World News – GB – Preview: Shields spark could rekindle Dundalk in Europe


For the third time in a decade, an Irish side will take part in the group stages of a major European tournament, as Dundalk takes on Norwegian champions Molde tonight at Tallaght Stadium

While not yet considered the norm, Dundalk’s qualification for this year’s Europa League stage was far less surprising than when Shamrock Rovers made the initial breakthrough in 2011 by beating Partisan Belgrade

Dundalk’s first foray came at a time when Stephen Kenny’s side dominated the country year after year, and the group stage arrival was always inevitable

By comparison, Dundalk’s course this year has been a lot simpler, helped perhaps by the way of the champions in the toss, while avoiding major seeds along the way.

The Lilywhites left the Champions League with a groan, falling at the first hurdle to Slovenian club Celje, losing the one-legged affair 3-0 in early August, and with it the era of Stephen Kenny ended as as his successor and former assistant Vinny Perth has left the club

Filippo Giovagnoli arrived to take charge of the squad for the rest of their long-awaited European odyssey – automatically entering the Europa League – and the new man in charge and his squad got off to a wobbly but successful start as they passed stealthily Andorra’s Inter Club d’Escaldes by the smallest of margins

A week later, there were glimpses of the old-fashioned Dundalk as they defied the odds of beating a decent team from Sheriff Tiraspol in Moldova, through a penalty shootout, which left them left at a coveted group match steps

Remarkably, Dundalk got a draw for the plums – at least on paper – as they were paired with the Faroe Islands side, KI; a match that would take place at the Aviva stadium

A rambling affair, as it turned out, and even when Dundalk seemed to have gained the upper hand in that tie, taking a 2-0 lead they were able to let the part-time visitors back into the game. and were nearly caught in extra time, hanging on to 2-1, before Daniel Kelly’s breakaway goal secured a 3-1 victory

So let’s move on to the group stages of the Europa League, and in the meantime Oriel Park’s side have started to do better at home as they have won two games in a row and moved up to third place in the board

Yet in general, Dundalk’s championship campaign so far can only be called a disaster, having started his title defense well, winning four of five, with their only loss in a five-goal thriller. at Tallaght Stadium where they came out on the wrong side of a 3-2 result against Shamrock Rovers

The Lilywhites emerged from the first Covid lockdown, a mere shadow of their former selves dropping out in the title race, and bringing poor form to this Champions League game, which ultimately cost Perth their position

The jury is probably still out on the new man in charge and his methods, however, now they have a chance to shine, back on the European stage

Their title defense ended a long time ago, however, with European football virtually assured for next season, this team can, for the first time since leaving Perth, play without pressure as they face off against three very good European teams over the next few weeks

And a « home » draw against the Norwegians is probably the best starting point for Giovagnoli’s side, before meeting Arsenal and Rapid Vienna, who should prove tougher proposals

Molde is still a step forward for Dundalk, and they have been unlucky with their own European campaign this year, missing the Champions League group stages after a 3-3 draw with Ferencvaros, and retiring on the away goals rule

The Norwegians have five internationals in their ranks and have won back-to-back titles in their national championship, but this year they haven’t been so complete and won’t win the title for a third consecutive year

Like Dundalk, their league form suffered during their European run, however, they have started to look like they are back at their best in recent weeks and will come to Dublin full of confidence after beating the league leaders last weekend

And while the visiting team are favorites to take all three points, their head coach Erling Moe recognizes the quality that potentially exists in this Dundalk side and is not taking anything for granted in this opening group game.

« We’ve been reviewing them for quite some time after the draw, so we think we have a good idea of ​​what Dundalk is, » Moe said

« They have done well in Europe now and are a team that seems to have adjusted a bit under the new coach, playing from behind and they are strong enough to move forward so we expect a tough match tomorrow »

Dundalk will need to take inspiration from that spirit of 2016 as they slowly enter this first meeting, and it will be up to the senior players to pull this team to produce a competitive performance.

Chris Shields has been their talisman for seven years and it will take a great performance from a player of his stature to give Dundalk hope

The great animated midfielder returns from suspension for this one, while Daniel Kelly and Nathan Oduwa have doubts over muscle problems Dane Massey is ruled out with a hip injury

Shields appeared to invoke that aforementioned spirit during the pre-match press conference when he spoke about the players who have remained at the club since this historic season.

And it’s hard to argue with his logic in the campaign, claiming that if they don’t aim for anything they won’t get anything

« There is a good bunch of guys who were here in 2016, which I guess will only benefit us now because we were all fresh there in 2016, and now we have guys who were there and played in it, which can only help, « Shields said

« You have to take every game as it comes, especially since these clubs are likely to be more experienced in Europe than us, but you can’t expect anything or you won’t get anything

« You have to go there hoping to earn points, and that’s what we hope as a group of players »

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Dundalk FC, UEFA Europa League, Molde FK, Derry City FC, Irish League

World news – UK – Preview: Shields’ spark could reignite Dundalk in Europe


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