Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Rover Mannus up for the challenge on European stage

Top man: Alan Mannus is rated as the best goalkeeper playing in Ireland, north or south, at the moment

He's the goalkeeper who was born in Canada, played for Northern Ireland, and has won titles with both Linfield and Shamrock Rovers.

Alan Mannus has certainly enjoyed plenty of highlights in his career.

The 29-year-old is looking for another when Airtricity League outfit Shamrock Rovers host Estonian side Flora in a Champions League qualifier tonight (8pm).

Last year an enterprising run in the Europa League led Rovers to a meeting with Italian giants Juventus.

Whisper it, but some are suggesting Rovers, with a bit of luck, could make the group stages of the biggest club competition of them all. For Mannus, though, it’s first things first.

“I reckon we have a good chance against Flora,” he says, before outlining the different approach taken by those north and south where European football is concerned.

“With the Irish League sides in Europe I always felt that it was a case of ‘we’ll give it a go and if we get through great’ but in the League of Ireland there is more expectancy with people believing that we should make it through.”

Mannus admits there are other differences between the Irish League, where he made his name with Linfield, and the league in which he has been lauded since his move two years ago.

“The leagues have different styles. In the League of Ireland for instance there is more empahis on players passing the ball and starting attacks from the back. I would also say that the players in the League of Ireland are in better condition and better shape, though that is a lot to to do with more training.”

Not wishing to offend, Mannus adds: “Both leagues are good in their own right though — there may be more strength in depth in the south but I don’t want people to take things the wrong way because I really enjoyed my 11 years at Linfield and have happy memories playing in the Irish League.”

Mannus won everything at Linfield and rates as the best goalkeeper to have played in Irish League football over the last decade. He was unlucky not to get a chance in full-time football in England or Scotland, but has no regrets about moving to Dublin, when his contract expired at Windsor Park, even though it would not have been seen as a natural progession.

“There were people not too happy with it for certain reasons but the fans at Rovers have been great to me and I wouldnn’t change a thing,” he says.

“Not everyone may have made the move from Linfield to Shamrock Rovers but I’m glad I did.”

Rovers fans would say the same, with Mannus playing a key role in their title success last season — this after the club nearly went out of business a few years before due to financial problems.

Right now Mannus, even allowing for a mistake he made on Friday to gift Derry City a league win, is considered the best keeper playing in Ireland, though that status has not helped him when Nigel Worthington has picked Northern Ireland squads.

Even with first choices Lee Camp and Maik Taylor out for the Carling Nations Cup games, Worthington opted for Inverness Caley Thistle’s Jonathan Tuffey and Linfield’s Alan Blayney.

It was a decision that bemused many, especially those who see him play week in week out.

“Nigel Worthington can’t be too keen on League of Ireland players but it doesn’t get to me,. All I’m doing is concentrating on doing well for Shamrock Rovers,” states Mannus, who is fiercely proud of his four caps.

In years to come Mannus reveals that he would like to return to live in his native Canada, though says he has much to achieve with Rovers yet — like a Champions League victory tonight for starters.

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