Cook rallies Sligo troops before facing 20-hour trip
SLIGO ROVERS will arrive in the Ukraine tonight after a 20-hour journey ahead of Thursday's Europa League tie with Vorskla Poltava.
Paul Cook's side enter the competition at the third qualifying round, with improved Irish results in Europe in recent years benefiting the 2010 FAI Cup winners.
However, the Liverpudlian manager is aware his men face a stern test against a crack Ukrainian team who cruised past Glentoran in the previous round, and will host Sligo in a 25,000-seater stadium.
"We would have liked to have been able to charter a flight but it wasn't possible," said Cook, whose team left Sligo at 1.0 this morning ahead of a meet-up in Dublin airport at 4.0 to start their journey.
"In an ideal world we would have (chartered) but this is what we have had to do and we'll get on it with it. A 20-hour trip is not ideal but the players will rest when we arrive and train on Wednesday and they'll be fine."
With warm conditions expected, Cook is wary of dehydration and fatigue. "But we are a fit team," he stressed. "It can be a factor in the last 10 or 15 minutes where you tire, so we'll change things if we need to.
"Certainly, we can't go there with a kamikaze approach and risk shipping goals."
After spending money on refurbishing the Showgrounds to bring it up to the requirements for hosting the second leg, the players are conscious of the need to keep the tie alive.
"It is going to be a great experience," said skipper Richie Ryan.
"We've watched some of their matches, but there's only so much you can take from that and in a way it is a step into the unknown. But it is the same for them, really.
"They play in a 25,000-seater stadium with a wage budget that stretches to around €7m a year. But none of that matters on the football pitch. It doesn't count for anything and we will give it our all."