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'We are excited' - Dundalk's new governor Giovagnoli aiming to take down Sheriff


Dundalk manager Filippo Giovagnoli. Photo: Sportsfile

Dundalk manager Filippo Giovagnoli. Photo: Sportsfile


Dundalk manager Filippo Giovagnoli. Photo: Sportsfile

The patchy wifi in Tiraspol interrupted Filippo Giovagnoli's pre-match conference call to discuss the biggest game of his life in football.

But the Italian is certain that his Dundalk side are capable of producing the smooth and assured display that might just be required if he is to achieve his ambition of remaining in the job.

Despite suffering a turbulent year, the Louth club still have a chance of qualifying for the group stages of the Europa League courtesy of the backdoor route available for league winners that have been knocked out of the Champions League.

Sheriff Tiraspol, the top dogs in Moldova, provide stern opposition this evening and they will expect to win a one-legged tie on home soil. But the prize for the winners is a final play-off encounter at home to opposition from Georgia or the Faroe Islands. Giovagnoli knows that a good display can open doors and he struck an upbeat tone on the eve of the game.

"We are excited," said the 49-year-old, speaking from the team hotel where - on account of Covid rules - they must stay for the duration of the visit aside from trips to the stadium. "We are excited and we're going to perform, trust me."

The inability to roam the locality may take away some of the novelty from travelling to a territory that considers itself independent of Moldova. Transnistria has its own flag and identity and Sheriff are a company firmly tied in with the pro-Russian region's history.

For all the attention on Dundalk's attempts to spread the recruitment net wide this year, Sheriff effectively run a global operation with players coming and going on a regular basis. It has complicated research as they have made significant changes in recent weeks.

Their main attacker, Anatole Abang, would have been absent through suspension but has left the club. A Greek international, Dimitros Kolovos, has arrived on loan from Panathinaikos with their Colombian star Frank Castaneda moving into a central role.

Giovagnoli expects this may result in the opposition moving from a direct style to a more technical approach.

Research has suggested that Sheriff's left-full, a Brazilian named Cristiano, is an attacking threat to rival their front men.

In their opening Champions League victory over Luxembourg side Fola Esch, the losers had more possession yet Sheriff won comfortably.

Dundalk's homework puts them in a similar bracket to Slovenia's Celje, the side that prevailed in Vinny Perth's Champions League farewell. They also hurt Dundalk on the counter.

"You have to be organised to prevent that," said Giovagnoli

He insists Dundalk can shape their own destiny if they perform to their best.

With Andy Boyle suspended after being sent off in Andorra, he has a choice to make in defence, while Patrick McEleney is unlikely to be fit to start after a recovery from injury. His partner gave birth earlier this week just in time for him to travel.

Patrick Hoban is back fit again and will compete with David McMillan for a central striking berth. Giovagnoli says the away side will seek to control the ball to achieve their aims.

After famously describing his Irish arrival as a 'kamikaze mission', he will be confronting this test head on. His appointment from the American youth scene raised eyebrows, yet he asserts that he had already taken risks to go there.

"Do I feel pressure?" he asked. "Yes, I do, but with pressure we perform better. I left my country and went to another country to work without speaking a word of English. I like challenges and I am learning. That pressure is good.

"I don't know if this is the week that is going to be the judge (for whether he stays)," added Giovagnoli, with a nod to Sunday's clash with table toppers Shamrock Rovers.

"I think when a club judges a coach, they have to judge the coach on the work that he is doing - for his philosophies, his mentality and what he can bring to the team.

"If you look at results and only look at one game, then I don't think that's fair, but listen, I accept my role here and I'm going to do my best until the end."

He might only be at the beginning if he can pull this one off.

Irish Independent