“Winning it here in front of a massive crowd, this is the way you want to win it”
Shamrock Rovers players congratulate Aidomo Emakhu after he fired home a third goal for the Hoops in their victory over Finn Harps that secured them the Airtricity League title in Tallaght on Friday night Photos by Paddy Barrett

“Winning it here in front of a massive crowd, this is the way you want to win it”

SHAMROCK ROVERS midfielder Ronan Finn was thrilled to see his side secure back-to-back SSE Airtricity League Premier Division titles in front of a bumper crowd in Tallaght Stadium on Friday night, reports Eoghan Gardiner.

Speaking after their 3-0 victory over Finn Harps that served to put them out of reach of closest rivals St Patrick’s Athletic, Finn said “You start off the season and that’s your ultimate goal – to retain your title. Winning it here in front of a massive crowd, this is the way you want to win it.”

“You felt the atmosphere around communities in Tallaght, around all of the Rovers supporters clubs throughout Dublin and Ireland. You see the crowd tonight, it was made for it.”

Supporters not being able to witness Rovers winning the league in person last year due to COVID-19 was “disappointing” for the players, said Finn.

“Football without fans is nothing. To win it last year, of course as a player that’s what you want, but you want to do it in situations like this, with a full house here in Tallaght, playing some really good football and people going home happy.”

Finn insists that the performances that the Hoops served up throughout the season certainly warranted the top spot.

“I thought we fully deserved it throughout the season” he said. “I thought our performances throughout the whole year have been excellent, you see again tonight it’s emphatic, you see the goals we scored.”

Aidomo Emakhu puts the icing on a title-winning night for Shamrock Rovers by firing home a late goal in their 3-0 win over Finn Harps in Tallaght Stadium

For Hoops manager Stephen Bradley, the fact that his squad really came together during a “poor spell” this season, was testament to their winning character and a crucial point in their march to the title.

“I think the moment when we had a lot of injuries, and we actually had our poor spell in and around that time with things in Europe and things domestically, I felt it was a real coming together of the group then in terms of a refocus and a determination. You could see it in the group.”

“We felt that brought us together in that period of time, that really got us together. From then on, I felt that we were going to be really, really difficult to stop. We looked really focused after that.”

Bradley admits he was initially concerned about the departure of a number of key players, the likes of Jack Byrne and Aaron McEneff, but credits his squad with stepping up to the mark.

“The start was the worrying part for me. We took out 35 goals from our team. It was always going to be challenging to replace that early on.”

“That was the worry. You’ve lost Jack [Byrne] and Aaron [McEneff]. That amount of goals, it was so much to try and make up for, and like I said, the start was always the worry in my head.

“You’ve got to start right and thankfully we did. We grinded out a few results, and as it went, you could see the new players really settling into what we were doing.”

Bradley also found it remarkably strange that not a single Rovers player has won the League’s ‘Player of the Month’ award throughout the season so far despite their title-winning campaign.

“It’s very, very easy to show up every few weeks and catch someone’s eye and get a ‘Player of the Month’ award, but when you’re in a team that’s really competing and really wants to win things, it’s a different ball game, different pressure, different stage.

“That’s what these players have done, and I just felt that they deserved a little bit more respect.”

”For the team to win the league with three games left and not one of the players gets a ‘Player of the Month’ for me is incredible. The people picking it obviously need to have a long, hard look at themselves.”

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