Euro expert Finn targets another big adventure
The European heat is on for Ronan Finn and this is where the Shamrock Rovers midfielder is comfortable.
He will make his 31st appearance in a European game as Rovers take a 1-0 lead from Iceland into tonight's decisive encounter with Stjarnan.
Finn is a seasoned operator in this type of encounter having been part of the Shamrock Rovers (2011) and Dundalk (2016) sides that qualified for the group stages of the Europa League.
The midfielder has started to hit form in his second stint with Rovers following his surprise move last winter, and his performances have been aided by a heat patch that he is wearing during matches which is helping to alleviate the pain from a problem in his lower abdomen.
It's a legacy of the toll on Finn's body during Dundalk's European exploits, but he is desperate to achieve more of the same with Rovers because of the memories that these games create.
"You always get a little high coming into Europe, it's kind of a feeling you get that's hard to replicate all the time because the games are just that bit bigger I suppose," said Finn. "They shouldn't be I suppose but they potentially are.
"I've stressed to the younger players just how good Europe is, how much of a great distraction it is. The pressures of the league will always be there but Europe is an opportunity for the young fellas to show how good they are.
"There is obviously talk of clubs looking at them (Trevor Clarke is a man in demand) - and there's no better place to go and show your ability than big European games.
"I didn't play in Europe for a couple of years and I looked on with envy at others. Now that you're here, you don't want to be [in the competition] for one round or two rounds, you want to kick on. It's not going to be easy, but we've given ourselves a good chance."
Rovers followed up their European win with a defeat in Sligo, but they were without the suspended Graham Burke for that encounter and Finn believes the footballing prowess of the Belvedere product can be invaluable for this type of test.
"We missed him in Sligo because we needed his guile, his bit of quality to spot a pass," he continued.
"Graham is really hard to play against and Europe will bring out the best in him because he's just so technical."
A tie with Czech side Mlada Boleslav is the reward for the winners along with a €225,000 prize. Stjarnan remain confident of turning things around with a weekend cup win getting them back on the winning trail after a poor run leading into the Rovers reverse.
"We are very optimistic," said their coach Rúnar Páll Sigmundsson after a look at Tallaght Stadium.
"Our leagues are very similar and it's only half-time. We have great belief we can go through to the next round. Shamrock Rovers are tough and play at a high tempo so we cannot give them so much time again."
Hoops coach Stephen Bradley is conscious that his side are playing for the pride of the league as well as the rewards for progression.
"Results in Europe like last week, you get people from outside the country ringing and texting you saying it's a great result," he said.
"First of all it's great for us and our fans and then for the league in general.
"We need to make sure we hit the ground running tonight. We've done that in most games and we'll need to do that again to get the crowd with us and to make it intimidating for them.
"We need to play like we did over there and try and win it. If we approach it any other way we're in trouble."