Gannon: We aren't in Europe to make up the numbers
Published 20/10/2016 | 02:30
In a normal season, Sean Gannon's 10-day injury would have meant him missing one, maybe two, games but this is no ordinary journey that Dundalk have embarked on.
The defender picked up a "small tear" in his calf in the defeat to Sligo and has since missed three crucial wins over Cork, Shamrock Rovers and most recently this week against Longford Town.
While he has been nursing the injury, Gannon has watched the evergreen Alan Keane roll back the years and put in three impressive shifts for the Lilywhites.
Gannon, however, has timed his return and he is hoping to win a recall for tonight's mouthwatering clash against Zenit in Tallaght.
It hasn't been easy watching on but knowing that there is still plenty of massive games coming up, Gannon has remained patient.
"The reason the schedule is like it is, is because we've had success in Europe," Gannon said this week at Headway's #ConcussionAware campaign.
"If we were to sacrifice the success in Europe for a lighter schedule, it wouldn't have been that appealing to us."
Dundalk's thrilling European adventure continues and while the League of Ireland champions will respect their Russian opponents, there is certainly no 'fear factor' going into the game, according to Gannon.
"We've nothing to fear really," he maintained.
"We know they're very talented players and they're all internationals.
"They're probably favourites to win the Europa League. They're top of the group and it'll be a good game for us to play in.
"We have the experience of having played in big European games and that will hopefully serve us well. But at the same time, we realise who we're playing against."
Dundalk's performances continue to put the League of Ireland on the map and Gannon insists that the players are thriving under the pressure.
"At the start of the competition we never thought of ourselves as being whipping boys or there to make up the numbers," he said.
"We felt that we showed in the Champions League qualifiers that we were more than a match for European teams and that's not being arrogant or cocky it was just having a bit of faith in our own ability and the manager had faith in us to play our stuff in Europe and get points when what we really wanted was to do well in Europe.
"Our ambition was to challenge in Europe, we weren't there just to travel around and play in nice, big stadiums and just be there for the sake of it, we wanted to give a good account of ourselves and a good account of the League of Ireland and hopefully raise its profile.
"I think us doing well in Europe has given the League of Ireland a bit of a boost and that can be a positive thing. Any positive feedback for the league in Europe is good.
"The fact that we have four points from six in Europe just goes to show that the league isn't negative or as bad as people make it out to be.
"There's good players in the league that can challenge in Europe. It's something that we're relishing. We don't feel under pressure.
"Stephen (Kenny) has mentioned it, it's an honour for us to represent Ireland in European football."