Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Europa League: O’Neill will not want Shamrock Rovers caught cold

With a snow plough busy clearing the pitch and an army of workers hammering away in the stands with ice picks, Shamrock Rovers arrived at the Centralniy Stadium last night to experience a proper Russian winter.

Rovers, under the leadership of ex-Northern Ireland international Michael O’Neill, face a daunting challenge against Rubin Kazan tonight.

Only now are the multi-million euro outfit entering a winter break, and they rounded off their domestic duties with impressive wins over CSKA Moscow and Dinamo Moscow.

So, in the circumstances, this could hardly be described as an obvious opportunity for the Hoops to pick up their first point in European group stage competition. In reality, it's probably the trickiest test of the lot.

Whatever the opposition or conditions, O'Neill is under no illusions about the scale of the challenge.

“It's extremely difficult,” the manager said. “There's many factors that will make it difficult.

“Not only the travel and the adjustment to the four-hour time difference, but the climate, and the quality of Kazan.

“Still, I don't think there will be too big a deviation from how we've played previously. It would be foolhardy to change what has made us competitive.”

O'Neill was keen to talk only about the challenge ahead.

His own future remains unresolved, and he has declared an interest in the Northern Ireland manager's job.

It's unclear if that position will be filled before the final fixture with Spurs on December 15.

“I don't think it's something to discuss at the minute,” he said. “We've a game tomorrow night so there's no point going into that situation at the moment.”