Kenny eyes another upset
A bad dress rehearsal means a good opening night - a theatrical maxim which Dundalk fans will be hoping applies to football also after their team's less-than-impressive performance against Bohemians last Wednesday. Next up is their Champions League qualifier against Norwegian kingpins Rosenborg, when nothing less than their best will be required.
"This is a tougher draw than last year," admitted manager Stephen Kenny. "We were unlucky not to be seeded, one more point was all we needed. So if we lose, we're out, but we retain the ambition to pull off another huge shock.
"Rosenborg were in the group stages two seasons ago and practically every player in their squad has been capped. They are physically very strong, tall and athletic, and will pose a real aerial threat. They expect to make the group stages, so we'll have to play to our potential."
After playing 10 games in Europe last season, to go out after two would be some comedown, but Kenny is not thinking like that. "Our ambition is to qualify for the group stages, and our preparations have gone well enough," he said.
"We're scoring plenty of goals, and when we're not at our best, we're not conceding. The only goals we conceded in our last 10 games were the three against Cork. My ambition is to get back to the Aviva, where we had 33,000 for the play-off against Legia Warsaw."
Meanwhile, Cork City face a Larnaca (Cyprus) team, which has invested heavily in Spanish players. "They have 12, seven of them in the team," Cork boss John Caulfield reports. "They think they can get to the group stages, and represent a massive challenge but, based on last year, we have a chance."
However, Caulfield presents a realistic picture, saying: "Last year was exceptional for the League of Ireland clubs in Europe, because our top clubs don't have big enough panels. We're not geared up to go three or four rounds every year. If we don't have league games every week, we have a chance, but realistically every thing after the first round is a bonus.
"While in Europe last year, we dropped seven points, so if we could concentrate only on Europe, our chances would be a lot better. As it is, we have St Pat's on Sunday, and then Larnaca on Thursday. The problem is we're not seeded, so we're coming up against tougher teams."
Two wins and two clean sheets against Stjarnan was a great way for Shamrock Rovers' young manager Stephen Bradley, to make his European debut. While they rode their luck at times, the only disappointment was that the Hoops didn't add to their tally, with the best chances falling to sub Michael O'Connor as Stjarnan chased a goal.
"I will try and watch Mlada Boleslav over the weekend," said Bradley, "but the players learned so much from these two games."
Wednesday: Dundalk v Rosenberg, Oriel Park, 7.45 (RTE2 and RTE Player)
Thursday: Cork City v Larnaca, Turner's Cross, 7.45; Shamrock Rovers v Mlad Boleslav, Tallaght Stadium, 8.0 (eir Sport).
Sunday Indo Sport