Stewart scores goal that banks a game with Juventus in next round
"Bnei Yehuda 0-1 Shamrock Rovers (Agg 1-2)"
If you can pronounce the afore mentioned name, then well done you. Thankfully, we won't be hearing from them again any time soon as part-time League of Ireland outfit Shamrock Rovers have knocked them out of this season's Europa League.
A 1-0 victory in Israel tonight sealed the 'Hoops' passage into the next round where a lucrative tie with European heavyweights Juventus awaits. A former schoolboy team-mate of mine Tommy Stewart will be the toast of Tallaght tonight as he popped up with the crucial goal to send Rovers through.
The 'Nordie' influence has been prevalent in Shamrock Rovers for the previous two seasons in particular with ex-Glentoran man Michael O'Neill recruiting the best of Northern football. The first fellow countryman to jump ship to the League of Ireland was arguably the best goalkeeper in the Irish League, Alan Mannus of Linfield FC. O'Neill then snapped up former NI U21 international Chris Turner on a free transfer. The latest move for the Northern stars came when ex-Linfield & Derry City forward Thomas Stewart signed up for Michael O'Neill's Green & White Army.
Many's a grumble could be heard amongst the Tallaght faithful with this Northern invasion, but tonight should put that element of the support back in their box for another couple of weeks at least.
A fantastic night in Irish football was capped off with the bonus of North Belfast side Cliftonville's progression to the next round where they will come up against Bulgarian outfit CSKA Sofia.
However, all wasn't hunky dory for others in Irish club football as Europe's newcomers Sporting Fingal went down 3-2 on the night and 6-4 on aggregate against one of the top Portuguese side Maritimo. Portadown also put on a brave show going out by the odd goal. Meanwhile spare a thought for Dundalk FC who gained entry to this seasons Europa League thanks to Derry City's demise. The border side went down 8-0 on aggregate!
Current Irish League champions Linfield can hold their heads high following a 2-0 defeat in Norway to Champions League regulars Rosenberg. The 0-0 result in Belfast the previous week was highly unexpected, yet offered hope to us all that maybe qualifying for the proper stages of European competition isn't as far away off as many had anticipated...
Those in East Belfast and the Northside of Dublin mightn't be so optimistic after two disastrous defeats left both sides with that sinking feeling. Glentoran did their usual 'choke' on the big stage after a 5-2 aggregate defeat to Icelandic champions RK Reykjavik. However, Bohemians careless surrendering of a 1-0 first leg lead against Welsh champions TNS came at a complete shock to both myself and many local football supporters throughout the island. 4-0? Wow. All I can presume is that the two pre-season games TNS had with both Linfield and Glentoran paid dividends. Inspired choices!
But this side of the British Isles, all the credit must go to Shamrock Rovers and Cliftonville. Two small steps forward for local football, one big UEFA pay-day lies in wait for both clubs - and hopefully, their respective leagues!