Sunday 20 January 2019

We can't be complacent, insists Kenny

Stephen Kenny speaks with his Dundalk players at training yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Stephen Kenny speaks with his Dundalk players at training yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile

Gavin McLaughlin

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny says his players are conscious of the pitfalls that come with complacency ahead of tonight's (7.45) Europa League first qualifying round second leg with Levadia Tallinn at Oriel Park.

Dylan Connolly's winner in Estonia last week has Dundalk firmly in the driving seat to set up a second-round showdown with Cypriot side AEK Larnaca but with 43 European games to his name, Kenny knows well that mistakes at this level can pull the curtains on a campaign before it has even really begun.

"The players realise and understand the ruthless nature of European football," Kenny said. "One mistake, you lose, and you're out.

"We're not naive enough to think past Levadia and our full focus is on this game. You have to earn the right to win every game and, like ourselves, Levadia have ambition and will be very determined to go through.

"They went to a training camp for 10 days before the first game and their coach was with Serbia at the World Cup in 2010, so they will be taking it very serious and we have to respect that.

"We don't feel inferior to anybody," he added. "We won't go on the pitch and surrender possession but we also understand we're not at the level where we can underestimate anyone and just expect to win convincingly, especially given the rising standards in Europe."

Dundalk's European run in 2016 captured the imagination of the wider public but Kenny said that it wasn't his club's "duty" to try and restore some credibility to the League of Ireland after the shambolic events in Bray and Limerick over the past week.

"Our duty is to try and progress for Dundalk Football Club," he said. "They're two separate issues and I'm not into spin. We're just trying to evolve ourselves and European football is something we never take for granted.

"It can be a great thing for the players and the club, especially in a provincial town. It really lifts Dundalk and you can feel the energy around the place on a European night.

"We've had some unforgettable European nights over the past five years but we're forging our own identity and we want to create new history."

Last week's game in Tallinn was Dundalk's 21st since Kenny took charge ahead of the 2013 season but for Jamie McGrath, it marked his first start against continental opposition.

The former St Pat's star has been an integral part of a side that has won 14 games in a row but he is also taking nothing for granted.

"It was far from easy over there last week. We were under the cosh in the opening 20 minutes and I think it'll be the same on Thursday night."

John Mountney will miss the game with a thigh strain and he joins Stephen O'Donnell and Stephen Folan on the injury list but otherwise, Kenny has a full deck to choose from.

Irish Independent

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