Shamrock Rovers braced for Liam Scales departure and visit of Albanians

Champions meet KF Teuta Durrës in Tallaght as Dundalk face Vitesse challenge

Liam Scales looks set for a move away from Shamrock Rovers. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Liam Scales looks set for a move away from Shamrock Rovers. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Europa Conference League third round qualifying round, first legs

Shamrock Rovers v KF Teuta Durrës (Albania), Tallaght Stadium, 8pm

SBV Vitesse (Netherlands) v Dundalk, GelreDome, 6pm

The head shots of Liam Scales and Joey O’Brien can be found, side by side, on the Shamrock Rovers website. One of them has seen and done it all across the water, the other is about to take the plunge.

O’Brien spent 12 years, far too many plagued by injury, moving from Bolton Wanderers to West Ham United, via Sheffield Wednesday, before settling back in Dublin three years ago.

Scales is about to celebrate his 23rd birthday by transforming into the living, breathing example of how the League of Ireland can provide a slow path into the Premier League. Or Celtic. Or whichever club among multiple suitors chasing the former UCD defender are willing to break an Irish transfer record and pay Rovers €600,000.

“Liam is fully focused on tomorrow and going forward, until [Rovers director of football] Stephen McPhail and the board tell me otherwise, that’s the way it will be,” said manager Stephen Bradley before adding: “There is a lot of interest.”

Rovers are about to realise, yet again, the downside of defending a summer league while also attempting to thrive on the European front. Scales will have to be replaced inhouse and with him potentially leaving any day now, it makes Thursday night’s first leg even more important as Rovers must somehow survive temperatures that could reach the high 30s next week in Durrës. They wilted last month under the big Bratislava sun.

“Nah,” said O’Brien about dispensing advice before Scales’s career takes flight. “See all that, man, it’s not one of those things where it’s ‘Listen, we’ll meet up and have a life story, telling you how good I was when I was your age’ and that s**t.

“That’s remember when stuff. It’s the here and now. It’s his time.”

And what does the future hold for the former Ireland fullback? “To keep playing until my legs fall off. That’s it and it’s always been that.”

Despite all these obstacles, Rovers should progress but Dundalk are staring down the barrel of elimination before a ball has been kicked inside the GelreDome. Vitesse finished fourth in the Dutch league last season, two points ahead of Feyenoord, and Ajax beat them in the KNVB Cup final.

Dundalk have quietened the controversy around their American owners since Vinny Perth was reinstated as manager earlier this summer and following Will Patching’s dramatic stoppage-time winner away to Levadia Tallinn they are in free shot territory.

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