Early November marked the end of an extraordinarily average season with Shamrock Rovers. A campaign that started with many high hopes from the hoops faithful after a ‘get to know the club’ first season under Pat Fenlon. But ultimately it was another disappointing campaign which was marked by the sacking of Pat Fenlon after a falling out with the board and an embarrassing defeat to Finish side RoPS in the Europa League in early July.
The performances on the pitch were matched by the financial situation of the club where they once again needed another loan from Australian based hoop Ray Wilson. Former player and coach Stephen Bradley took Rovers under his wing alongside Damien Duff, Glen Cronin, Graham Gartland, Stephen Mcphail and Sami Ristilä for the remainder of the 2016 season.
Stephen Bradley and co. placed a big importance around youth during their temporary reign of the club. Money invested in the youth squads paid off as players such as Sean Boyd, James Doona, Aaron Dobbs and Trevor Clarke jumped at the opportunity and booked their place in the first team.
With the news of Stephen Bradley being confirmed as the permanent head coach and the confirmation of Stephen Mcphail as sporting director, many hoops fans thought that this would mean Bradley would always look the put out a ‘team of kids’ in the future. However this is certainly not the case. Rovers have made a huge statement in the last couple of weeks with the signings of some of the leagues most talented players such as Roberto Lopes, Ryan Connolly and Kevin Horgan. Alongside the addition of experience from abroad like Paul Corry, Dave McCallister, Danny Devine and keeper Tomer Chencinski.
Rovers also handed first senior contracts to a number of former youth team players alongside renewing some of the worthy enough players from last year. But perhaps the biggest addition came in the form of former Dundalk ace and now Shamrock Rovers club captain Ronan Finn. These are all fantastic signings that will provide a balance of youth and experience in the 2017 hoops squad, where everybody must fight for their place.
Not only have the hoops been making advances on the pitch they’ve also added a number of new executive members in an attempt to stabilise the clubs finical situation and to make advance in several other key areas. One of which is the top of the range new training facility at Roadstone which is in progress. The hoops recently received the news that a new third stand is being built at Tallaght Stadium by the South Dublin City County Council. Rovers will hope to fill all three stands by means of improved performances on pitch. They also take another step towards a more professionally run club by making the switch to 52 week contracts for their players which could well have been the deciding factor to a number of their new signings to put pen to paper.
Shamrock Rovers have not taken the break that many of the other clubs seemed to have taken in this off season. All their players are already back in the gym preparing for preseason. They seem to be in a better place than some other clubs to mount a title challenge next year.
Unfortunately all these changes are worthless to the club unless they simply perform better on the pitch and bring silverware back to Tallaght.