ST Patrick’s Athletic believe they can overcome Polish side Legia Warsaw and earn a place in the next round of the Champions League.
And the Saints hope that a passionate home crowd for the second leg in Dublin, and the lack of a punishing trip across Europe, can help the club as they prepare to play in the Champions League for the first time since 1999.
Pat’s could have been looking at a punishing trek to Azerbaijan or Bulgaria when the draw for the first qualifying round was made today but instead the Saints landed the draw which is the most kind in terms of travel, Pats away to Legia Warsaw on July 15 or 16 with the home leg in Dublin on July 22 or 23, and Saints captain Ger O’Brien (pictured right) reckons that is a massive advantage.
“It’s a tough draw football-wise, Legia Warsaw are a very good side, they have a number of internationals in their squad and they were in the group stages of the Europa League only last season, so we know it won’t be easy, but we have a chance, especially as they will be only just back into their season by the time we play then,” O’Brien told The Herald after the draw was made today.
“But we have avoided a hard away game in terms of travel and the ease of getting to Warsaw for the first leg will help us, and it also means it’s easier for the fans to get there so we should have a good support over there.
“I have played in Europe a few times and travel is a big factor. I have done those long trips with Derry City, we had it at Pats a few years ago when we had to go to Bosnia and it was a nightmare trip, the travel does take it out of you, especially when you are trying to cope with your league games.
“So the fact that we can hop on a plane and be in Warsaw two hours later is a big plus for us, the logistics have worked out really well and the club will sort out all the details in terms of travel and training, it’s up to the players then to do the business on the field.
“It is a hard draw in terms of the opposition but you are in the Champions League so you will have to play decent teams who have won their league, Legia are champions over there and the Polish league is quite strong so we will have to do well to get past them,” added O’Brien.
The Saints have established an excellent record in Europe in recent years. In four successive seasons, from 2008 to 2012, Pats progressed through two rounds to the third qualifying round in the UEFA Cup/Europa League, overcoming opposition from Latvia, Sweden, Malta, Russia, Iceland and Kazakhstan along the way.
However last season was a disappointment for the Dublin club as they fell at the first hurdle, losing 4-3 on aggregate to Lithuanian side Zalgiris.