Hoops hoping to make it hot for Spurs

AFTER a fairytale 2011, Shamrock Rovers bring the curtain down on their extended season on Thursday when they welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Tallaght Stadium for their final Europa League Group game.

Spurs will join the list of big name clubs, all former Champions League teams, to have played in Tallaght over the past 18 months, including Juventus, FC Copenhagen, Partizan Belgrade and Rubin Kazan.

Additional seats have been erected for the tie and it has been an 8,500 capacity sellout for weeks.

Spurs have a slim chance of progressing to the knockout stages. They require a win in Tallaght, a defeat for Rubin Kazan and a six-goal turnaround in goal difference to progress.

Rovers, meanwhile, will be striving to pick up their first point of the group stages, but that’s an unenviable task against a side currently riding high in the Premier League.

Come Friday morning, however, a significant number of the Rovers squad, as well as their manager, will be out of contract.

The performances in Europe have put manager Michael O’Neill, and indeed some of his players, on the radar of clubs outside of Ireland, with O’Neill being mentioned as a possibility for the Northern Ireland manager’s job.

Rovers were propelled into the Europa League group stages by Pat Sullivan’s spectacular strike away to Partizan Belgrade back in July. The 29-year-old defender is unsure where he will be playing next season and indeed who will be managing the Hoops.

“As players, we are in the dark as much as anyone if he (Michael O’Neill) is staying or going,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan was part of the Rovers side that led 1-0 after the hour mark against Spurs at White Hart Lane. The goal by Stephen Rice, who deflected home Sullivan’s shot, sparked huge celebrations among the 4,000 plus Rovers supporters and has probably been the high point of their Group A campaign to date.

On Thursday, the Hoops will hope that they can put in another disciplined performance to prove that League of Ireland sides can compete at this level in Europe.

In the group game in London, three quick goals after the hour mark from internationals Roman Pavlyuchenko, Jermain Defoe and Giovani Dos Santos proved the difference between the teams.

Sullivan is hoping Spurs will deploy a strong team against the Hoops.

“Hopefully they do bring as good a team as they can when they come over,” states Sullivan.

“You want to play against as good a player as you can; to pit your wits against players that are playing at the Premier League level as that is the only way you get to learn.”

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