Shamrock Rovers come up short again on the road as Djurgardens progress

Rovers were picked apart on 19 minutes as Magnus Eriksson began and finished a flowing attack

Djurgardens 1 Shamrock Rovers 0

A game of football without any lasting consequence as Djurgardens had won Group F of the Europa Conference League before Shamrock Rovers arrived in Stockholm.

The real battle happened in Gent, where the Belgians stormed past Molde of Norway to follow Djurgardens into the knock-out stages, as Rovers bottomed out with two points from six educational group games.

Yet again, Stephen Bradley’s side struggled on foreign soil but their continental record in 2022 avoids complete embarrassment, even if their 30-somethings struggled to cope with the pace of these European nights.


For proof, see the game’s only goal. Rovers were picked apart on 19 minutes as Swedish international Magnus Eriksson began and finished a flowing attack. Karl Holmberg’s subtle touch in the box enhanced a familiar sight of the Hoops chasing shadows as Eriksson beat German goalkeeper Leon Pohls.

Bradley recently conceded that Rovers were constrained by domestic challenges to prioritise the lucrative Uefa competition. As a result, the €500,000 win bonus proved elusive as two draws, at home to Djuragdens and Gent last week, does allow them bank €322,000.

In total, close to €4 million in Uefa payouts this year should entice a replacement for Ireland under-21 Andy Lyons, who follows Danny Mandroiu into the English lower leagues.

The next job for Bradley might be to keep Neil Farrugia, as the marauding right winger has looked comfortable at this level since returning from injury. European scouts will have noticed.

Same goes for Jack Byrne, who ran out of time this season due to niggly muscle issues but still only 26, the Ireland midfielder is expected to enter his prime at Tallaght stadium.

Rory Gaffney must still be wondering how he failed to convert Byrne’s low cross on the stroke of half-time. Gaffney might take solace from being Rovers’ only goalscorer during the group stages. The 33-year-old striker has been terrific all season, so vital to the cause that he was benched for other European fixtures to keep him fresh for the League of Ireland.

Ultimately, his rasping volley against Shelbourne last month is all that Reeling in the Years will keep as a memento.

It should have finished 2-0 but Pohls saved well from Emmanuel Banda when the otherwise excellent Pico Lopes was caught high up the pitch. Like Byrne, the Cape Verde centre half is a player Rovers cannot afford to lose for long stretches.

So, a 14-match European campaign ends after five wins, three draws and six defeats – only one at home, to Molde – with 11 goals scored and 21 conceded. That 10 of their goals came during qualification for the group stages tells no lies.

Djurgardens cannot catch Hacken in the Allsvenskan title race, but they will pursue a European trophy that West Ham United, Villarreal and Mesut Özil’s İstanbul Başakşehir are also eyeing up. In stark contrast, Rovers land home with a thump as the grass banks of the Belfield Bowl see them finish out the season against UCD on Sunday at 7pm.

After that, rest.

DJURGARDENS: Zettarstrom; Johansson, Danielson (Lofgren 46), Ekdal, Andersson; Finndell, Schuller Eriksson (Banda, 67); Asoro (Radetinac, 66), Holmberg (Edvardsen, 80), Wikheim (Ademi, 80).

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Pohls; Grace, Cleary (Gannon, 46), Lopes; Farrugia, O’Neill (Serdeniuk, 86), Hoare (Finn, 86), Byrne, Towell (Power, 65), Lyons; Gaffney (Greene, 78).

Referee: Nicholas Walsh (Scotland).

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent