Dundalk chairman Mike Treacy views European opponent Qarabag as vision for future
Dundalk chairman Mike Treacy says that Champions League opponents Qarabag are an example that they want to follow.
Azerbaijan's top team have ascended the European ranks to become regular participants in group stage competition in the past five years, with four appearances in the Europa League and one in the Champions League.
They were in a group with Roma, Atletico Madrid and Chelsea on that adventure two years ago, and drew both encounters with Madrid.
Qarabag will be in Oriel Park next Wednesday, however, as they seek to advance in this year’s competition.
Dundalk will be firm outsiders, but their American owners are viewing this tie as a learning experience as they hope to become regular contenders for group stage football.
It will be a costly journey too with early quotes for a charter flight to Baku coming in at around €150,000 which will eat into the extra €400,000 they secured for Wednesday’s dramatic penalty shootout success over Latvian champions Riga.
The prospect of a sell-out crowd for the first meeting with Qarabag will help of course, and Treacy is looking forward to seeing Dundalk rub shoulders with a team of that quality.
"You look at Qarabag and that’s what we look at and what we want to achieve," said Treacy, speaking in the aftermath of an eventtful night in Riga.
"We want to look at Qarabag and where they were in 2012 and what did they do to get to where they are today.
"We're looking forward to it. We probably won’t be favourites but our guys are so fearless and whenever they go out there, they think they can win."
The co-founder of Peak6, Matt Hulsizer, travelled to the first leg of the Riga tie and Treacy said that Dundalk’s ownership group was energised by the penalty shootout that provided a rollercoaster of emotions until Gary Rogers' second stop gave Sean Hoare a chance to convert the winner.
"There were some nerves back in Chicago," said Treacy. "It was agonising, exhilarating, all back and forth in one night. It was madness."
Dundalk's opposition scout Stephen O’Donnell watched Qarabag defeat Albanian champions Partizani in Baku on Wednesday and is understood to have been very impressed by what he saw.
"One thing I do want to say is that we put so much into our preparation, our scouting and analytics and managing workloads," said Treacy.
"It's that little bit which gives you a 1pc edge.
"We had Alex Rathke who does all the analytics on the League of Ireland, he did our penalty analysis for us and ran down to make sure everyone had it before the shootout. Again, whatever little edge you can get is the only way you can survive in Europe."
Treacy said he received congratulations from representatives of other clubs in the aftermath of the victory. He was part of the workshop at the FAI over the weekend which discussed the direction of the game here.
"We're all pulling for each other because we know where this league can go," he continued. "We have to block out the noise and work together, and do well in Europe and raise the profile of the league.
"I was the new guy in the room (in Abbotstown). I’ve only been involved 18 months and there were guys who have given their entire lives to Irish football across the 20 clubs.
"To get everyone in a room and all acknowledge that we need to change and work together...Noel Mooney did a great job. When I left that meeting there was a hint of optimism of where we’re going to go.
"We don't know where that will be but wherever we go I think it's going to be a positive for Irish football."
It is natural that some of Dundalk's domestic rivals would not be too enthused by their victory as it will help to strengthen their position at home.
They have won four out of the last five league titles and are eight points clear at the top of the table as the season enters its’ final third.