Sunday 23 October 2016

Visa delay adds to Belarus issues for Saints

Published 14/07/2016 | 02:30

St Patrick's Athletic manager Liam Buckley. Photo: Sam Barnes
St Patrick's Athletic manager Liam Buckley. Photo: Sam Barnes

After coming through a nervy affair in Luxembourg last week, the reward for St Patrick's Athletic was a remarkably short window to prepare for a daunting Europa League date in Belarus tonight.

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They managed to fit a league defeat to Sligo Rovers into their preparations for travelling to take on Dinamo Minsk, although Liam Buckley rested a number of senior players for that game.

The complicated nature of applying for visas to the former Russian state meant that the Dubliners spent more than an hour waiting to be accepted into the country when they landed in the Belarussian capital.

Captain Ger O'Brien admits that the Dubliners will have to step up a level from the previous round and their inconsistent domestic form this year against an opponent that has made the group stages in the past two seasons.

"We don't have blinkers on," says O'Brien. "As players we know our league form has been quite poor. We're aware of it and we want to change that quickly.

"It's going to be a tough ask over here but we have to be brave, disciplined and try get a result that means it's alive back at Richmond Park. For whatever reason this club thrives on being underdogs in Europe rather than favourites. We've sometimes struggled when we've been expected to get through."

Minsk knocked out Portuguese side National to make the big breakthrough two years ago and then shocked Red Bull Salzburg in the final play-off 12 months ago.

They also scored a group stage success over Fiorentina on their maiden voyage. They play second fiddle to BATE Borisov at home but are a serious opponent for this stage of the tournament. Minsk scored a comfortable 4-1 over a Latvian opponent to set up this test.

"We have to give ourselves a chance," said O'Brien.

Irish Independent

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