Rory Gaffney says Shamrock Rovers put themselves in the best position to score a free-kick at their European Championship but conceded he was lucky to escape a red card for striking in the win over Maltese champions Hibernians .
Affney made two and scored the third goal in a 3-0 win at Tallaght Stadium for Stephen Bradley’s side set foot in the second round of Champions League qualifying.
Advancing to this round also guarantees the Hoops three more draws, including a chance at the Europa League and Europa Conference League if they’re eliminated from the first competition.
Bulgarian champions Ludogorets are likely their next opponents once Rovers avoid disaster in Malta next Tuesday.
Gaffney was Rovers’ star but he admitted he was fortunate to escape the maximum penalty for striking with his boot in the second half with a Hibernians defender on the ground.
The 32-year-old was only given a yellow card and said it was an accident after replays clearly showed he was in contact.
“I definitely caught him, I didn’t want that,” said the Galwegian.
“I thought he was on top of me and I tried to get him off me but he obviously pulled me to the ground.
“I was sent off once in my life and I never wanted to get in his face. I think I kicked him but I didn’t go out there to kick his face, at least not at 2-0. If there I was maybe 2-0 down.”
The frontman admits the Rovers group is excited about the doors this win could open.
“I suppose if we take care of this tie we’ll have some kind of free hit, don’t we, free run,” he continued.
“All we have to do is win two games out of four (including the Hibernians game) and we make it to the group stage, right?
“We want to do it, this Conference League gives us clubs a chance to gain a foothold in Europe because it’s difficult to reach the Champions League and the Europa League.”
Rovers boss Stephen Bradley praised his players for their performance, while acknowledgment of a rocky period after half-time showed how dangerous Hibernians – who come from preparation – can be dangerous on the break.
However, Gaffney stressed that with their pad Rovers should be able to operate deeper and take that place away from them in the Malta heat.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/champions-league/rory-gaffney-welcomes-free-hit-in-champions-league-if-shamrock-rovers-complete-job-against-hibernians-41816905.html Rory Gaffney hails ‘free hit’ in Champions League as Shamrock Rovers complete his job against Hibernians