ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC'S players are enjoying a rare day off today ahead of their lucrative clash with Bundesliga side Hannover 96 on Thursday.
The Saints will return to training tomorrow having already earned three times the prize money available for winning the League of Ireland after their European run took them into August for the fourth time in five seasons and are now facing a huge step up in class on and off the pitch.
While Bosnian side Siroki Brijeg brought two club officials to Thursday's second leg, the Saints are willing to offer the Germans one of the two stands in Tallaght Stadium if they can fill it on Thursday. Hannover officials have already requested a minimum of 1,500 tickets.
The Saints are in negotiations to sell the television rights to a German station for a figure less than €100,000, while no domestic broadcaster has expressed an interest in showing the clash.
And, while travel costs and renting Tallaght will eat up a chunk of the club's earnings, their coffers have been boosted significantly by the run with €300,000 in prize money guaranteed.
"Financially, it's massive, as with each round you go through it's the same as winning the league. There are obviously associated costs, St Pat's have travelled all over in the last couple of years," club secretary Anthony Delaney said.
Captain Conor Kenna is a Tallaght native and works a five-minute walk away from the stadium at the hospital -- but he would much rather take on the Germans in the more intimate surroundings of Richmond Park, where St Pat's have not lost a game in Europe since the turn of the century.
"Look at the crowd here -- you can hear them all night and they are local. They give us that extra boost," he said. "I'd rather play in Richmond, to be honest, but it's only a pitch at the end of the day."
And Kenna reckons that the Saints' attractive style of play, which saw them dominate possession away to Brijeg and at times in the home leg, can cause some problems for Hannover, who are still in pre-season.
Liam Buckley is looking into getting to see the Germans, who finished seventh in the Bundesliga last season, but their friendly against Wisla Krakow this evening is likely to be behind closed doors.
"We showed in the first leg, too, that we can play good football and (against Brijeg) in extra-time we dug in and we have that battle in us," Kenna said. "Hannover are a great side but we are set up nicely the way we play."