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'Big teams have been knocked out in tournaments before so there's no reason why we can't'

Conor McCormack has fond memories of playing in Europe.

Conor McCormack o Cork City skipper Conor McCormack. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

CORK CITY CAPTAIN Conor McCormack is hoping that tonight’s meeting with Legia Warsaw will mark the beginning of another memorable campaign for an Irish club in Europe.

McCormack was a member of the Shamrock Rovers side who made history in 2011 by becoming the first League of Ireland outfit to qualify for the group stages of a European competition.

Dundalk went one better two years ago. After emulating Rovers by getting to the same point in the Europa League, the Lilywhites managed to pick up points by defeating Maccabi Tel-Aviv and snatching a draw against AZ Alkmaar.

While Cork City have enjoyed moderate success in the Europa League in recent seasons — they eliminated Linfield, BK Hacken and Levadia Tallinn — the Leesiders haven’t been able to go beyond the qualifying rounds.

Their bid to rectify that resumes this evening at Turner’s Cross (7.45pm), when they host Legia Warsaw in the first leg of their Champions League first round qualifier.

“Absolutely,” McCormack said when asked about City’s prospects of replicating the achievements of Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk. “We have the players. We’re obviously a good side. Hopefully we can do that, apply ourselves, get the right result and if things go our way there’s no reason why we can’t progress.”

Conor McCormack McCormack playing against Tottenham Hotspur for Shamrock Rovers in the Europa League in 2011. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Although he didn’t feature in either leg, McCormack was with St Patrick’s Athletic in 2014 when they lost 6-1 on aggregate to Legia Warsaw in 2014. The Polish league and cup holders are odds-on to advance at the expense of another Irish club this year, having also eliminated Dundalk from the play-off round two years ago.

Cork City, who were crowned SSE Airtricity League Premier Division champions last October for the first time since 2005, will be keen to secure a positive result at home this evening ahead of their trip to the Polish Army Stadium for the second leg in seven days’ time.

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“They’re obviously a big club and they’ve played in the Champions League before,” said McCormack. “It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be really hot as well. We’ll try and take our chances and we’ll see where that leaves us.

“We go out to try and win every game. I believe if we play to our best and take our chances, and keep it tight, the game could go either way. Big teams have been knocked out in tournaments before so there’s no reason why we can’t.”

He added: “As a player you want to play in these big games. We’re really looking forward to it as a team. If we can stick to our gameplan and take our chances, and ride our luck at times, anything can happen. That’s what we’re looking for.”

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