Monday 11 December 2017

Euro draw nothing to fear -- Kenny

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

STEPHEN KENNY has admitted that yesterday's Champions League draw could have been worse for Shamrock Rovers.

The Hoops avoided the likes of Basel -- who knocked Manchester United out of the group stages last year -- and Polish champions Slask Wroclaw when they were handed a tricky tie in the second qualifying round against Lithuanians FK Ekranas, who are currently chasing a fifth league title in a row.

This round is key to Rovers' European ambitions, as getting through would guarantee at least four more games, with the losers of the third round entering the Europa League -- the route Michael O'Neill's charges took to last year's group stages.

The Lithuanians feature seven internationals and have won the domestic double the last two years in a row, but their continental record is middling and Rovers stand a fighting chance when the sides meet at Tallaght on July 17 or 18, with the return leg in the town of Panevezys a week later.

"We were unfortunate not to be seeded," Kenny said. "But we can't have a fear factor about that and it is one that we have to believe we can win. The fact they've won four league titles in a row and two doubles means that they are the best team by some distance in Lithuania.

"At the same time we mustn't be fearful. Shamrock Rovers have won the league two years in a row and gained some valuable experience in Europe last season. They will be favourites, but we feel we should have a chance."

Meanwhile, St Patrick's Athletic and Bohemians are looking into the option of sharing a chartered flight after both clubs were drawn against Icelandic opposition for their Europa League first qualifying round.

The Saints will face the IBV Vestmannaeyjar team they knocked out of last year's competition at the same stage, while Bohs will take on Second Division Thor Akureyri, who qualified by virtue of losing the Icelandic Cup final last season.

Tiny

Whereas IBV moved their home leg to capital city Reykjavik last year, the July 12 second-leg clash will take place at their tiny home ground on the island of Vestmannaeyjar, while Bohs' game will take place in the northern harbour town of Akureyri, four hours from the capital.

Sligo Rovers went straight into the second qualifying round, where they face a tough task against Slovaks Spartak Trnava, while Pat's will take on Bosnians Siroki Brijeg and Bohs the Czech side Mlada Boleslav if they can get past their Icelandic opponents.

Champions League

Second qualifying round (July 17/18 and 24/25):

Shamrock Rovers v FK Ekranas (Lithuania)

Europa League

First round (July 5 and 12):

St Patrick's Athletic v IBV Vestmannaeyjar (Iceland)

Bohemians v Thor Akureyri (Iceland)

Second round (July 19 and 26):

FC Spartak Trnava (Slovakia) v Sligo Rovers

NK Siroki Brijeg (Bosnia) v St Patrick's Athletic/IBV

FK Mladá Boleslav (Czech Rep) v Bohemians/Thor Akureyri

Irish Independent

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