Kenny hoping Rovers can make their presence felt again
STEPHEN KENNY is hoping Shamrock Rovers start on the road to a repeat of last year’s European success and also make a bit of a point when they take on Ekranes of Lithuania in the second round of the Champions League qualifiers in mid July.
The Dubliners narrowly missed out on a seeding as other results across Europe went against them during the last few weeks of the league season.
But they enjoyed better fortune yesterday as they avoided the competition’s bigger names and landed a side that was beaten by Cork City when they last faced Irish opposition seven years ago.
“Obviously it was disappointing not to be seeded,” said the Rovers manager yesterday.
“The club has done well in recent years and had a great run in the Europa League last year after starting as a seeded team so it seems unusual that we haven’t been seeded this time around.
“Having said that, Ekranes are clearly seeded for a reason, they’ve a good pedigree both at home – they’ve won the league for the last four years and the last two doubles – and in Europe where they’ve had some good results. They have a strong group of players including a couple of good young Africans but we’ll be looking to beat them. Obviously that will be our aim.”
Given the way the draw was structured, Rovers might have been paired with the top seeds in this round, FC Basel, who put Manchester United out of the Champions League last season, or FC Salzburg whereas Ekranes are only actually ranked two places higher than them in the draw.
They have performed fairly solidly in European football in recent seasons, however, and lost out 3-1 last season in the third qualifying round to BATE of Belarus who progressed to the group stage where they took two points despite being in a group with Barcelona and Milan.
In the Europa League, Sligo Rovers were less fortunate, being drawn against Spartak Trnava of Slovakia, a side ranked above them, in the second round when they were more likely to face the winners of a tie between two lower ranked clubs playing in the preceding weeks.
“They are really going to test us,” said manager Ian Baraclough yesterday.
“They look a very good side. Obviously I’m going to try to do as much research as possible in the build-up to the game. They’ve had plenty of experience in Europe and a lot more success than us but sometimes that isn’t always a deciding factor.
“It is something we will relish and another challenge for the club that we’re all looking forward to. We will be the underdog, but it is a chance to try to create a small bit of history and improve our record in European competitions.”
The other two League of Ireland outfits involved both drew Icelandic opposition in the opening round with St Patrick’s Athletic down to face IBV Vestmannaeyjar, who they actually eliminated last season, while Bohemians will take on Thor Akureyri.
The earliest of the games will take place during the first week of July.
Selected draw fixtures
First round – Linfield v B36 Torshavn (Faroe Islands); (July 3/4 and 10/11).
Second round – Shamrock Rovers v FK Ekranes (Lithuania); (July 17/18 and 24/25).
First round – Bohemians v Thor Akureyri (Iceland), St Patrick’s Athletic v IBV Vestmannaeyjar (Iceland), Kalmar (Sweden) v Cliftonville, FK Skendija (Macedonia), Rosenborg (Norway) v Crusaders (July 5th and 12th).
Second round – Spartak Trnava (Slovakia) v Sligo Rovers, Mlada Boleslav (Czech Rep) v Bohemians/Thor, NK Siroki Brijeg (Bosnia Herzegovina) v St Patrick’s/IBV (July 19th and 26th).