We Live in Hoop; Rovers in Europe History Makers Land Glamour Tie with Premiership Giants

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Byline: PAUL O'HEHIR

MICHAEL O'NEILL is adamant that Shamrock Rovers hold no fear of Tottenham.

The Hoops were paired with the Premier League giants in yesterday's Europa League Group A alongside Russia's Rubin Kazan and PAOK of Greece.

But having gone all the way to Belgrade to come from behind and shoot down FK Partizan, O'Neill is telling his players that this is not a group to be overawed by.

En route home from the Serbian capital last night, O'Neill (inset) said of the draw: "From a travel point of view, Rubin Kazan gave me most concern but we don't have to go there until the domestic season is over so it won't impact on domestic fixtures.

"Salonika is not that difficult to get to. Against a team like that we can do well and Kazan too. Spurs will be that bit more difficult but we've risen to the occasion before and can do so again.

"It is the glamour tie. It comes at the end of the group when we're not in season. Equally we get a chance to go to White Hart Lane when we're in season and hopefully we can do ourselves justice.

"We have to be realistic, to get this far has been fantastic. We have enjoyed the adventure. It has been a lot to deal with and we are in uncharted territory.

"Thursday in Belgrade was the most satisfying moment in my managerial career. To see the players give so much courage, in extra-time against quality opposition, it was a magnificent response. I've never seen that from a group of players before."

Shamrock Rovers chairman Jonathan Roche and club secretary Noel Byrne were in Monaco for yesterday's draw but their day was far from straightforward.

Travelling from Belgrade, a flight delay meant they missed the draw but got the required information via phone and rolled into town in time of the all-important fixtures meetings that sees the Hoops open the campaign at home to ex-Russian champions Rubin Kazan on September 15.

Two weeks later, Rovers will travel to White Hart Lane for that mouthwatering clash with Tottenham and back-to-back games against Greek club PAOK Salonika, the first of which is away.

And the Hoops will wrap up their group campaign with a daunting trek to Kazan in November which is roughly 500km east of Moscow, before hosting Spurs in Dublin 10 days before Christmas.

Those two games fall when Rovers are out of season.

"Partizan were really helpful even after we beat them," said Roche. "They arranged our flights at a very difficult time for them and that's what football is all about. They showed us a thing or two about how clubs operate and it was a real eye-opener for us.

"They booked the flights for us at 12 o'clock on Thursday night. They told us we needed to go. It was a very hard night for them but they were brilliant to us."

And Roche revealed that Monaco and UEFA were buzzing last night after Rovers' heroics in Belgrade.

He added: "People are delighted that a new club and country is in the group stages. They seem genuinely delighted. For people who follow our league this can only be good."

Of the Tottenham clash, Roche reckons about 1,000 Rovers fans will travel to London next month.

"It is a nice trip and they are the glamour boys," he said. …