Football | Dundalk cautious favourites in massive night for Filippo Giovagnoli's team
It's safe to say, under different circumstances, primarily one where there is not a worldwide pandemic, that Dundalk would have sizeable home support at the Aviva Stadium this evening, as they welcome KI Klaksvik of the Faroe Islands to Dublin, in an attempt to repeat the feat of 2016, and reach the group stages of the Europa League.
It is unlikely there wail be any underestimating the Faroese side by Filippo Giovagnoli and his side, at the very least because Dundalk are aware of the motivational power that dismissing a team can do.
Dundalk have overcome Andorran outfit Inter d'Escaldes and won away to Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova last week, courtesy of a penalty shout-out. So pointing to KI being lucky in making it this far would be foolhardy. While they did have an earlier Bye in the competition, that they beat Dinamo Tblisi 6-1 in the third qualifying round, is worthy of caution.
That game saw a hat-trick from forward Pall Klettskard, an inernational for the Faroe islands who will not be in unfamiliar surroundings this evening. On a fine summers evening in June 2013, Klettskard and his international colleagues traveled to Dublin in a Group C World Cup qualifier.
That night was all about Robbie Keane, who on his 126th and record breaking cap, scored a hat-trick. The first of his goals came after five minutes. And while Klettskard had a quiet game, there were brief spells where the Faroe's did infiltrate the Irish in their own half.
Like Ireland that night, Dundalk are favourites this evening. The odds won't be as short, but there is a belief that Dundalk can progress, despite the absence of Chris Shields through suspension, and despite the 4-0 reversal by Shamrock Rovers that saw Giovagnoli make 10 changes from the team that beat Sheriff.
Shields told Dundalk's official website that he was confident in his sides blend of youth and experience.
"I’m confident in the squad regardless. I see the lads every day and I’m fully confident that the players who will be in the team on Thursday night can get the job done.
"There’s a group of experienced pros there and some exuberant youths that haven’t been to the group stages before which will only gee them up even more. I’m sure they are sick of hearing about 2016, I’m even sick of talking about 2016 because you have a desire to get there every year.
"We’ve fallen flat every year since then but now we have an unbelievable opportunity of getting back to an elite European competition which is where I feel we belong. Hopefully, it goes well and I’m leading the team out in the Europa League group stages because it would be a personal dream of mine."
Kick-of is at 19:30 with the game live on RTÉ 2.
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