Dennehy goal nets €410,000 for Pat's
AS Jeunes Esch 2 St Patrick's Ath 1(Agg 2-2, St Pat's win on away goals)
A sterner test awaits them next week in the second round but St Patrick's Athletic were just relieved last night to edge past Luxembourg opposition in the Europa League.
Leading 1-0 from the first leg, Liam Buckley's side were pegged back to parity in the first half.
St Pats stuck to their task, however, and Darren Dennehy headed the ball home from Keith Treacy's corner on 73 minutes - his first goal for the club.
That precious away goal gave the Saints a massive advantage and it proved decisive after Patrick Strumpf scored his second three minutes from time to leave the scored a 2-2 on aggregate.
Progression means St Pat's are guaranteed a minimum €410,000 before they take on either Belarusian superpower Dinimo Minsk or FK Spartaks tomorrow week. Dinamo take a 2-1 lead into tomorrow's second leg in Latvia.
"Either of those teams will be a step-up in quality what we faced here," admitted Buckle. "Dinamo Minsk are third in the Belarus league, and Spartaks are top of the Latvian league. Still, there is more to come from us."
Buckley confessed that his side adopted too cautious an approach in the first half last night, allowing the hosts to dictate the tempo and level the tie on aggregate.
Stumpf, who missed a sitter in Dublin, clinically beat Brendan Clarke with a 23rd-minute strike.
Emmanuel Hervé Lapierre nearly put Esch ahead shortly after the restart but Pat's struck when Dennehy rose highest to meet Treacy's corner and head the past Marc Oberweis despite the goalkeeper getting his hand on the effort.
Needing a couple of goals to overturn the tie, Esch surged forward in numbers and eventually made their pressure count when Stumpf was left alone to bury his second.
that made for a frantic finish, but Buckley's crew saw out the tie and can now start preparing for another trip next week, most likely further east to Belarus.
"The prize-money in Europe is very important for any League of Ireland club," noted the Pat's boss. "When you're trying to negotiate new contracts with players and bring people in, it just makes it that bit easier if you've gone through a round or two in Europe."
St Patrick's Ath - Clarke; O'Brien, D Dennehy, Hoare, Bermingham; Cawley, Treacy (Verdon 82); Byrne, Timlin (G Kelly 79), B Dennehy; Fagan.