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Fenn focused on finishing the job

IT'S ALMOST 30 years since Dundalk last made it through a round in a European tie, but Ian Foster's side are just a goalless draw away from progress in the Europa League and a meeting with Bulgarian side Levski Sofia.

But while striker Neale Fenn, the most experienced European campaigner in the Dundalk side with 18 Euro appearances (and three goals) on his CV, is dreaming of more European success with the club, he has told his team-mates to forget about holding out for a 0-0 draw at home to Luxembourg outfit Grevenmacher tonight (7pm).

Traditionally, Dundalk had one of the best European records of any Irish club. The Louth club were unbeaten in Europe at Fortress Oriel over eight games from 1976 to 1982, and they were also the first League of Ireland side to make real progress in Europe, making it through to the third round of the European Cup in 1979 before being narrowly beaten by Celtic.

Recent Euro experiences were a nightmare for Dundalk, who endured 13 defeats in 14 European games before that run was ended by last week's draw in Grevenmacher. Now they know that Levski await in the second qualifying round should they progress tonight, but Fenn has issued a note of caution.

"We know that a 0-0 draw will be enough to get us through but if we go out there tonight playing for a scoreless draw we will get caught, make no mistake," says Fenn.

"I think we need to take a step back, stop talking about Levski in the next round and finish the job here tonight because we could easily get caught out if we're not careful.

"Nil-nil would do us but we have to be honest and admit that we're not that great at keeping clean sheets.

"So the game plan will be to keep it tight at the back as much as we can, but also press Grevenmacher and score when we can, because I think we will need to score to get through here tonight," added Fenn.

"We are down as favourites at the moment and that brings pressure in itself. It's something we have to deal with as Irish clubs are not used to being favourites in a European game.

"We have three away goals to our credit. We are at home and the Luxembourg players will not be used to our plastic pitch, so those are all advantages. And the conditions should be better in Dundalk tonight. The heat out in Luxembourg for the first leg last week was something else.

"But Grevenmacher are a decent side, especially going forward.

"They are a real threat from set pieces. They have some very good players and they certainly didn't deserve the pre-match odds that were going around. Someone told me that Grevenmacher were 9/1 to win at home to us last week, which is crazy.

"So it's tempting to think about getting into the next round and playing a big side like Levski, but we have to finish the job at home first and it won't be easy," added Fenn.



highlights

The 33-year-old is a veteran of Europe, having played 17 times for Cork City (2004-06) and Bohemians (2008). There were some real highlights in that time, including a six-game run in the Intertoto Cup at Cork under Pat Dolan in 2004, when Fenn played alongside players like current Wolves star Kevin Doyle and against people like French World Cup man Jeremy Toulalan, and a superb win over Swedish side Djurgardens in 2005.

But for Fenn, the highlight was a defeat of Cypriot outfit Apollon Limassol in the Champions League in 2006. "That was massive for us," he recalls. "We won the home leg 1-0 but in the away leg we were 1-0 down and in real trouble. Dan Murray got us a goal, we got a draw and went through to play Red Star Belgrade, which was some experience.

"I really enjoy the European games. I got to play against great club teams from France, Sweden, Holland, Serbia and the Czech Republic. You watch the World Cup and you see players that you played against, like Zigic and Toulalan. Hopefully we have more European games to come after this one tonight," Fenn added.

The pitch at Oriel is a concern for the away side and Grevenmacher made it very clear following yesterday's training session at the ground that they were unhappy.

"I think the pitch is a little bit catastrophic," said their coach Narc Thome. "We have similar pitches in Luxembourg that were made years ago but they are completely different than the one here.

"It is too hard. We are not used to playing on such a hard surface."

Dundalk pick from the same squad that drew in Luxembourg as keeper Peter Cherrie and defender Liam Burns are still missing. Ross Gaynor, Michael McGowan, Garry Breen and Ciaran McGuigan were all suspended for last Monday's league win over Drogheda United but they are back in the panel for this game.

Meanwhile, boss Foster today appealed to fans to snap up the remaining match tickets.

"It's a massive occasion for the club," Foster said. "It is our first European game at Oriel Park in 19 years and it is a very exciting time for the club, the town and the whole league."


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