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Europa League knockout stages attainable after Dundalk's most impressive victory so far

Stephen Kenny is eager to turn his focus to Sunday’s FAI Cup semi-final with Derry City, however.

Stephen Kenny salutes fans at the final whistle.
Stephen Kenny salutes fans at the final whistle.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

THEY’VE ALREADY SURPASSED all expectations, but Dundalk can look upon qualification to the Europa League knockout stages as a realistic goal after tonight’s result.

A fabulous 1-0 win over Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv means the Lilywhites sit second in Group D with four points from their opening two matches.

Next up is double-header with Russian heavyweights Zenit St Petersburg, who have a 100% record so far, in a month’s time but the Louth club have more pressing matters to attend to first.

“We felt that if we won tonight we would be outright second in the group,” Kenny said. “That proved to be true so that was important for us.

“It’s only the second game and we actually have a minimum of five games before we play Zenit, and in that period they only have one.

“We’ve a tough schedule over the next few weeks but we will enjoy tonight. It was a great victory and I thought the players were terrific — very disciplined, very creative, their accuracy of passing and also very courageous.”

Dundalk v Maccabi Tel Aviv - UEFA Europa League - Group D - Tallaght Stadium Kenny and assistant Vinny Perth with Maccabi boss Shota Arveladze. Source: Niall Carson

With an FAI Cup semi-final meeting with Derry City to come this Sunday before three Premier Division matches in the space of the week, Kenny is eager to look ahead as soon as possible as Dundalk balance their European voyage with the defence of last season’s league/cup double.

“My main concern is Sunday, we’ve a game in two days really because it’s an early game,” Kenny added. “There’s a place in the FAI Cup final on offer so it’s a big game for us.

“We’re delighted with tonight and it’s a great victory but that’s the nature of it. We have to move on quite quickly and that’s the reality of the whole thing at the moment.

That’s not to take away from tonight. I think everyone is improving all the time and the rate of improvement individually is there for all to see.

“You can see it with your own eyes and collectively we’re getting better. It’s a huge challenge this season with the league run the way it is — having five games before we play in two weeks’ time — and all the tough games coming up.

“It’s amazing and I do understand that you have to enjoy this but we want it to be an incredibly-special season so we have to remain driven over the next few weeks.”

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Ben Blake

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