Tuesday 28 March 2017

Rovers hoping for 'straightforward' Champions League trip

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

SHAMROCK Rovers and Ireland's other European representatives will learn their fate this morning when the UEFA Champions League and Europa League draws are made in Switzerland.

The Hoops go into an open draw and could face opponents from as far afield as Moldova, Armenia and Bosnia.

The Irish champions are seeded in the second qualifying round in their first season in the competition, but while it is not officially regionalised, UEFA have a habit of pooling teams geographically.

If that is the case -- as it was for Bohemians last season -- Rovers could face the likes of Irish League champions Linfield, Welsh side Bangor City, Flora Tallinn of Estonia, Skonto Riga of Latvia, Iceland's UBK Kopavogur or HB Torshavn from the Faroe Islands.

Victory for the Hoops would guarantee them four more European games, with the Round Three losers going into the Europa League third qualifying round, while progression would net the Tallaght club a total of €550,000.

The draw takes place at 11.0 in Nyon and will be followed by the Europa League draw which sees St Patrick's Athletic seeded in Round One and Bohemians seeded in Round Two. Sligo Rovers will have to wait to be drawn in Round Three, two legs away from the group stages.

Shamrock Rovers manager Michael O'Neill is hoping for a logistically "straightforward" draw for the ties which take place on July 12 or 13 and 19 or 20.

"We've got a good bit of time to prepare for it and that preparation will be important. We have no real preference," he said. "It's hard to tell in Europe if one opposition is actually weaker than the other at this stage of the season. We have an advantage if we get a team coming into their own pre-season and haven't played that many games.

"It would be nice to have that advantage plus a straightforward trip, we'll take whoever comes out. We haven't looked closely at the competition yet, there's no real point spending your time hoping you get one team or another."

Fourth seeds St Pat's cannot face Fulham in the Europa League first qualifying round and Pete Mahon's men could face opposition from the North, Wales, Luxemburg, the Faroes, Latvia or Iceland in the ties scheduled for June 30 and July 7.

Bohemians could face Welsh side TNS, who beat them 4-1 on aggregate in last year's Champions League, but the cash-strapped club will be hoping to avoid a similar draw to the one Rovers got last season, when they were faced with daunting trips to Armenia or Israel in the open draw.

The Europa League draw will take place at 12.0 and the second round will take place on July 14 and 21.

Irish Independent

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