Stephen Kenny says Dundalk’s achievement can eclipse Leicester

The Airtricity League champions take on AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League on Thursday

Stephen Kenny says that his Dundalk side qualifying for the knockout stages of the Europa League would be a far greater achievement than Leicester City progressing from the group stages of the Champions League with the English side's budget, he believes, having given them a major advantage over their rivals.

“People seem to be surprised that Leicester have qualified in the Champions League but I’m not; I would have thought as English champions they would have been considered favourites in that group,” he says. “When you have a player of the calibre of Jamie Vardy, the England number nine, turning down a move to Arsenal because he can get a similar deal at Leicester it gives you an idea of the sort of resources they have. They budget was probably four times what Bruges’ would have been.

“So I think what we have been achieving is on a far higher scale, there’s no comparison. We’re the lowest ranked side in the competition, we’ve come from nothing and yet we have competed as equals with every side that we have played. That said, Leicester have qualified from their group, we still have a lot of work to do.”

Dane Massey and Robbie Benson will be fit for Thursday's game against AZ Alkmaar in Tallaght with the pair having recovered over the last couple of weeks from calf and hamstring problems respectively.

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Stephen O'Donnell, Ronan Finn and Chris Shields are still rated as doubts for the game, in which a win would leave Dundalk on the verge of qualification for the next round of the competition, but the club captain has been training since Saturday after a spell out with calf and hamstring problems while Kenny says his fellow midfielders "will want to pass themselves fit," before kick-off.

Darren Meenan, whose impending move to Shamrock Rovers for next season was confirmed earlier in the week, is not in the squad for the game.

“We will go and try to win the game as usual,” says the manager, “but a draw could end up being a really good result for us, that’s what the maths tells us. But we’ll need two results regardless, we know that and it that won’t be easy.

“AZ Alkmaar are a terrific club. People travel the world to see the Ajax youth academy, I would love to see it but AZ’s has been voted the best Dutch academy for the last two years.

“They have won the Dutch league in the recent past and where everyone used to talk about the top three clubs in the Netherlands, they have forced themselves into that; there is the four of them now.

“They are a very good side and with the players they have brought in over the last few weeks, we face a major challenge. They are tall and have power and pace. They always play with four attacking players; they test you so it will be a difficult night but I believe in the players that we have.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Industry and Employment Correspondent at The Irish Times