Hope not expectation as Shamrock Rovers welcome Slovan Bratislava to Tallaght

Hoops are 2-0 down from the away leg despite late Mannus heroics

Uefa Champions League - first qualifying round second leg: Shamrock Rovers v ŠK Slovan Bratislava (Slovan lead 2-0), Tuesday July 13th, Tallaght Stadium (kick-off 8pm).

Presumably, the Slovakian champions view this Dublin trip as another preseason tune-up at the beginning of what they envisage will be a European campaign that runs deep into winter.

Using last Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat as primary evidence, 1,500 Shamrock Rovers fans are praying Tuesday’s guests are blinded by an overwhelming superiority complex.

In truth, Alan Mannus made three wonder stops to keep this tie on life support. Vladimir Weiss – the son and namesake of Slovan's manager – really should have put Rovers out of their misery in Bratislava, but his delicate lob was blocked by Mannus before the Northern Ireland goalkeeper pulled off a heroic penalty save in injury time.

“You pick a side and you go,” the 39-year-old explained.

Weiss will be sharper for the extra week to recover from a Euros campaign where he was used sparingly off the Slovakian bench.

"With [David] Holman injured, he could well start, he's a top player," said Rovers manager Stephen Bradley who confirmed that the gulf in talent between the clubs was exacerbated by stifling conditions in the Slovak capital.

“It was incredibly hot,” Bradley confirmed. “We have played in Cyprus but Cyprus was nothing like that as it was a lot calmer when it was game time. Game time in the arena was 36 degrees, which was incredible. So it was definitely a factor in the game, but you can’t control that.”

Maybe the increased attendance can inspire the League of Ireland champions to keep Rafael Ratão in check or deny Ibrahim Rabiu the run of Tallaght with a more sustained press.

An early goal would alter a growing narrative that paints the Hoops as out of their depth against a side that looked substantially slicker than them last week.

All Mannus wants from his teammates is an attitude similar to the night AC Milan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic visited in September 2020.

“They beat us 2-0 and were always expected to beat us but what pleased me more than anything after the game was that we tried to play, as opposed to being safe.

“That’s what we need to try to do tomorrow, to be brave. If we can try to do it against AC Milan, we can do it against anybody.”

Europa Conference League - qualifier second leg: Newtown v Dundalk (Dundalk lead 4-0), Park Hall, Oswestry (kick-off 5.45pm).

An Estonian challenge against Levadia Tallinn almost certainly awaits Vinny Perth's men with the recently reinstated Dundalk manager already signalling the need for continuity in selection despite Tuesday evening's dead rubber fixture in mid-Wales.

“In days gone by I might have made seven or eight changes but I don’t think we can do that. I think we need to keep building, make the team understand what we are doing.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent