UCD ‘right in it’ says Collie O’Neill

Students face Slovan Bratislava at Belfield after tight 1-0 defeat in Slovakia

Action from the first leg of the Uefa Europa League second qualifying round first leg at Stadion Pasienky in Bratislava. Photograph: Robert Tappert/Inpho/Sita

Action from the first leg of the Uefa Europa League second qualifying round first leg at Stadion Pasienky in Bratislava. Photograph: Robert Tappert/Inpho/Sita

 

UCD boss Collie O’Neill is set to stick with the team that went so close to springing a huge surprise in Slovakia last week as the students aim to upset even greater odds by beating Slovan Bratislava at Belfield tonight.

O’Neill, who has an unchanged squad to choose from, admitted the task was “a huge ask” but insisted that his young team was still confident.

“If you’d told them before the last game that they’d lose 1-0 but come off totally gutted, they wouldn’t have believed you, but that’s what happened and now they feel they’re right in it,’ he said. “Slovan totally underestimated us and that’s not something that will happen again. We’ve watched the game back and while they passed the ball even more quickly than we expected them to, you’d have to say that they probably have another gear.

Up a level

“But the lads have looked back on their performance and can see that they should be able to step it up a level too. There were times when we could have used the ball better or kept it better, and if we play the way that we think that we can, we’ll be right in it.”

The Dubliners did well at times just to hang in there last week, but they defended well and Niall Corbet made a couple of outstanding saves before Slovan scored courtesy of an Adam Zrelák deflection.

The visitors will be without Argentinian defender Nicolas Gorosito, who is suspended for his outrageous challenge on Robbie Benson, but the Slovaks bring enough international experience to the tie to feel they should progress.

O’Neill, though, is hopeful. “We’ll have to be careful for the first hour or so,” he said. “But if things are going to plan at that stage, we’ll take the shackles off.”

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