Friday 23 February 2018

Estonia draw opens door for Cork to make Europa run

Cork City manager John Caulfield. Photo: Sportsfile
Cork City manager John Caulfield. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

League leaders Cork City fared the best of the three Irish clubs in the Europa League draw.

Cork, Derry and Shamrock Rovers were all unseeded at the first hurdle and were left waiting on a favourable outcome, with the seeded pot a mixed bag.

It worked out well for John Caulfield's runaway league leaders as they landed Levadia Tallinn. The first meeting is in Estonia next week, with issues over Levadia's stadium meaning it is likely to take place two hours away in Parnu.

Levadia are from one of the worst-supported leagues in Europe, but their fans have Irish experience. They shocked Bohemians back in 2004, but lost to Drogheda in 2008.

Shamrock Rovers beat their city neighbours Flora in the Champions League in 2011 and Cork will be favourites to advance - although Levadia are unbeaten in their league in 2017.

If City get through, they will face Larnaca of Cyprus or Gibraltar's Lincoln Red Imps, with the away leg first.

Cork will have Preston-bound Sean Maguire and Kevin O'Connor available for both ties.

The Leesiders are already guaranteed €215,000 and will pocket another €225,000 if they get past Tallinn and an additional €235,000 if they pass round two.

Shamrock Rovers and Derry City are also eyeing those riches.

Rovers will feel they have a chance against Icelandic outfit Stjarnan and they are away in next week's first leg. The winners face Czech side Mlada Boleslav.

Derry were dealt the stiffest first round task as they kick off away to Denmark's FC Midtjylland. They will hope to catch the Danes cold in their pre-season and keep the tie alive for a second leg in Sligo (Buncrana is unsuitable).

Next up for the victors is Hungary's Ferencvaros or Latvia's Jelgava.

Irish Independent

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