The curtain’s come down on Shamrock Rovers European adventure on Thursday when Premier League side Tottenham Hotspurs makes the trip over to Tallaght (kick off 6.00pm).
The game will have an added emotional dimension to it following the news that Hoops manager Michael O’Neill will leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the month. The former Northern Ireland manager has enjoyed a successful two years in Dublin helping the club to back to back titles, the Setanta cup not to mention a first ever qualification into the group stages of the Europa League.
The club took the step to confirm his departure as speculation threatened to overshadow the pre game build up saying “Shamrock Rovers can confirm that manager Michael O’Neill will leave the club when his current contract finishes at the end of December. The club would like to thank Michael for the great success he has brought to the club during his three year tenure at Shamrock Rovers, and we would like to wish him the best for his future career. Everyone at the club is focused on Thursday night’s big Europa League game against Tottenham Hotspur at Tallaght Stadium, and the club will not be making any further comment on this matter”
Despite gallant displays Rovers have failed to garner a point from their group with defeats home and away to Rubin Kazan and POAK following on from their opening day defeat to Thursday’s visitors Spurs at White Hart Lane.
Spurs meanwhile are still in the hunt for the knock out stages although they need POAK to do them a big favour and beat Rubin while at the same time doing the business their end. Harry Redknapp’s cause is further complicated by the requirement of a 5 goal swing that is needed if they are to reach the last 32.
With Redknapp hoping to maintain his title challenge the Europa league appears to hold little interest for the former West Ham man, who is once again brushing aside links with the England job, will instead be looking ahead to Sunday’s home game against Sunderland.
Shamrock Rovers will name their side on Thursday however the game represents the final game for a number of players who are set to leave the club following the final whistle with social media mogul Rohan Ricketts and Aston Villa bound Enda Stevens just two of the players who will bid their goodbyes to the Tallaght faithful.
Spurs meanwhile have rested a number of players with Scott Parker, Luka Modric, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gareth Bale and Kyle Walker have been left at home as they enter the Christmas period and with the likes of Danny Rose, Jake Livermore and Andros Townsend in the squad, Redknapp looks set to a second string side.
That said with Sandro, Jermaine Defoe, Niko Kranjcar, Younes Kaboul and Carlo Cudicini all in the relatively small 15 that travelled to Ireland there will be still be plenty of talent and experience on display.
Tottenham (from): Gomes, Cudicini, Assou-Ekotto, Kaboul, Rose, Livermore, Sandro, Townsend, Carroll, Pienaar, Kranjcar, Dos Santos, Defoe, Kane, Falque.
Prediction: Given the emotion that surrounds the game Shamrock Rovers good be good value at 15/2 with Betfair to sneak a maiden Europa League win and I think they could pull off a narrow 1-0 (27/1 with Betfair) against a side that has bigger fish to fry at present.