Dundalk last season flew the flag in Europe for the SSE Airtricity League. They were magnificent throughout in all their games and had it not been for a bit of bad luck, they could have progressed even further, but alas it was not to be, but they did themselves and the SSE Airtricity League proud. It was not just the way they competed but it was the style in the way they did it. They as a club, raised the bar higher for other clubs to reach for and that can only be very good for the league. This season the clubs who were entered into two competitions were Dundalk in the Champions League, Cork City, Shamrock Rovers and Derry City in the Europa League. Derry were dumped out in the first round when Danish side FC Midiylland gave them a good hiding over the two legs, leaving the other three clubs to take us on a European adventure this year. As I put this article together the clubs are in the middle of their two legged ties.
Dundalk are playing Rosenborg and last week the Norwegian side came to Oriel Park and went away with a one all draw. A result in my opinion the Norwegians did not deserve, Dundalk on the night were the far better side and should have won comfortably. Stephen Kenny,s men took the lead after eighteen minutes when David McMillan finished off a superb move by the home club. It was all going so well for Dundalk until the forty fourth minute when they conceded a sloppy goal, there is no doubt that it was poor defending which allowed Reginiussen in to score. It will be an uphill struggle now for Dundalk as that away goal could be the killer, but a win or a high scoring draw will see Dundalk through.
Cork City came through their first round tie by beating Levaddia Talinn six two on aggregate with striker Sean Maguire scoring a hat trick in the home tie. Last Thursday they faced AEK Larnacca from Cyprus in Turners Cross. Although they sit at the top of the SSE Airtricity League their performance on the night was well below average. They really did not turn up on the night and lost one nil. The goal scored by Larnacca was very sloppy, it came about when a corner was not cleared and as the ball bobbled about in the penalty area it was finally slammed home by Jose Truyols. A crowd of 6,641 turned up on the night which included the whole Preston North End squad. The second leg will be a big challenge for Cork but if they put in a good shift anything is possible.
Shamrock Rovers were in action against Czech side Mlada Boleslav, I have to admit I had never heard of them before the draw, and the Czech side were extremely good. As a team they were technically the better side on the night and came out three two winners. Shamrock Rovers had prepared so well and even decided to rest most of their first team when they played Glasgow Celtic in a friendly last Saturday week. It was not a surprise to me that the Czech side were so gifted on the ball like most teams that come from that part of the world. In a five goal game the best of the lot was scored by Rovers player Graham Burke who blasted one home from twenty five yards. The second leg will be very difficult now for the Hoops but I am sure manager Stephen Bradley will have them well prepared. There is no doubt in my mind that the three away goals are crucial to this tie and if Rovers had managed to get a better result from the first leg, then maybe, just maybe, they can turn this around, although it will be a tough challenge.
By David Meier