SHAMROCK ROVERS 1 UCD 1 Airtricity Premier League
A nice summer evening at Tallaght Stadium in South Dublin, with short-sleeve shirts being the order of the day in the Mediterranean-style heat. The groundsman had obviously been working overtime watering the grass. This was an oasis of green in a city where every back garden seemed to be parched brown. The match programme explained how there was a water well situated at one side of the ground and it was in constant use, much to the consternation of Bohemian FC during a recent visit, apparently, who did not appreciate the sprinklers being on during their warm-up.
There seemed to be a very good atmosphere in the main stand, with plenty of young people there with their parents or minders. Some of them took part in a mini soccer game at half time, displaying their skills for all to see. This is a great way to encourage new support, by bringing in children and making them feel welcome. It was noticeable that a number of Rovers’ supporters were non-Irish nationals whose children were possibly born in Ireland. There were also strong warnings in the programme that racist behaviour of any kind would not be tolerated by the club. Full marks to Rovers for their approach.
Rovers star on the day was a 29 year-old Libyan Eamon Zayed, who was signed by the club earlier this month. He has played for a number of League of Ireland clubs. The player, capped 12 times at under 21 level for the Republic of Ireland, has in recent years gained valuable international football experience playing with Libya whilst playing his club football in Iran. In 2011 the striker signed for Tehran Pro League club Persepolis where he was part of their Asian Football Confederation Champions League squad.
Zayed’s score in the 24th minute gave Rovers a good start. The students did not look as sharp in the first half as they had done three weeks ago against Cork City at Belfield. Their equaliser in the second half came against the run of play. In fact, I was looking down at this picture I had just taken on my iphone when College through Robbie Benson had the ball in the net in the 65th minute. I put on my AFC Wimbledon polo shirt this morning when I left Belfast and it was coincidental that I wore it to the match, but I am always glad to support both the real Dons and Rovers. By the way, you can see a sort of worried look on the face of the Rovers supporter behind me with a green cap!
So the spoils were shared and Rovers dropped two valuable points, which will not please their manager Trevor Croly. By the way the referee (and I thought he did a good job) was from Monaghan, Paul McLaughlin, who it turns out is a Garda from Inishowen, Co.Donegal. He has been on the League of Ireland referee panel since 2008.