Ex-Bristol Rovers and Leicester City man Champions League bound after title joy

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Two former Bristol Rovers players could meet in the UEFA Champions League this summer.

Former Bristol Rovers defender Cian Bolger had a weekend to remember after celebrating a league title win.

Bolger won the NIFL Premiership with Larne on Friday after beating Crusaders 2-0. It was the first time in Larne’s history that they had won the title ended Linfield’s four-year dominance of the league.

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The 31-year-old featured in 31 of Larne’s 36 league matches this season, and has kept an impressive 18 clean sheets. As a result of Larne’s success, they will play in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Champions League. Larne could come up against Rory Gaffney’s Shamrock Rovers, as well as Welsh champions TNS.

Bristol Rovers podcast Tote End Bar congratulated him and Larne’s head of youth development by saying: “Huge congratulations to two former gasheads, Cian Bolger and Jeff Hughes on winning the Irish League with @larnefc

“By far and away the best side in the league, with Bolger in with a huge shout of winning player of the season.”

Bolger had three loan spells at Bristol Rovers in successive campaigns. He joined from Leicester City in 2010, making six appearances after joining in January. He was re-signed and played 38 games in League Two following the Gas’ relegation the year before. It was decided he would rejoin for a third time in August 2012, and made four appearances but his third time at the Mem was impacted because of an ACL injury.

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He joined Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer but failed to make an appearance. Bolger had loan spells at Colchester and Southend, and ended up joining the Shrimpers on a permanent deal. He ended up playing two seasons, before later joining Fleetwood Town, Lincoln City and then Northampton Town.

Bolger eventually returned to Ireland and penned terms with Larne in July 2021. He won the County Antrim Shield in first campaign at Inver Park and won it for a second time this year in addition to his league success.

Former Rovers midfielder Jeff Hughes could also be due a winners medal despite retiring in February. He played 12 times this season but had to retire because of an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Hughes was at Rovers between March 2008 and May 2011, and the 37-year-old made 140 appearances in total for the club, scoring 30 goals.

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