AFTER AN eight-year exile, Dundalk FC are back in European action in Luxembourg tonight.
And Dundalk star Fahrudin Kudozovic reckons his side have enough European experience to get a result against Grevenmacher in the grand duchy (6.30pm) and give Ian Foster's team a chance of finishing the job at home next week to earn a meeting with Levski Sofia in the next round.
Dundalk were traditionally one of Ireland's stronger performers in European competition, regularly taking on big names like Liverpool, Celtic, PSV Eindhoven and Ajax, while the Lilywhites also had a very proud home record, Dundalk were unbeaten in eight games at Oriel Park in Europe from 1976 to 1981.
A 9-0 aggregate thrashing by Croatian side Varteks in 2002 was Dundalk's last venture into Europe, but some of the squad are still knowledgeable of the European game as Matt Gregg (Bohemians), Stephen Maher (St Pats), Neale Fenn (Cork and Bohs), Alan Cawley (St Pats, Longford and Shels) and Faz Kudozovic (Drogheda) have, between them, clocked up 37 appearances in Europe.
"We have some lads in the team who have played in Europe before, but for most of our young players this is a new experience so we have to help the younger lads through it," says Kudozovic, as Dundalk prepare to face an outfit who have never won a tie in Europe.
"It is a big step-up to play in Europe, it's a real honour to play at that level but the chances to play there don't come about too often, so we'll tell the younger lads in the squad what to expect here tonight.
"When you look back on your career, to say you played in Europe and scored a goal in the Champions League or Europa League is something to be proud of and that's what we have to look forward to tonight.
"We are missing Liam Burns at the back for this game. He's our leader in the team and he has European experience from his time with Bohemians so he's a big loss. But the other boys know what it's about, Neale Fenn played in some big European matches for Cork and Bohemians so he'll be key for us tonight.
"The younger lads in the side have been asking the older players what it's like to play in Europe, what the standard is like, how the tempo of the game is. We have been giving them a head-up to prepare them. One thing we have stressed to the younger players is not to take the opposition for granted.
"Luxembourg wouldn't be seen as a major power in Europe but their club sides are decent, they hold the ball up well and we can't allow ourselves to get over-confident.
"I know I have really enjoyed my experiences in Europe," added Kudozovic, who scored for Drogheda on his European debut in a 2-1 win over Estonian side Levadia Tallinn two years ago. I really look forward to the European games, it's the thing I enjoy most in football. You get a chance to travel, see a different football culture and test yourself against some very good teams."
Yet Kudozovic admits that his side will need a vast improvement on their last outing, when Dundalk lost 3-0 to champions Bohemians last Friday.
"We've had four or five bad results in the league now so that's disappointing," he says. "Friday away to Bohs was very tough. Dalymount Park is a very hard place to get a result and once they got the first goal against us we were up against it.
"It was a very disappointing night for us overall and we need better, much better. I think Grevenmacher had some scouts at that game and I'm sure they will be pleased with what they saw from us, they went away not all that worried."