and of course becoming the first manager to lead an Irish side into the group stages of a European competition during his time with the Hoops. O’Neill departed Tallaght at the end of the 2011 season to manage Northern Ireland and has been there ever since. He recently led Northern Ireland to the knockout stages of Euro 2016.
CM- Rohan Ricketts
The ultimate journeyman Rohan Ricketts joined Rovers at the end of August 2011 to provide depth to the Rovers squad for the busy schedule ahead. Ireland was Ricketts’s sixth country to play in and his 11th club. Only making two appearances in Europe, Ricketts was released at the end of the 2011 season and has since played for six more clubs including ones in India, Ecuador, Thailand, Hong Kong and Bangladesh.
CM- Stephen O’Donnell
O’Donnell joined Rovers at the start of the 2011 season after his time at Galway came to an end. Famously remembered for scoring the penalty which put Rovers through the group stages, O’Donnell went on to make four appearances in the Europa League campaign. O’Donnell left Tallaght for Dundalk in 2013 and has been there since.
LB- Jim Paterson
Paterson joined Rovers on the same day as Ricketts and both joined for the same purpose. Joining from Plymouth, Paterson also made two appearances in Europe including playing the second half against Tottenham at White Hart Lane. After his departure from Tallaght, Paterson moved to Bristol Rovers. He left there in 2014 and returned to play in his native Scotland where he has played for Forfar, Dunfermline, and his current club Stenhousemuir.
ST- Karl Sheppard
Sheppard came to Tallaght for the start of the 2011 season from Galway. Sheppard won the penalty against Partizan Belgrade to send Rovers through and also scored against PAOK in the group stages. Sheppard left the Hoops for Reading at the start of 2012 only to join back on loan a year later. Following his loan spell back at Rovers he signed a one-year contract in December 2013 after being released by Reading without making an appearance. Sheppard then joined Cork for the 2015 season and recently signed a 2-year contract extension with the Munster side.
RB- Conor McCormack
The versatile McCormack joined Rovers at the start of 2011 from Serie B team Triestina. He played a role in the Europa League journey starting a couple of group games and playing in the home leg against Belgrade. He left Rovers for Dublin rivals St Pats in 2014 and played there for a year and a half before moving up North to Derry where he still plays now.
Five years on from the Hoops European adventure, Dundalk fans can look forward to more of the same and you never know maybe they will go one better and secure Champions League football.