Sligo boss hoping for debut to remember
DIPPING his toe in European waters for the first time, Ian Baraclough is eager to dive right in as Sligo Rovers get their Europa League qualifying campaign started tonight.
Temperatures hit close to 30 degrees in Trnava, Slovakia yesterday as the Bit O'Red relaxed ahead of the first leg of their second qualifying round tie with Spartak Trnava at Antona Malatinskeho Stadium (kick-off 6.0).
The locals appear to be confident of celebrating a home win and the lack of experience of the Sligo boss might add even more fuel to their cocksure attitude that it will be plain sailing.
However, they don't know a huge amount about the Premier Division leaders after Baraclough opted not to exchange DVDs of past games with Spartak and didn't train at the stadium last night.
Perhaps it is Baraclough playing his own set of mind games or simply the 41-year-old choosing to do things his way, even though it will be his debut in the dugout for a big European night.
Not that the former Scunthorpe United manager is nervous about it. Quite the opposite in fact, as he is looking forward to the challenge.
"I've watched plenty of European games in my time and been involved in friendlies, but I haven't been involved in an actual tie, so this will be a first for me," said Baraclough.
"I have spoken to some of our players about it as some of them have a lot more experience than I do. But that's the way I do things anyway, it's our team and everyone contributes.
"I'll do anything that I can to gain an insight to what is needed to secure an advantage in this first leg away from home. I've spoken to fellow managers and friends in the game about how to approach this game.
"It's important that we keep the tie alive going back to the Showgrounds next week. Getting an away goal would be an added bonus.
"There is a great positivity around the club and if we can take that into a big European night, what a lift that would give to the players to go and get us into the next round."
It is clear from Baraclough's assured tone that he is confident that his players can surprise their Slovak hosts tonight and inch closer to the third qualifying round, where clubs of the stature of Liverpool and Internazionale await.
However, Sligo's task was made all the more difficult by the fact that striker Mark Quigley -- who netted the winner in last Friday's league clash with Derry City -- did not travel.
Speculation swirled yesterday that the talented frontman was on the way out and had agreed terms with another club but Baraclough played the rumours down, insisting Quigley is going nowhere.
"It's for personal reasons that Mark didn't travel. It was a late call and we were not able to bring somebody in place of him," said Baraclough. "I can't stop speculation on it, it's for personal reasons and personal reasons only that he is not on this trip.
"We will be training on the Saturday when we get back and Mark will be with us."
With right-back Alan Keane (calf) marked as the only injury concern, Baraclough could just cap his European debut with a night to truly remember.
SPARTAK TRNAVA (probable) -- M Filipko; P Gross, P Cvirik, L Hanzel, M Janecka; V Stozicky, M Karhan, M Bicak, M Gasparik, M Mikovic; I Schranz.
SLIGO ROVERS (probable) -- G Rogers; A Keane, G Peers, J McGuinness, I Davoren; R Boco, J Ndo, D Ventre, D Cawley, R Gaynor; D North.
Ref -- Tommy Skjerven (Norway).