Monday 22 October 2018

Champions League is music to Buckley's ears

Garry Buckley of Cork City. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Garry Buckley of Cork City. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Aidan Fitzmaurice

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Polish football isn't quite at an all-time low following the national team's dismal display at the World Cup finals, but it's pretty close.

And the game here would sink into ignominy should Legia Warsaw lose out to Cork City tonight in the battle for qualification for the second qualifying round of the Champions League.

Legia don't expect that to happen, in fact the club with an annual budget of €60 million would deem it unthinkable, and even if Cork followed Dundalk (2016) and St Patrick's Athletic (2013) by earning a score draw in a Champions League tie in Warsaw, it wouldn't be enough as John Caulfield's side have to overturn a 1-0 deficit.

Cork City midfielder Garry Buckley was a schoolboy the last time his hometown club played in this competition, and even though it's almost a mission impossible, Buckley's not ready to concede defeat just yet.

"We are still in it. Our performance last week was pretty good, if we approach tonight's game like we did last week's match and take a few of those chances that we missed, we have a chance," says Buckley.

"Legia will be a week fitter and sharper, so it will be tough but with the right approach we have a chance."

Luxury

Cork have the luxury of a back-door entry into the third qualifying round of the Europa League should they lose out to Legia, the added bonus of missing the second qualifying round, but for Buckley it's all about this competition.

"Champions League is top-level football and to think that this club has played in it, it's something you never forget," he says.

"The last time the Champions League music was played in Turner's Cross I was in the crowd, I was a lad of 13. It was surreal to hear that as a player last week and it will feel the same tonight.

"It might never come our way again, we might have to wait 20 years to win the league again or we might win it five years in row. We deserve to be here and we will prove that on the field tonight."

Legia had something of a blow in between the two legs as they lost 3-2 to Arka Gdynia in the Super Cup.

But they have strengthened their panel with Spanish striker Carlitos, top-scorer in the Polish league last season, included after he was left behind for the trip to Cork, while Polish internationals Michal Pazdan and Artur Jedrzejczyk also rejoin the squad, their rest period after the World Cup finals completed.

Cork expect to have 200 fans supporting them in Warsaw with Legia (who have paid out €600,000 in UEFA fines recently) ordered to close one of their stands due to crowd trouble.

Irish Independent

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