A TRIP behind the old Iron Curtain is almost certain to await Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick's Athletic if they can get past the first hurdle in the Europa League.
Rovers, back in Europe after a two-year absence, have been handed a winnable tie against Luxembourg side Progress Niederkorn, a club who have never won a game in Europe. If they get through that round, where they play the away leg first next Tuesday, Pat Fenlon (pictured) and his men, would expect to face Moldovan outfit Sheriff Tiraspol, once they can outwit Norwegian side Odds BK.
Pat's return to the scene of a European triumph as their first round opponents are Skonto Riga - the Saints enjoyed their first-ever away Euro win in Riga in 2008. Success there would earn Pats a tie with either Debrecen (Hungary) or Sutjeska (Montenegro). Cork City will take on Icelandic side KR, with John Caulfield's side at home in the first leg.
If they do progress, Cork would almost certainly face up to Rosenborg in the second qualifying round. UCD, who qualified for Europe via the Fair Play league, have two tough tasks, as a date with Slovan Bratislava would almost certainly await them in the second round if the Students can get past Luxembourg outfit Dudelange.
EUROPA LEAGUE DATES
FIRST LEGS - Tues June 30: Progress Niederkorn (Luxembourg) v Shamrock Rovers.
Thurs July 2: Cork City v KR (Iceland); UCD v Dudelange (Luxembourg); Skonto Riga (Latvia) v St Patrick's Athletic.
SECOND LEGS - Tues July 7: Shamrock Rovers v Progress Niederkorn.
Thurs July 9: St Pats v Skonto Riga, Dudelange v UCD, KR v Cork City.