Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny wary of Icelandic visitors

FH Hafnarfjordur have won Icelandic league seven times in past 12 years

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny says that complacency won't be an issue for his players when they meet FH Hafnarfjordur in tonight's Champions League second qualifying round first-leg tie at Oriel Park (7.45pm).

Twelve months ago Dundalk were drawn against Champions League group stage regulars Bate Borisov and while the Icelandic side may not carry the same reputation, Kenny said his players are preparing for a stiff test.

“That’s the reality,” he replied when asked if there was a danger that people would underestimate FH, “but the players aren’t thinking that. We’ve done a fair degree of homework on them and they’re a very good team.

"They beat SJK Helsinki last year in the Europa League, home and away, and they should have went through against Inter Baku in the following round after that. They had a man sent off in each leg and they were very unlucky.


"They are seeded. Yes, we could have got a much bigger club like Celtic or a successful club like Bate Borisov. FH aren't in that category but you have to respect the fact that they have a very good team and have won the league seven times in the past 12 years in Iceland, they have that ingrained in their culture."

FH have also been ever presents in European competition for the past 13 seasons. They currently sit two points clear at the top of their domestic league with just one defeat in 10 games and Kenny expects them to arrive full of confidence. With that in mind, he feels that patience could be the name of the game for his side on Wednesday night.

“FH play in a very open way. They’re not cagey but coming away from home in Europe they may adopt a different approach. They’re quite expansive and there may be periods when we don’t have the ball, which is alien to us.

“I’m my own worst enemy,” he added. “I get frustrated when other teams have the ball and I have to relax a bit and understand that’s going to happen. A good friend of mine said to me recently that when the opposition team gets seven or eight passes of the ball I get frustrated because I think we should dominate all the time. He’s probably right and I have to take that into account. Sometimes you have to give teams credit.”

The tie will mark Kenny's 28th time managing in European competition and he pointed to Dundalk's Europa League first-leg tie with Croatian side Hajduk Split at Oriel Park in 2014 as evidence of how a game can unexpectedly slip away.

“We sort of had an ‘up and at them’ approach and Hajduk broke and scored early on. I knew they were a good side going into the game but I kind of said ‘to hell with that, let’s have a go’.

“But that’s all part of the learning process in Europe,” he added. “We went 1-0 down and we chased it and conceded another goal late on but I feel now we’re more tactically aware.

"We certainly weren't anywhere as near as good as what we are now," he continued. "We were just on the up. Stephen O'Donnell wasn't around then, he was injured, and we didn't have the likes of Ronan Finn. We're a better team now."

Dundalk have proved that on Irish soil over the past two seasons and Kenny feels that his players have enough firepower to really ask questions of an FH side that have only conceded six times this campaign, two of those coming in the 2-2 draw with Vikingur Reykjavík last Saturday.

“When you look at a team domestically, you can see their strengths but you don’t necessarily always see their weaknesses. You want to ask questions and see if you can cause problems in different areas. Sometimes that’s not exploited in their own league.

“There will be periods where they will have some good passages of play. The main thing is that we aren’t quite as open defensively in that regard but at the same time we’re not going into the game thinking ‘let’s keep it tight’ and hope something happens. We have to be positive.

"Their captain, David Vidarsson, an Icelandic international, has a great left foot. He's their playmaker who sits in front of their back four and in all of their home games he dictates the games, but this is different. I don't think we'll sit off FH and let them dictate the play. It's not in our nature so why should we do it now?"

The Dundalk manager has a fully fit squad to choose from and he feels he has better options available now than at any other time in his three and a half year tenure at the club.

“We have the capacity to score goals from anywhere and that’s an advantage for us. Last year we scored the most goals in the history of the League of Ireland but this season we’re ahead of that ratio.

"The goals can come from anywhere," he added. "Our front two, David McMillan and Ciaran Kilduff, have 18, while Ronan Finn has eight. The only one who hasn't scored is John Mountney. Maybe it's his turn tomorrow!"

Iceland’s progress to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 has seen the Nordic country hit the headlines and Kenny believes that a Dundalk victory could grab the attention of the neutrals on these shores and shine a brighter light on the talent within the League of Ireland.

“That does come into my thinking but I’d rather we do it first and then talk about it,” he said.

"There's no point in me talking up Patrick McEleney and Daryl Horgan, who as talented individuals I think so highly of, or Stephen O'Donnell and Ronan Finn, really exceptional midfield players in this league.

“Traditionally you would have had a physical element of midfield players being strong but, in terms of talent, these players are first and foremost really skilful footballers.

“I’m just hoping we can get the right result and then we can back that up.”