Shamrock Rovers: What’s Wrong This Season?

Shamrock Rovers are a side that have dominated the League of Ireland in recent times, having won four titles on the bounce.

However, Stephen Bradley’s men seem to have been knocked off their perch this season, with leaders Shelbourne currently sitting 12 points above them. 

Our Irish football expert, Darragh Tracy, will offer up some possible reasons as to why Rovers have had a  slight dip this season, and how they could begin their resurgence back to  the top. 

 Aging Squad: Shamrock have the joint second-highest average age (26) in the division. You might be thinking that 26 isn’t too bad, but the problem is that the Hoops best eleven contains six players over the age of 30. In a league scattered with young, energetic talent, maybe the older contingent of the squad, who by now have lost a yard of pace, might not be able to keep up with the abundance of young players in the divisions. The Hoops do have their own hotshots, however, with players like Darragh Burns and Jonny Kenny.  

Penetration: Penetrating their opponents has been the biggest of Rovers’ issues so far this season. Bradley’s men have far and away the most missed big chances in the division, with the Dublin club missing 34 out of the 53 they have created. To give you some context, Derry are second in the list, and they have missed only 17 big chances – less than half of Rovers total. Creating chances has not been a problem for  Rovers, and taking them hadn’t been a problem until this campaign.

In the previous four seasons, Rovers created the most big chances in the league three times, and have had the highest conversion rate in all four. This season, they are bottom of the league for conversion. Rory Gaffney is usually their marksman but has been injured for most of the season. Gaffney is 34, becoming increasingly injury prone. Jonny Kenny has had no problem taking on the responsibility of scoring the goals, but he seems like the only player to be doing so. Therefore, maybe an investment in a striker might help spur the Super Hoops back into title contention. 

Caution in moving the ball forward: Statistics aside, when watching Rovers recently, although they retain the majority of possession in games, they are moving the ball to slowly around the pitch. This was very apparent in their recent matches against St Patrick’s Athletic and Shelbourne. Rovers aren’t getting the rub of the green at times, but also feel moving the ball from defence to attack could be quicker. In both halves, it took Rovers 15-20 passes to get up and around the box. At times they could take more of a risk because by the time they mustered an opportunity, the opposition was already in shape and comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with playing possession football nowadays, as most teams do, but to be effective, you will need to play consistently at a high tempo. 

In the second half of the season, Rovers may be able to climb back up the table into the title race, but you have to feel now, the twelve points that separate the two Dublin clubs, may be too big of a gap to close.  





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