Dundalk to play FC Riga in Champions League qualifiers
Perth’s side get favourable draw, three Irish sides learn Europa fate
Vinny Perth’s Dundalk will play FC Riga in the first round of the Champions Legaue qualifiers. Photograph: Ciaran Culligan/Inpho
Dundalk have received a kind draw in the first qualifying round of the Champions League with Vinny Perth’s side needing to beat Latvian league leaders FC Riga in order reach the second round.
Their opponents were ranked 30th of 32 sides in Tuesday afternoon’s draw, although that will be affected by the fact that they were only formed in 2015 after the merger of two lower division clubs and have only competed once previously in Europe, last season, when they were beaten on away goals by CSKA Sofia in the opening round of the Europa League. They subsequently won the Latvian title for the first time.
The club plays at what was the home of Skonto Riga, the club that dominated the Latvian game for a decade and a half then suffered financial troubles, relegation and eventually bankruptcy. The squad includes a number of that club’s former players too and most of the local ones are Latvian internationals.
The games may well prove to be difficult for the Irish champions and Vinny Perth is bound to be wary but the draw could certainly have been tougher. As it is, victory would bring an additional €400,000 on top of the €800,000 they are already guaranteed to earn over the course of the summer.
Dundalk have been drawn to play at home first on July 9th or 10th with the return leg to follow a week later. The draw for the second round is due to be made on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Celtic will face Bosnian side FK Sarajevo in the first qualifying round. Their first leg is provisionally scheduled to be played at home on July 9th or 10th.
Elsewhere, the three Irish clubs in the Europa League were drawn against what might be regarded as middle ranked opponents given the possibilities.
Cork City will have to wait until the preliminary round is complete before finding out for sure whether they will face Luxembourg’s Progres Niederkorn or Cardiff Metropolitan University.
The former will start that tie as favourites to end up facing the Irish side and actually have a ranking that would have put them towards the top of the unseeded clubs had they qualified for that round automatically, but City would still be hoping to get through over two legs.
Shamrock Rovers face a tough encounter over two legs with Norwegian outfit Brann Bergen who reached the last 32 of the Uefa Cup back in 2007-08 but who have only qualified for Europe twice since, with this being the first time since 2016 when they went out of the Europa League’s second qualifying round.
Fellow Dubliners St Patrick’s Athletic must travel to Norrkoping in Sweden for their opening game. On the face of it, Harry Kenny’s side will feel they have every chance of progressing against a side who have competed at this sort of level in three of the last four years but only got through a round once in that time, two seasons ago when they beat Prishtina of Kosovo 6-0 on aggregate.
The games are provisionally pencilled in for July 11th and 18th but those dates, like the order of the venues, are subject to confirmation.