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Juve reward stirs Rovers

NOT that they needed any more motivation, but the three Irish clubs still in contention for European progress this season were given a massive incentive when Uefa yesterday made the draws for the next rounds of the Champions League and the Europa League.

And football fans could be in for a treat with the prospect of Manchester United and Juventus playing in the city in the space of 24 hours -- as Shamrock Rovers will get to play the Italian giants should the Hoops get past Israeli club Bnei Yehuda in the second leg of their second-round tie next week. United, of course, play an Airtricity League XI at the new Aviva Stadium.


Bohemians were also relatively happy with their potential third-round opponents, that being conditional again on the Gypsies winning through away from home next week when they play Welsh side TNS, as their reward will be a meeting with Belgian side Anderlecht.

And Sporting Fingal didn't do all that badly as Liam Buckley's side will play the winners of the tie between Finnish outfit Honka and Welsh team Bangor City -- that is of course if Fingal can build on the two away goals they scored in Thursday's 3-2 defeat by Maritimo in Portugal and make progress. Dundalk, 6-0 down from their first-leg tie in Bulgaria, have no chance of making it through.

Rovers, back in Europe for the first time since 2003, now know that they can once again be at the focus of worldwide attention if they can get to play Juventus. "It would be amazing, this time last year we played Real Madrid in Tallaght and if we do get through against Bnei Yehuda -- and of course there is no guarantee of that -- then we'd have played Real and Juve, two of the biggest clubs in the world, in the space of 12 months," says Rovers chairman Jonathan Roche.

Juve, who are slumming it in the Europa League after a dismal seventh-place finish last season, are already thinking about the clash.

"The match is closer then one might think and we start to concentrate on this match," Juve captain Alessandro Del Piero said yesterday after the draw was made. "I don't know whether if it is better to go to the cool weather in Ireland or the heat in Israel but what I know is that we must absolutely make it through to the next round."

Uefa have yet to confirm the dates, venues and kick-off times but it's likely that Rovers, should they get past Bnei Yehuda in Tel Aviv next week, will be away for the first leg (Thursday, July 29) and then take on Juve in Dublin on August 5, the day after Manchester United play a League of Ireland XI in Lansdowne Road.

Rovers will, of course, consider their options for a game against Juve but the club today were determined to play the match in their home ground of Tallaght despite the possibility of a bigger gate at the RDS or Lansdowne Road, should those grounds be available on the night.

Bohs are favourites to get past TNS in Wales next week in the second leg -- Pat Fenlon's side lead 1-0 from the first leg in Dalymount -- and Anderlecht is not the worst draw Bohs could have been given. The main thing from their point of view was that they avoided costly and long trips to places like Belgrade or Yerevan, and they also avoided a possible grudge match with Red Bull Salzburg, conquerors of Bohs at this stage of the Champions League last year.

Belgian football may be at a low ebb in terms of the national team, but Anderlecht have a fine pedigree both at home (30 national league titles) and in Europe (four European trophies), and they will fancy their chances against either Bohs or TNS.


Again the match details have yet to be confirmed by UEFA but Anderlecht's official website today stated that they would play the first leg away from home on Tuesday, July 27 and then host either Bohs or TNS in Brussels on Tuesday, August 3.

"Bohemians and TNS are not known to the general public," said Anderlecht official Herman Van Holsbeeck. "But we will still have respect for whichever club we play.

"When you hear of Bohemians, most people think of the Czech club and not the Irish one. It's the same for TNS, the Welsh team are not known to us. But they will have a strong British style and will be difficult for us.

"We have an advantage in that our technical staff will be able to see both clubs in the second leg in Wales next week, and the Irish side have an advantage as they have been in their season for a long time now."

Fingal arrive back from their week-long stay in Madeira tomorrow and have a league game to deal with before Maritimo come to Dalymount Park on Thursday, but they will be pleased with their possible draw as they avoided nightmare treks to Bulgaria or Macedonia, instead lining up for a game against either Welsh or Finnish opposition.