IB: League games take centre stage
Ian Baraclough immediately targeted turning Monday night’s emphatic Setanta Sports Cup victory over St Patrick’s Athletic into league points.
A 7-1 aggregate win, 5-1 on the night in Richmond Park, came about from a confident and classy performance in Dublin 8 as Rovers reached the Setanta final for the first time.
It was a result to ease the frustration for the players who have been unfortunate in the league season when losing four matches.
Reaching the final is something the Rovers boss takes delight from, but he wants his men to keep that momentum going into the league.
He said: “I'm pleased for the players. I'm pleased for everyone connected with the club. It is tough when you're dominating games and creating chances but not finishing them off. It's frustrating for everybody. Tonight it was nice to play with a bit of freedom.
“In the second half we knew we had the game sown up but I was desperate to get a clean sheet. I challenged the lads at half-time. Whether we score more or not I want to come away with a clean sheet.
“I'm really pleased to come here and win 5-1, play the way we did with style and a swagger. But we put a lot of hard work in as well. I was happy we got the rewards.”
Baraclough said he felt the manner of the victory had been coming for some time and while he wanted it in Turner’s Cross last Friday, a place in the final is a significant step for his team.
“I would have loved for it to have been Cork on Friday because that would have made a statement. To do it here, yes we got through to the Cup, but three points are important. We now focus on UCD and make sure we replicate the same amount of work and performance.
“It's a strange game, unless you've played it at a certain level, you can't understand how confidence and belief plays a big part in the game. Tonight and in Cork, and maybe for the home game in Drogheda, you could see it. You could see it coming back and that it is going to change at some stage.
“You could see the whole team there, they wanted to get on the ball, move it quick and it makes it so difficult for the opposition to get near you for a start. Then work hard when you give it away because you are going to at some stages, work hard to win it back and everybody was tuned into that tonight.”
Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers meet in the other semi-final second leg tonight - the final will take place on 10 May at a to be confirmed location but the game is firmly out of the mind for Baraclough and his players.
He said Friday’s game with UCD can be their only focus.
“We don't know how we play, whoever it'll be, it'll be a tough, tough task. But nothing will be said about that now. There'll be no looking towards that Cup final.
“I want to get three points against UCD and follow it up with three more against Bohs. That's our challenge now. We've got to start rising up that table and now.”
After the run of league defeats, the Rovers boss asked for leaders to emerge in his team, coupled with character and “grabbing by the team by the scruff of the neck to show we are good enough”.
The results have started to come for his side, and it’s the individual displays of the likes of Aaron Greene, David Cawley and more that gives even more belief that further victories can come.
On Greene’s emergence in attack, IB said he has been an example to the attacking side of the squad.
He concluded: “Aaron has made a statement. He wants to play up front and at the moment he has got possession of the shirt. He is playing with enthusiasm, pace and nobody want to play against him.
“When you're like that, constantly on the move, it's very, very difficult to play against. He is now leading the way and showing the rest that this is what you have to do. It's not a case of standing in the box and waiting for the chances to come.”