A famous European night awaits Bohemians on Lansdowne Road

Completing the job against Luxembourg’s Dudelange would secure Bohs €550,000

Dawson Devoy chips the goalkeeper during Bohemians’ win over Iceland’s Stjarnan. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Dawson Devoy chips the goalkeeper during Bohemians’ win over Iceland’s Stjarnan. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Europa Conference League second round qualifiers

Bohemians v Dudelange (Luxembourg), Aviva Stadium, kick-off 7.45pm (Bohs lead 1-0 on aggregate)

There have been bigger European nights on Lansdowne Road - like when Shelbourne and a lithe 22-year-old named Wes Hoolahan almost outfoxed Deportivo La Coruna in 2004 - but something special is stirring here.

The increased attendance of 8,000 guarantees an evening to remember. It is not quite the 24,000 gathering of all the League of Ireland colours that crammed into either stand 17 years ago, when Bertie Ahern even cut short his Kerry holidays to attend, but Bohs proved in the last round against unheralded Icelandic opposition that the diehards returning to stadiums will guarantee raucous support.

The wonder is if Dawson Devoy knows much about the impact Hoolahan made all those years ago when he was finally exposed to European football. Within a year of Hoolahan’s mesmerising performance against the Spanish giants, he was lost to the local scene as a slow burning career eventually yielded 300-plus matches for Norwich City. Not to mention the Euros in 2016.

Devoy, such is his passing range, may well tread a similar path next season and beyond. Especially if Bohs progress to a third round qualifier against Greek Cup holders PAOK. The teenager’s creative juices were flowing last week in Luxembourg when a “groovy dinked pass” - as one commentator described it - resulted it Ross Tierney securing a vital 1-0 victory.

Victory or a draw against the first Luxembourg side to visit the Aviva since the country’s victory over Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland last March, would be worth €550,000 to the north Dublin club. Current form suggests that this is money in the bank.

Levadia Tallinn (Estonia) v Dundalk, Lillekula Stadium, kick-off 5.30pm (2-2 on aggregate)

A season-defining match that follows the passing of Tommy Connolly will mean more than usual to everyone associated with Dundalk. Connolly’s 40 years of service to the club should inspire Vinny Perth’s men to pluck positives from a crazy first leg against an Estonian outfit that caught them cold by utilising two false nines.

Dundalk’s Wilfried Zahibo in action against Shamrock Rovers in May. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Dundalk’s Wilfried Zahibo in action against Shamrock Rovers in May. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

The players adjusted, reeling in two leads before looking the far better outfit late in the second-half. Tactically, Perth is expected to adopt a more conservative approach as away goals no longer exist and a sneaky winner from David McMillan would earn Dundalk a massive fixture against Dutch club Vitesse.

It will be fascinating to see if the manager sticks with Wilfried Zahibo after withdrawing the Central African Republic midfielder on the hour mark in the first leg following some ugly abuse from his own fans.

“I think social media makes it too easy to be critical of people,” said Perth. “Wilfried has had a difficult time at this club for covid and international reasons. He is a very popular guy, a great person in the dressing room, at times yes he could have done more but at other times he showed the quality he has.

“Fans are entitled to criticise people, I accept that, but once it is not personal. I think some of the criticism with Wilfried has crossed the line.”

It certainly seemed that way in Tallaght stadium last week.

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