Wednesday 17 July 2019

Cork in line for lucrative clash with Rangers if they get through Europa League opener

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard. Photo: Getty Images
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard. Photo: Getty Images
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Cork City have been given a massive incentive to get through the first round of the Europa League qualifiers after learning that Rangers are likely opponents if they advance.

A showdown with Steven Gerrard's side would be lucrative for the Leesiders, although it would also present security challenges.

Rangers last drew an Irish side when they landed Shelbourne in the 1998 UEFA Cup and the League of Ireland side were forced to play their home leg in Liverpool due to security fears.

Cork, however, have work to do before they can even think about the logistics of a Rangers encounter.

John Cotter's struggling side need to get past either Luxembourg's Progres Niederkorn or Cardiff Met from Wales who meet in the preliminary round.

Rangers will expect to advance past St Joseph's of Gibraltar or Prishtina of Kosovo.

The first leg would take place in Ibrox on July 25 with the return in Turner's Cross a week later.

Cork would collect a €260,000 reward for winning their first tie - on top of their €240,000 participation fee - and the prospect of a full house and the sale of TV rights would add to the reward.

In all likelihood, Progrès will be the team that stands in their way.

They are a familiar opponent to Rangers, having knocked the Scottish club out of the competition in 2017.

Football in Luxembourg has improved in recent years with Dudelange reaching the Europa League group stages last year.

Cork are the seeded team in the draw, but they will need to improve on their domestic form if they are to make inroads in Europe.

The other League of Ireland sides are also aware of what might lie in store if they win their initial tests.

Champions League representatives Dundalk know they will face Qarabag (Azerbaijan) or FC Partizani (Albania) if they beat Riga FC. Group stage regulars Qarabag would be hot favourites.

Dundalk also learned that there will be no soft landing if they lose their €1.2m clash with Riga.

They would drop into the Europa League and face the side that is knocked out of the Champions League tie between old foes BATE Borisov and Polish side Piast Gliwice. That was the worst possible backdoor scenario.

In the Europa League, St Patrick's Athletic will play Dinamo Minsk (Belarus) or Liepāja (Latvia) if they shock Sweden's IFK Norrköping.

Shamrock Rovers will play Žalgiris (Lithuania) or Apollon Limassol (Cyprus) if they can find a way past Norway's SK Brann.

Irish Independent

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