O’Brien: Apollon know what we’re about now

The oppressive heat and a wounded Apollon Limassol won’t faze Shamrock Rovers in next week’s Europa League return in Nicosia, insists veteran defender Joey O’Brien.

O’Brien: Apollon know what we’re about now

The oppressive heat and a wounded Apollon Limassol won’t faze Shamrock Rovers in next week’s Europa League return in Nicosia, insists veteran defender Joey O’Brien.

As they did three times against SK Brann in the first round, Stephen Bradley’s Hoops showed their character in coming from behind once more against the fancied Cypriot side to win Thursday’s second round, first leg 2-1 on another thrilling night at Tallaght Stadium.

It’s a slender lead which Apollon, with an away goal in their locker, may be confident of overturning in the eastern Mediterranean.

But former Republic of Ireland international O’Brien knows Rovers have given Apollon, Europa League group stage qualifiers four times in the last six years, plenty of food for thought.

“It was a good win,” said O’Brien after goals from fellow defenders Lee Grace and Roberto Lopes overturned Fotis Papoulis’ cracking lead strike to put Rovers in the driving seat.

“We’ve to go over there next week and they know what we’re about now. It’s going to be a difficult game. Yes, we’re winning 2-1, but it’s only half-time.”

Despite falling behind after just five minutes, Rovers didn’t panic.

“Though they scored early doors with a screamer, we kept our composure, I thought, and got playing again. When we got higher up the pitch we looked dangerous and I felt, especially from set plays, we looked really dangerous.

“It just shows you how important set-plays are. We obviously got two goals, and probably could have got another one, off them.”

The focus now reverts to tomorrow afternoon’s visit to Turner’s Cross (kick-off 4pm) to face Cork City in the chase for the league title.

“No,” said O’Brien on having any qualms about travelling to Cork ahead of leaving for Cyprus on Monday.

“Our aim is still to win the league. We haven’t backed away from that. It will be a difficult game in Cork, but we’re going down to win.”

Bradley is likely to make a couple of changes with recent signing Neil Farrugia finally set for his debut following injury.

City confirmed yesterday that 22-year-old defender Sean McLoughlin has completed his move to English Championship side Hull City.

Ex-Hoop Karl Sheppard and Garry Buckley are suspended while Cian Murphy and Cian Bargary are out injured. Head coach John Cotter is hopeful both Shane Griffin and Kevin O’Connor will be passed fit.

Cotter said: “It’s a massive game; games Rovers are always attractive ties, and they are going well. It’s good to have a home game and we are looking forward to getting back on the pitch after last week’s win in Luxembourg.”

Today, league leaders Dundalk travel to St Patrick’s Athletic without midfielder Robbie Benson due to the rib injury picked up in Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Qarabag. Jordan Flores and Stephen Folan remain sidelined.

St Pat’s have signed former Ireland U19 international striker Glen McAuley from Liverpool until the end of the 2020 season and await international clearance ahead of the game. Midfielder Conor Clifford and striker Gary Shaw are back fit, though right-back Simon Madden is a doubt due to illness.

Later tonight, Sligo Rovers host Bohemians at the Showgrounds.

New signing Niall Watson comes straight into the Sligo squad, though boss Liam Buckley waits for fitness checks on Ronan Murray, Johnny Dunleavy and Niall Morahan.

Danny Corcoran and Cristian Magerusan remain out injured for Bohemians who add new signing Andre Wright to their squad.

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