Good news, bad news for Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley on the injury front ahead of tomorrow's vital Europa League qualifier against Shkupi.
Ireland international Jack Byrne is available for selection following a string of injury issues this season, however, instrumental midfielder Chris McCann has been ruled out through injury.
Former Burnley midfielder, McCann, picked up a knock in last week's first leg victory over the North Macedonian side and has not proved his fitness ahead of the vital second leg, where Rovers take a 3-1 advantage to Skopje.
"He (McCann) has been brilliant," said Bradley. "He’s brought a calmness and composure when we needed it. He’s forced us to play when it’s easier just to kick it and get caught up in a 50:50 game, Chris has taken control of the game.
"He is a miss, but the squad is really strong and I’m sure whoever comes in will be ready to play and fill that void."
Otherwise, the Hoops have travelled with a strong squad and have enjoyed a stress-free trip to their south-central European destination, in comparison with their last away trip to Bulgaria, while other teams like St Patrick’s Athletic have also encountered logistic issues in Europe this season.
"Thankfully our travel was good, flight, hotel, everything was perfect, a lot better than what we’ve had on our previous trip," said Bradley.
The two previous rounds of European football have also helped Rovers acclimatise, playing in the continental summer heat in Bulgaria as well as Malta against Hibernian in the first round, and while day-time temperatures in Skopje have been hitting the 30s, Bradley does not believe it will be a factor for his side.
"We’re used to it," said Bradley. "It’s very similar to what we had in Malta. By evening time (9pm kick-off local time) the heat and the intensity has gone."
And like that trip to Malta, Rovers are taking a commanding lead into the second leg, however, the manager expects a very different challenge from a superior side in Skopje, and expects the home side to control segments of the game.
But Bradley was adamant that his side’s intentions were still to go and win the game, by sticking to their own game-plan, which also involves stepping up a level, referencing last week’s second half when Shkupi dominated for large segments of the game.
"No, I don’t think we can," said Bradley, when asked it he would take the same approach as when they went to Malta with a 3-0 lead.
"We have to go and attack them. They have shown previously that they can score goals at home. They were two down in the previous round against Lincoln and won 3-0 and you seen in the second half they were dangerous, so we have to go and win the game.
"In the second half (at Tallaght), they showed the quality we knew that they had, and for 25 minutes we needed Alan [Mannus] to keep us in the game, and tomorrow I’d imagine they’ll bring that from the first minute, so we’ve got to make sure we go up the levels tomorrow.
"(An improved performance) is definitely needed, we need to go up a few levels to win the game tomorrow night. Alan was fantastic last week, he made some really important saves, too many important saves for our liking, so we’ve got to make sure that we go up a few levels."
Another scoreless draw for Rovers, as was the case in Malta, would certainly suit Bradley and would see his side secure group stage football this season, and the manager said that it has been the result of all their recent endeavours.
"We're one game away from it," said Bradley. "We know it's a tough one, but we've worked hard to get ourselves into this position and it's a nice position to be in."
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