Sport Soccer

Saturday 16 December 2017

Mahon bemoans Saints' Europa draw 'disaster'

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

PETE MAHON and St Patrick's Athletic must be wondering what UEFA have against them after they were handed another extremely difficult journey in yesterday's draw.

The Saints, who began their 5,000km journey back from Kazakhstan yesterday, will be heading east again if they can overcome the 2-1 deficit against Shakhter Karagandy on Thursday night at Richmond Park.

Two legs against Ukrainian club FC Karparty Lviv await the victors, with the small comfort for the Dubliners being that the city of Lviv is on the western border of the former Soviet state, close to Slovenia and Poland.

Sligo Rovers are also facing a potential trip to the Ukraine after the westerners were drawn against the winners of Glentoran's tie with Vorskla Poltava -- with the eastern Europeans 2-0 up after the first leg in Belfast.

The two League of Ireland clubs could look at sharing a charter flight in order to keep costs down.

Shamrock Rovers will face FC Copenhagen in the next round of the Champions League qualifiers should they complete the job against Flora Tallinn on Tuesday, while Bohemians would likely meet Austria Vienna -- who lead Montenegrins FK Rudar 3-0 with their home leg to come -- if they were to mount a comeback against Olimpija Ljubljana, who they trail 2-0 ahead of Thursday's home leg.

But the European dream is fast becoming a nightmare for St Pat's, who will be lucky to break even on a campaign that has already taken them to Iceland and Kazakhstan.

"It's another disaster logistically," Mahon said yesterday. "But sure we haven't even got into that. We have a very tough game next Thursday and just three or four days to recover.

"It's not a great draw -- they haven't been kind at all. We'll worry after next Thursday. They're a decent team as well. All these eastern teams are getting stronger because there is a lot of money floating around. Even in Kazakhstan, they have plenty of money behind them.

"It would be a very difficult trip and last thing we wanted.

"That's the hand we've been dealt and we'll get on with it and hopefully we'll be in that position. The players are shattered -- it was very warm and rainy (in Kazakhstan). We're shattered after 50 hours travelling in total."

Shamrock Rovers chairman Jonathan Roche believes their draw against Danish champions Copenhagen is the most difficult they could have been handed.

The Danes have already asked that the clubs switch the legs around so that the Hoops would be away first, but they have refused.

"Copenhagen have been in the group stages before and are a formidable team," he said. "It would be a very, very tough game. Logistically it is a good draw, as there were teams from Israel and other places that are difficult to get to.

"We are not getting ahead of ourselves but we believe we can get the right result in Estonia."

Europa League third qualifying round -- selected ties

Olimpija Ljubljana/Bohemians v Rudar Pljevlja/Austria Vienna

Karpaty Lviv v Shakhter Karagandy/ St Patrick's Athletic

Stoke City v Hajduk Split

Glentoran/Vorskla Poltava v Sligo Rovers

Paksi SE/Tromso v Hearts

FKM Skopje/L Sofia v S Wroclaw/Dundee Utd

NK Domzale/NK Split v Crusaders/Fulham

* First legs will be played on July 28, second legs on August 4.

Champions League third qualifying round -- selected ties

FC Copenhagen v Shamrock Rovers/Flora Tallinn

Valletta/Ekranas v Linfield/BATE Borisov

Rangers v Malmo/HB Torshavn

* First legs July 26/27, second August 2/3.

Irish Independent

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