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Breaking the Molde

IT WAS a case of groans, not grins, from the Irish delegates at UEFA's HQ in Switzerland when the draws were made for the early rounds of European competition this summer.

Instead of financially lucrative or glamorous ties against opponents like Celtic – Belfast side Cliftonville came out smiling there as they will face Neil Lennon's crowd with a massive cash windfall – all four League of Ireland teams were facing into Euro ties that are either tough tasks football-wise or financially draining.

Sligo Rovers will face up to Norwegian title holders Molde in the second qualifying round of the Champions League, offering Sligo boss Ian Baraclough (right) a chance to renew acquaintances with Molde manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – the pair took their UEFA coaching badges on the same course.

"I did my 'A' Licence with Ole Gunnar several years ago in Lilleshall in England so it will be good to catch up again and pit our wits against each other," said Baraclough, who will be aware that Molde are struggling for form domestically this season and are second from bottom in their league.

Derry City's 'reward' for automatic progress to the second qualifying round of the Europa League is an almost impossible tie against free-spending Turkish side Trabzonspor, Derry manager Declan Devine admitting "we couldn't have gotten a more difficult tie if the truth be told".

Turkish interest in that tie will be intense and Derry's website crashed a number of times yesterday due to the high level of traffic from Turkey.

Drogheda United would get a potentially winnable – and financially rewarding – tie against Pat Fenlon's Hibernians in the second qualifying round of the Europa League, but only if Drogheda (who have lost their last four league games in a row) can somehow overcome classy Swedish side Malmo, the former European Cup runners-up who are the most successful side in Swedish football history.

And if St Patrick's Athletic can keep up their recent impressive European record and overcome Lithuanian side Zalgiris Vilnius, their prize would be an energy-sapping and financially draining tie against opposition from either Macedonia (Teteks) or Armenia (Pyunik Yerevan).

Sligo have confirmed that their home leg against Molde will be held on Wednesday, July 17, with the date for the return in Norway yet to be confirmed. St Pat's are due to play away for their first leg on July 4, with Drogheda at home to Malmo, at Tallaght Stadium, on the same day.

Derry were drawn away for the first leg against Trabzonspor, with dates to be confirmed.


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