Major injury boost for Dundalk ahead of vital Champions League showdown
DUNDALK have received an injury boost ahead of tonight’s Champions League showdown with BATE Borisov as key defender Andy Boyle is set to play after shaking off a calf injury.
Boyle travelled to Belarus as a major doubt but he participated in last night’s training session at the Borisov Arena, although he did sit out parts of the exercise as a precaution.
The Dubliner is rated extremely highly by manager Stephen Kenny and, barring any hitches in the warm-up, the centre half will be selected alongside his title winning partner Brian Gartland.
They are keen to learn from the lessons of last year’s European experience, with Gartland admitting that naivety from the group cost them against Hadjuk Split. Dundalk lost the first leg of their Europa League meeting with the Croatians at Oriel Park but they won the away leg after a late rally to exit the competition on a 3-2 aggregate score.
“Against Split, we were possibly a bit naive in the first game, in terms of some defensive mistakes we made,” said Gartland, speaking to independent.ie.
“We then realised in the second leg that we had nothing to fear. We were playing in Split in front of 20,000 fans and, as the gaffer would say, a partisan crowd. And we finished stronger.
“For a lot of the young lads it was their first time in Europe and it was a good experience,” continued Gartland, who says Dundalk have to be prepared for the unexpected despite doing a lot of video work on BATE’s strengths.
“You can do all the homework on teams but sometimes it’s on the day and you have to react to what’s in front of you. They (BATE) have got their patterns of play but they can play off the cuff as well, like we can.
“We’ve watched their league games and it’s hard to gauge the standard. They play in an amazing stadium but a lot of the grounds of the other teams they’ve played against - they’d be worse than League of Ireland grounds. But when you watch the qualifiers from last season, they look like they’ve a few gears they can go up so that’s what you’ve got to be wary of.”
BATE have qualified for the group stages three of the past four seasons but they were given a fright at this stage last term when they only progressed past Albanian side Skenderbeu via the away goals rule. Two years ago, they surprisingly fell at the first hurdle to Shakhter Karagandy of Kazakhstan, which illustrates they can be vulnerable at this stage of the competition.
Tonight’s encounter in the Borisov Arena kicks off at 6.30pm Irish time.