Saturday 24 March 2018

BATE sweating on star striker as kind draw ramps up Dundalk excitement

BATE's Vitali Rodionov is awaiting a decision from UEFA's disciplinary panel ahead of their second leg Champions League meeting with Dundalk
BATE's Vitali Rodionov is awaiting a decision from UEFA's disciplinary panel ahead of their second leg Champions League meeting with Dundalk
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

UEFA's disciplinary panel will meet on Monday to decide if key BATE Borisov striker Vitali Rodionov will be suspended for the second leg of their Champions League meeting with Dundalk.

European football's governing body have given BATE until that morning to respond after Dundalk lodged video evidence of Rodionov's altercation with Dane Massey following the winning goal in Belarus in their initial joust.

Massey says he was headbutted, and the Louth men feel the evidence proves it. If UEFA agree that it's clear-cut, then Rodionov will be retrospectively punished and miss out on Wednesday's eagerly anticipated decider in Oriel Park.

RTE have announced they will screen the game live, and the expectation levels grew after yesterday's draw for the next round. Dundalk will face either Hungarian side Videoton or Welsh outfit TNS if they manage to complete an upset.

The League of Ireland champions take BATE's seeding if they advance to the third qualifying round, which explains the less daunting challenge.

And, compared to the other options available, which included some top Scandinavian opponents, a pairing with the Videoton/TNS tie is an attractive proposition.

Videoton won the first leg in Wales 1-0 and they will expect to finish the job in the return. They will be at home first in the next phase if they do.

Dundalk lost 2-1 in Belarus on Wednesday and hope that David McMillan's away goal will prove significant when BATE arrive to play on the idiosyncratic artificial surface in Oriel Park.

The attendance will be restricted to just 3,200 as attempts to secure temporary seating for another 1,000 failed to get off the ground.

In the Europa League, UCD will face Russia's Krasnodar if they manage to overturn a 1-0 deficit when Slovan Bratislava sample the unique surroundings of the Belfield Bowl next Thursday.

Shamrock Rovers need a stunning performance in Norway to survive after a 2-0 defeat to Odds BK in Tallaght on Thursday but they will heading to that neck of the woods again if they get through as Randers of Denmark or Elfsborg of Sweden awaiting the winners.

Meanwhile, in the third round of the FAI Cup draw, Dundalk will travel to Galway United - it will become a familiar journey as they are also down to lock horns with the Tribesmen in the semi-finals of the EA Sports Cup.

Undoubtedly, the tie of the round is at Turner's Cross where Cork host holders St Patrick's Athletic.

Non-league representation in the quarter finals is guaranteed after Dubliners Tolka Rovers and Killester were pitted together.

Sheriff YC host First Division side Athlone, although the latter had other things on their mind yesterday as they publicly called for the second tier to be scrapped in favour of a revised structure.

"The club is of the opinion that the division as currently structured, with just eight clubs, is simply not viable for the teams involved," said an Athlone statement.

"There is no getting away from the fact there is little interest in the competition. There are too many games against the same opposition, and fans are literally voting with their feet and not turning up."

The Midlanders favour a one league structure along similar lines to the MLS with a regional identity.

"What we suggest is to have all teams at the same level, but split the league into two conferences, in a manner that is identical to the current MLS format. That league has become very successful in what is a tough sports market.

"Like the MLS Irish teams would play every other team in their respective conference on a home and away basis. At the end of each regular season the top two, three or four sides could play off in knockout games for the overall league title."

Athlone fear First Division clubs will disappear from the game unless urgent action is taken and want their proposals to at least instigate a discussion.

FAI Cup Third Round Draw: Cockhill Celtic v Longford; Tolka Rovers v Killester; Galway United v Dundalk; Derry City v Drogheda United; Sheriff YC v Athlone; Bohemians v Bray; Cobh Wanderers v Sligo Rovers; Cork City v St Patrick's Athletic.

Ties will be played week ending August 23

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