Grace and O’Donnell insist nothing will be decided in Dublin derby
SHAMROCK Rovers may be six points clear of Dublin rivals St Patrick’s Athletic with a game in hand, but Hoops defender Lee Grace insists nothing will be decided when the defending champions face their Inchicore rivals in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division at Richmond Park tomorrow night (kick-off 7.45pm).
Following last Saturday’s gutsy 1-0 triumph over Sligo Rovers, Stephen Bradley’s men have established some more daylight between themselves and the Saints at the summit of the table.
Nevertheless, the Hoops will have nine more games to play after the latest round of fixtures and Grace recognises how foolhardy it would be for them to let their guard down.
“There’s still a lot to play for. We can’t take our foot off the gas” he stressed. “We’ll concentrate on Friday first, but there’s a long way to go after that.
“It’s our title. We’re trying to hold onto it and there’s other teams trying to take it off us, so we’re not going to give it up without a fight.
“Pat’s are a very good side. They’re second in the table for a reason. Good players all over the pitch, but we’ve some good players in our team as well.
“You never get anything easy against Pat’s. Two good footballing sides. We’re going to be ready for it and I’m sure they are. It’s going to be a good game.”
Having missed out on selection for a number of weeks due to a troublesome thigh injury, Grace made his return to the Rovers starting line-up against Sligo last weekend.
After watching from the stands as the Hoops exited both the Europa Conference League and the FAI Cup, the Tipperary man was glad to finally be back in action.
“I was out for four weeks and obviously it’s hard sitting on the sideline, watching the lads playing” he said.
“I was just itching to get out there myself. I was buzzing to get back out there. Even better, a clean sheet and three points. It couldn’t have gone any better for us, to be fair,” he added.
A league winner with Rovers 10 years ago, Stephen O’Donnell has made great strides with St Pat’s this season, having originally taken on the position of head coach in August 2019.
Like Grace, he isn’t looking at tomorrow’s clash with the Hoops in the context of the title race and sees it more as an opportunity for his squad to showcase their worth on a grander scale.
“We’re not going in saying ‘it’s a must-win’. You don’t know what is going to happen in football. A lot of unpredictable results this season in our league” he stressed.
“We’re not looking at it like it’s a must-win for us to give us any chance of a league and we’re not looking at it like if we do win, we’re going to win the league,” O’Donnell said.
“It’s the ninth last game and it happens to be Shamrock Rovers at home. Obviously a really tough game, but a really good game for our lads to look forward to. That’s the way we’re approaching it.”