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Cork City face daunting task against Polish kingpins in Champions League opener

However, a stroke of luck means the losers receive a bye to the Europa League’s third qualifying round.

Updated Jun 19th 2018, 1:15 PM

Kieran Sadlier celebrates scoring a late goal with teammates Cork City's Kieran Sadlier, Sean McLoughlin and Steven Beattie. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

CORK CITY WILL venture to Poland next month when they represent Ireland in the first qualifying round of the 2018/19 Champions League.

The Leesiders, who won their first SSE Airtricity League Premier Division title in 12 years last season, were drawn against Legia Warsaw this morning in Nyon, Switzerland.

City are due to have home advantage in the first leg on 10/11 July, with the return leg taking place in Warsaw on 17/18 July — although those details have yet to be finalised.

Should they manage to overcome Legia Warsaw, John Caulfield’s side will advance to a tie in the second qualifying round against Spartak Trnava (Slovakia) or HŠK Zrinjski Mostar (Bosnia & Herzegovina). Those legs are scheduled for 24/25 July and 31 July/1 August.

City, who were unseeded in the initial draw, will certainly be underdogs against Legia Warsaw, but they are guaranteed at least one more round of European football this season irrespective of the outcome.

If they are eliminated from the first qualifying round in the Champions League, the current Premier Division champions and leaders will automatically enter the third qualifying round of the Europa League thanks to the luck of the draw.

All beaten teams in the first qualifying round of the Champions League are entered into the Europa League’s second qualifying round. However, an imbalance in the number of teams involved meant that a draw took place for one club to receive a bye to the third qualifying round instead. That will be the losers of the Cork City-Legia Warsaw tie.

Legia Warszawa team Legia Warsaw took on Dundalk at the Aviva Stadium in August 2016. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Legia Warsaw have been crowned Polish champions in five of the last six seasons. They denied Dundalk a place in the group stages of the Champions League in 2016/17, as well as getting the better of St Patrick’s Athletic in the second qualifying round in 2014/15.

The club, who play at the 31,800-capacity Polish Army Stadium, currently have two players involved at the World Cup — Poland defenders Michał Pazdan and Artur Jędrzejczyk.

Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers and Derry City will all discover their Europa League opponents when those draws take place tomorrow at 11am.

Elsewhere in today’s Champions League first qualifying round draw, Scottish champions Celtic were paired with Armenian champions FC Alashkert. The winner of that tie will face Valur (Iceland) or Rosenborg (Norway) in the second qualifying round.

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Paul Dollery

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