Thursday 27 November 2014

Celtic draw leaves St Pat's eyeing €800,000 bonanza

Saints ponder Aviva option if they win through to dream Euro clash, writes Garry Doyle

Garry Doyle

Published 19/07/2014 | 02:30

Christy Fagan will be hoping to help St Patrick's Athletic set up a Champions League date with Celtic. Photo: Lukasz Grochala / SPORTSFILE
Christy Fagan will be hoping to help St Patrick's Athletic set up a Champions League date with Celtic. Photo: Lukasz Grochala / SPORTSFILE

St Patrick's Athletic could net €800,000 after yesterday's Champions League qualifiyng draw handed them a potential third-round clash with Celtic.

St Pat's will consider renting the Aviva Stadium from the FAI should they come through their tie with Legia Warsaw this Wednesday and Celtic see off KR Reykjavik on Tuesday.

The Saints are facing a tough task to secure a dream clash with the Scottish Premier League champions, notwithstanding the excellence of their display earlier this week in Warsaw, when they held Legia to a 1-1 draw.

Still underdogs to beat a side with seven internationals and a €50m turnover, St Pat's have now had an additional financial carrot dangled in front of their noses. For Pat's, the home leg would be on July 29 or 30, with the return on August 5 or 6.

BARGAIN

Of course, they also need Celtic to keep their side of the bargain and seal the deal against their Icelandic opponents in next week's second leg at Celtic Park.

Assuming Ronny Deila's team do advance – and with a 1-0 lead gathered from their first-leg travels, they should do so – then the money will roll in: €140,000 in prize funds from UEFA, between €50 to 100,000 from the sale of television rights and a profit of anywhere between €100,000 and €618,000 from gate receipts.

Ticket sales, however, represent the big variable. In the event of both teams advancing, the Inchicore club will approach the FAI (they already held informal talks with the association about renting the ground for the home clash with Legia) and ask to cut a deal.

They're certain to get a favourable answer, and then they have to find the appropriate balance between pricing the tickets at a rate that is both enticing to the punter yet profitable to the club.

The break-even point would be around the €150,000 mark – in other words, 10,000 seats sold at €15 a pop.

A full house of 51,200 fans paying an average of €15 per ticket would leave St Pat's cashing in on the biggest pay-day in their history.

Ifs, buts and maybes aren't confined to St Pat's. Sligo Rovers are also looking at collecting another generous cheque from UEFA if they can hold both their nerve and their 2-1 lead against Norwegian side Rosenborg in Thursday's second leg at the Showgrounds, having drawn Turkish side Kardemir Karabukspor in the third round of qualifying.

These are exciting yet nervous times for their goalkeeper Gary Rogers, who is looking forward not just to the biggest day of his career but also the most important one yet in his life. He and his wife Linda are expecting their first child within the next two weeks and Europa League football is playing havoc with their plans.

"We will just have to see how the next couple of weeks unfold," said Rogers. "Thankfully I am at home for the next 10 days and after that, well we really don't know."

What we do know is that Sligo's result in Trondheim on Thursday was one of the greatest in their history. And yet it may count for nothing if Rosenborg find form and Rogers' net next week.

"We know they took us lightly on Thursday, which was what we were hoping for," said Rogers.

"And while I am very proud, given that Rosenborg in their recent history have beaten Real Madrid, Valencia home and away, AC Milan at the San Siro and have reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League, we have to finish off the job.

"This time next week I could be a lot happier. For now, it is about us keeping our feet on the ground. We went out on the pitch expecting to win. But there is more work to do. European victories raise the League of Ireland's profile but it is a pity it takes a win in Europe for people to become aware of the league.

"Soccer is the No 1 sport in the country but the League of Ireland is always way down the pecking order. It's something I'd love to change but can't."

A victory next Thursday would help the cause, though.

Derry City will play either Zulte Waregem of Belgium or Zawisza Bydgoszcz of Poland if they manage to fight back from a 1-0 first-leg home defeat to win their tie against Belarus' Shakhtyor Soligorsk.

And if Dundalk can somehow emerge triumphant from the second leg of their tie against Hajduk Split in Croatia, which they will head into 2-0 down, their opponents in the next round will be Lithuanians FK Atlantas or Shakhter Karagandy of Kazakhstan.

Hull city's European debut will almost certainly be against Slovakia's Trencin, who lead Vojvodina of Serbi 4-0 from the first leg.

ENCOUNTER

If Motherwell come through their encounter with Stjarnan – the first leg of which finished 2-2 in Scotland – they will take on Nomme Kalju of Estonia or Lech Poznan of Poland.

Aberdeen will have a tough task ahead if they progress from their tie against FC Groningen, with Spain's Real Sociedad lying in wait for the winners. The Dons fought out a 0-0 first-leg draw with the Dutch outfit at Pittodrie on Thursday.

St Johnstone will play Zestafoni of Georgia or Spartak Trnava of Slovakia should they get past Luzern following a 1-1 first-leg draw in Switzerland.

Champions League third qualifying round draw (includes): Legia Warsaw/Saint Patrick's Athletic v KR Reykjavik/Celtic

Ties to be played July 29/30 and August 5/6

Europa League third qualifying round draw (includes): Karabukspor v Rosenborg/Sligo Rovers, FK Atlantas/Shakhtyor Karagandy v Dundalk/Hajduk Split, AIK Zulte Waregem/Zawisza Bydgoszcz v Derry City, AS Trencin/Vojvodina v Hull, Sheva Lucerne/St Johnstone v FC Zestafoni/FC Spartak, Motherwell FC/Stjarnan v Nomme Kalju/Lech Poznan, Real Sociedad v Aberdeen.

Ties to be played July 31 and August 7

Irish Independent

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