Dundalk to fly flag for league after tough week
Protocol dictates that the national anthem won't be played when Dundalk trot out for their next bout of European action, at home to ambitious Cypriot side AEK Larnaca on Thursday night.
But, after a difficult week for the domestic game, including the threat of strike at two Premier Division clubs (or one fifth of the teams in the top flight) and European first-round exits for Cork City, Derry City and Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk are ready to fly the flag, if not stand for the anthem this week.
Cork exited the Champions League with a 4-0 aggregate loss to a far superior Legia Warsaw outfit, though the Munster club do have a back door into the third qualifying round of the Europa League, City learning their fate in tomorrow's draw.
Derry City and Shamrock Rovers enjoyed away wins (in 90 minutes in the case of Rovers) in their second-leg Europa battles but they exited the contest to opposition from Belarus and Sweden.
Added to those foreign losses, domestically it was a bad weekend for the two clubs who are struggling financially, Bray Wanderers beaten 6-0 by Bohemians on Friday night and Limerick going down 2-1 away to St Patrick's Athletic.
"The general sporting public in Ireland sit up and take notice of the league when the teams play in Europe and it wasn't a great week with Cork losing and Derry and Rovers going out. But we are still in it and hungry to do well, as we have done in the past," says Dundalk defender Dane Massey, a keen observer of events at Bray as he's a former player.
"It's a sad state of affairs at Bray, I was there for five years and it was a fantastic club, community-based, it was a well-run club and attendances were always good. I never had a problem there.
"It's sad to see where they are and I know it's incredibly frustrating for the players to have to go to a ballot so they can get paid. We need to row in together as a league and make sure it doesn't happen again.
"John Sullivan is one of the Bray players who played here at Dundalk, he's had to pay for his own operation and that could easily be any of us, you have to feel for him. Hopefully Bray can become the great club they once were."
For Dundalk now, the focus is on Thursday's first-leg battle with Larnaca, a club with a heavy Spanish influence and a side who knocked Cork City out of Europe a year ago.
"We are flying the flag, we have done it before and will do it again," added Massey. "We have a real hunger to do well, there are a lot of new players in our squad who are constantly asking us what it was like to play in the group stages, we told them it's easily done if you work hard for it.
"We have a week to prepare against Larnaca, they are an experienced team and we are looking forward to it. I think we can do it, we have a good squad that can compete with anyone, we are hungry to do well and I am sure we can compete.
"We will need to do better against Larnaca than we did at home to Levadia. Our performance in the second leg against Levadia wasn't great but to win at home and away in Europe is great, it's only the second time in this club's history that it's been done so we'll take confidence from that."
Sunday Indo Sport