Europa League: Stewart is the hero as Shamrock Rovers get set for Juventus
Former Northern Ireland under-21 international Thomas Stewart was in dreamland in the Holy Land last night.
It was his goal that sent Shamrock Rovers through to a mouthwatering Europa League third round clash with Italian giants Juventus.
And he wasn’t the only Ulsterman celebrating. Boss Michael O’Neill — who won 33 caps for Northern Ireland — masterminded the 1-0 win over Israeli side Bnei Yehuda, with another former under-21 international Chris Turner in midfield and ex-Linfield goalkeeper Alan Mannus keeping a clean sheet to help Rovers seal the win.
One first-half save in particular from Mannus frustrated the Israeli kingpins.
The former European Champions, with star names like Alessandro Del Piero, Mauro Camoranesi, David Trezeguet and Fabio Grosso — whose penalty won the World Cup for Italy in 2006 — will face Rovers in Dublin next week, in a contest that will overshadow the Hoops friendly against Real Madrid a year ago.
Robert Bayly’s late equaliser in last week’s 1-1 first-leg draw had left Rovers knowing that a win or a high-scoring draw would send them through to the glamour tie of the next round against Juve.
Stewart struck the only goal of the game after 70 minutes when he fired Stephen Rice's long throw into the net.
The prize money for getting through to the third round, plus an expected sell-out crowd and television revenue will see Rovers bank somewhere in the region of £450,00 and £600,000.