‘It’s not acceptable’ – Stephen Bradley hits out at Shamrock Rovers’ flight schedule home from Skopje



Stephen Bradley hailed his Shamrock Rovers side for taking flight to group stage European football – but then raised questions about why his team will not be allowed to fly home into Dublin after sealing the deal.

he Hoops did an efficient job in North Macedonia to win 2-1 on the night against Shkupi and 5-2 on aggregate to book a place in a Europa League playoff round clash with Ferencvaros, with the all important safety net of Europa Conference League football and €3.3m secured no matter what happens.

However, Bradley is unhappy that Rovers have been forced to travel back to Shannon on Wednesday afternoon.

Shkupi caused a ruckus when that was asked of them before the first leg in Dublin but what frustrates Bradley – whose side face an important league game in Derry on Friday – is that the CSKA Sofia team taking on St Patrick’s Athletic on Thursday have been able to find a charter slot in Dublin.

The Ludogorets side that knocked the Hoops out of the Champions League were also able to get in and out of the capital’s airport, while St Pat’s were stranded in Sofia for almost two days. Rovers also endured a nightmare trip to Bulgaria, which Bradley holds responsible for a 3-0 first leg defeat.

“We’re really disappointed in that. We find out again that Sofia are flying in and out of Dublin direct, there’s serious questions that need to be asked. How Irish teams can’t do this and every team that seems to come here can do it, it’s not acceptable,” said Bradley who was asked if he was angry with DAA or the Irish government.

“I’m not sure to be honest, I really don’t know but the questions need to be asked to the right people. I understand travel is chaos for everyone at the moment but it can’t be that both Bulgarian teams are flying in and out of Dublin direct and we have to go out through Shannon and then you have St Pat’s with the trouble they were having.

“There needs to be serious questions asked of this. It cost us against Ludogorets, I’ve no doubt it cost us.”

Rovers were able to travel from Dublin to Skopje and Bradley was delighted that his players were capable of calmly executing the gameplan by playing on the front foot rather than sitting off.

He praised the work-rate of front pair Aaron Greene and Rory Gaffney who stretched Shkupi, and stressed that lessons were learned from their tame exit to Flora Tallinn of Estonia 12 months ago.

However, he said that the club’s hectic schedule and the importance of Friday’s trip to Derry – attempts to push it back to Saturday or Sunday were rejected – meant that the achievement won’t fully sink in immediately.

“Look, it’s fantastic. Like I said, it’s one of our targets, it’s something I said we wanted to improve on,” he continued.

“We let ourselves down against Tallinn last year, although they were a good side. We needed to learn from that and it’s made us stronger. It’s something that we set out to go one step further.

“It’s difficult at the moment because right away I’m thinking of Derry, but it’s something that when I’m sitting down for a glass of wine with my wife tomorrow night, I can think about how it’s something we’ve set out to do at the start of the year and we’re going to achieve it.”



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