‘How come Irish teams cannot do this?’ - Stephen Bradley hits out against European travel nightmare for LOI teams

Farcical situation saw St Pat’s stranded in Sofia and Rovers having to fly into Shannon while CSKA and Ludogorets managed to land in Dublin

Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley has called on Dublin airport to ensure that Irish football clubs are not punished for success in European competition.

Following the historic defeat of Shkupi 1927, which guarantees group stage football this season, Rovers were forced to fly home to Shannon airport from North Macedonia capital Skopje due to a staff crisis at Dublin airport.

“I am really disappointed with that,” said Bradley following the 5-2 aggregate win over Shkupi. “CSKA Sofia are flying in and out of Dublin direct [for Thursday’s Europa Conference League qualifier against St Patrick’s Athletic].

“There are serious questions that need to be asked there. How come the Irish teams cannot do this when it seems that every team that comes here can? Serious questions need to be asked of the people making these decisions. It is not acceptable.”

READ MORE

The DAA, under chief executive Dalton Philips, is the semi-state company that own and operates Dublin airport.

“The questions need to be asked to the right people. I understand that travel is chaos at the moment but both Bulgarian teams [Ludogorets and CSKA] flew in and out of Dublin direct and we are flying back through Shannon.

“St Pat’s situation is not right,” said Bradley after the Inchicore club was stranded in Sofia for three days after their charter was cancelled. “Why is this being allowed to happen?

“I have no doubt that the travel situation cost us against Ludogorets [in the Champions League qualifier].”

The Irish Government were forced to intervene to ensure Shkupi could fly into Ireland last week, via Shannon, in a situation that almost sparked a diplomatic incident as the North Macedonian club president branded it as “evil games” by Irish authorities.

As a direct result, Rovers believe, the cost increased significantly to stream the 2-1 win in Skopje, in what proved a record audience on LOITV.

RTÉ decided to show the St Pat’s game this Thursday against CSKA instead of Rovers ground-breaking progress that is worth over €3 million to the Tallaght club.

Victory over Hungarian champions Ferencváros will send Rovers into the Europa League but they require assistance from the Irish government and DAA to ensure that next week’s chartered flight goes direct from Dublin to Budapest.

“We are at our best when we play with fear that we can get beat,” Bradley added. “When we do that it gives us a little edge in and out of possession. The players are experienced enough to channel that nervous energy [in Hungary].”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent