Tuesday 24 April 2018

Record-breaker Kenny confident Dundalk can upset odds

Stephen Kenny will be managing his 40th European tie on Wednesday. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Stephen Kenny will be managing his 40th European tie on Wednesday. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Sean Ryan

Stephen Kenny will be in charge for a League of Ireland record 40th European tie on Wednesday, when Dundalk attempt to cause a major upset against Rosenborg in Trondheim, and secure a coveted third-round Champions' League qualifier against Celtic or Linfield.

All that experience comes into play in these two-leg affairs, for the manager who learns most from the first leg can give his team the edge in the second game. Last year, Kenny's tactics saw him secure progress against FH Hafnarfjardar after a disappointing 1-1 home draw, and also against BATE Borisov after losing 1-0 away.

"You are constantly learning," said Kenny, who is hoping to make it to 100 European games before he retires. "Attention to detail is so important and has to be exceptional. You can't lose sight of the fact that you have to have confidence in your own players' ability. It's not just a containing job, you have to have the ambition to score goals.

"Also, you don't have to chase the game all the time. You can retain possession and establish some kind of control in that way."

Kenny's players have been excellent in carrying out their manager's wishes, and their early play against Rosenborg in Oriel Park last Wednesday was up there with the best exhibitions by a League of Ireland side at this level. The fact that all that good work was undone by sloppy defending at a set-piece was frustrating for both manager and players.

However, Dundalk showed that they can put it up to Rosenborg and, with their ability to score on their European travels well established, they are by no means out of this tie. Centre-back Niclas Vemmelund, who has been enjoying an excellent season, misses out through injury, but his replacement Paddy Barrett was well blooded in last year's epic campaign.

New signing Dylan Connolly has yet to show the havoc he can wreak in a Dundalk jersey. With his lightning pace, he could frighten the Rosenborg defence, and keep them busy minding the house instead of lending a hand to their attack. The length of his involvement, though, will depend on the trend of the game.

Cork City boss John Caulfield and Shamrock Rovers' Stephen Bradley are singing from the same hymn-sheet after they each suffered one-goal defeats in their second-round qualifiers in the Europa League. In each case, they believe that the narrow deficit means they don't have to chase the return games from the start, but can play their way into them.

While this may be wishful thinking on the part of the Hoops, who clearly have defensive problems when conceding three goals at home, Cork's excellent defensive record, allied to the striking ability of Sean Maguire, Karl Shepherd and new signing Kieran Sadlier, suggests that the Rebels are capable of a shock. Their biggest problem is having to fulfil a League fixture today (4.0) at Bray Wanderers in the Carlisle Grounds. That doesn't lend itself to the ideal preparation for a trip to Cyprus.

Neither Cork nor Rovers were offered the kind of incentive Dundalk were handed in Friday's European third-round draws. The Hoops, if they overcome Mlada Boleslav, face either Kairat Almaty (Kazakhstan) or Skenderbeu (Albania), while Cork, if successful in Larnaca, would meet either Macedonia's Rabotnicki or Belarus's Dinamo Minsk. The last named were put to the pin of their collar to get past St Patrick's Athletic last year.

Other Irish interest in the Europa League, apart from the expats at Aberdeen and Everton, is supplied by Cillian Sheridan, who was in action for Bialystok (Poland) in their 1-1 draw at Gabala (Azerbaijan). The winners play Panathinaikos (Greece).

FIXTURES

Wednesday: Champions League second-round qualifier: Rosenborg BK (1) v Dundalk (1), Trondheim, 6.15.

Thursday: Europa League second-round qualifiers: Mlada Boleslav (3) v Shamrock Rovers (2), 5.0; Larnaca (1) v Cork City (0), 6.0.

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