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Bohemians the latest Irish side to face Luxembourg test in quest for European progress
Keith Long’s side face Dudelange in the second qualifying round of the Europa Conference League tonight.

THE LATEST PROXY Ireland vs Luxembourg battle takes place tonight, as Bohemians face Dudelange in the first leg of their second qualifying round tie in the Europa Conference League. [KO 5.30pm] 

Ireland, of course, have a famously poor record against Luxembourg in international sport, stretching from the World Cup qualifier defeat in March back to the 1924 Olympic painting competition when Jack Butler Yates was pipped to the gold medal by Jean Jacoby of Luxembourg. (Okay, the second is a little less famous than the first.) 

The side that went furthest to redressing the balance in Ireland’s favour was UCD in 2015, when the Students knocked Dudelange out of the Europa League qualifying rounds on away goals. If Bohs are to repeat that trick, they’ll be using a different method as Uefa have scrapped the away goals rule.

Dudelange have become a far more significant European player since that exit to UCD, and in 2018/19 became the first side from Luxembourg ever to qualify for the group stages of the Europa League.

While there they drew with Real Betis and lost twice to AC Milan, albeit the away scoreline at the San Siro was 1-0 while they led at one point in the second half of the home fixture before eventually losing 5-2.  They repeated the feat and returned to the group stages the following year, this time winning a game against Apoel. 

They earned the right to compete for the Europa League as domestic champions, but lost their title last season Fola Esch, finishing two points behind in second place. 

Bohs, however, have a couple of advantages. They are in the thick of their regular season whereas Dudelange are in pre-season, and they also have momentum, thanks to an emphatic 3-0 win over Stjarnan of Iceland in the first qualifying round. 

They also have a few very tangible prizes lying in wait: the second leg of this tie will again be played at the Aviva Stadium – this time in front of an increased crowd of 8,000 – and lying in wait in the third qualifying round is a meeting with Greek giants PAOK and another Uefa cheque of around €550,000. 

“The message this week is they’re obviously a good side”, says Bohs midfielder Ali Coote. “They made the Europa group stages a couple of years ago. So yeah, we need to be ready for it. I wasn’t here last year [for the Europa League shootout defeat to Fehervar of Hungary.] But the message is it will be that calibre of opponent.” 

Dudelange will probably play with a back three – they played 3-4-1-2 for almost all of last season – and the last time Bohs faced a side playing with a back three, they weathered a rocky start to beat Shamrock Rovers 1-0. 

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Keith Long rotated for last weekend’s league draw with Longford Town, so tonight’s line-up may be pretty similar to the side that beat Stjarnan, with 18-year-old Dawson Devoy playing in a deeper midfield role. That allows another of Bohs talented youngsters, Ross Tierney, play a No.10 role in support of the in-form Georgie Kelly, who has 11 goals in his last 10 games. 

Tonight’s first leg is unfortunately unavailable to watch. Dudelange have the broadcast rights but decided not to stream the game in spite of Bohs’ best efforts to convince them otherwise. 

Although the away goals rule has been abolished, success for Bohs will be taking back a result from which they can win the tie before a dispersed but no-less noisy crowd in Dublin 4 on Thursday week. 

“To get it again for next week is fantastic but we’re not looking any further than this week, hopefully putting in a good performance and coming home with a decent result to go again next Thursday”, said midfielder Conor Levingston. 

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