Friday 19 January 2018

'We've come from nowhere... We had nothing' - Stephen Kenny hoping Tallaght factor can inspire Dundalk again

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

DUNDALK manager Stephen Kenny is hoping that the Tallaght factor can inspire his side to another famous result against AZ Alkmaar tomorrow.

The showdown with the Dutch side will be their fourth European match at the home of Shamrock Rovers in their remarkable campaign.

And Kenny thinks that the quality of their performances at the venue have raised the bar for Irish teams.

Dundalk enter the penultimate game of Group D in second position and know that a victory would knock Alkmaar out of the competition.

But a pair of draws from their final two matches would be enough to book a place in the round of 32 provided that Maccabi Tel Aviv - their hosts for the final match - do not win away to the already qualified Zenit St Petersburg tomorrow. Kenny is expecting another 'epic night' in Dublin 24.

"We're in a position we would have wanted to be in at the start of the group," he said, "Being realistic, Zenit are the best team in the group. We could have easily have taken a result from one of the two games against Zenit (both ended in 2-1 losses) but it wasn't to be. But we can still take confidence, particularly from the three home games here which were outstanding.

"A 3-0 win over BATE Borisov, a convincing 1-0 win against Maccabi and the Zenit game where we went toe to toe with them for the majority of the game. The three games here have been up there with the performances of any Irish team. Tallaght has suited us.

"We still have a lot to do to get through," continued Kenny, responding to a question from a journalist from Al Jazeera who was curious about this unlikely Irish success story.

"This is a journey where we've come from nowhere. We had nothing. We've come from the bottom of our own league to win three in a row to be on the verge of qualifying for the last 32. AZ are standing in the way of their progress.They would consider themselves much stronger opponents than ourselves. They would expect to beat us. But our motivation is huge."

Kenny has a few injury concerns heading into the fixture after the novelty of a break following the conclusion of a hectic domestic campaign.

Ronan Finn and Chris Shields played through groin injuries in the final weeks of the Irish season, including in the painful FAI Cup final defeat to Cork City. They were part of a contingent that missed a friendly with a Brentford selection seven days ago. Dane Massey has shaken off a calf complaint but concern still hangs over Stephen O'Donnell.

The shape of Kenny's midfield is likely to be determined by how the doubtful trio feel after a Wednesday afternoon training session.

New Shamrock Rovers recruit Darren Meenan will not be a part of Dundalk's squad. He has signed a pre contract agreement with the Hoops, and their announcement of his signing earlier this week said that he would finish the season with Dundalk. But the fringe member of Kenny's panel will not be considered for this game.

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