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Filippo Giovagnoli banned from touchline for tonight's Europa League game with Rapid Vienna

Dundalk host the Austrian side at the Aviva Stadium tonight.

Filippo Giovagnoli.
Filippo Giovagnoli.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

DUNDALK WILL FACE Rapid Vienna in the Europa League tonight without manager Filippo Giovagnoli on the touchline, as Uefa have got tough on his absent credentials. 

Opposition analysis coach Shane Keegan is the only member of the coaching staff to hold a Uefa Pro Licence – the necessary qualification to manage a team in the Europa League – and has been named as team manager for group stages so far. And though Giovagnoli didn’t occupy the dugout for the opening game with Molde, he returned to the technical area for subsequent games away to Arsenal and Rapid Vienna. 

He won’t be allowed in the technical area at the Aviva Stadium tonight, however, as Uefa have forbidden Giovagnoli from performing any of a head coach’s functions around the game. 

Thus Keegan took then pre-game media duties by himself, having had Giovagnoli alongside him to this point. 

“It’s up to us to get the communication lines nailed down, which we will, and make sure it will have minimal effect”, said Keegan yesterday afternoon. 

The precise limits of Giovagnoli’s involvement in the game are yet to be determined, and Virgin Media reported yesterday Uefa cracked down on his involvement after he was booked during the 4-3 defeat to Rapid Vienna on matchday three. 

Defensive errors aside, that was a heartening display from Dundalk, and the Lilywhites come into his game in good form having beaten Bohemians 4-1 in the FAI Cup quarter-finals. 

Defensive improvement is needed tonight, says Keegan. 

“We need to defend better. We have to be confident we can score goals at the moment. We’re looking sharp from that perspective, but there’s no doubt we have to improve defensively. 

“The team that wins tomorrow night will be the one that shows the biggest improvement in their defensive structure. And I don’t just mean in their back four or back three; I mean one to 11.” 

shane-keegan Shane Keegan speaks to the press. Source: GEPA Pictures/Philipp Brem/INPHO

Keegan is confident work on the training ground can iron out the issues seen in Vienna, and believes his side showed a defensive improvement in the second half of the meeting with Bohs. A full weeks’ preparation has helped in that respect, with the fixture list finally abating for Dundalk ahead of this game. “Every single box has been ticked and ticked in a  time-appropriate manner rather than rushing through it. It’s the first Europa League game we’ve felt we have had a proper week’s preparation for.”

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Dundalk remain without a point in the group so far, having lost 2-1 to Molde and 3-0 at Arsenal prior to the high-scoring loss in Vienna.

“Overall this season hasn’t gone how we wanted it to go, but we have found ourselves in a position from which we could have a fantastic end to the season. If we could gather points over the next three games and get into an FAI Cup final, along with that added bit of kudos for Jordan’s nomination, that represents a decent finish to the season if we can make it all happen.

“I think the key to it is trying to put those points on the board, and the next two Thursday night games are games we fully believe we can get something from. There’s no doubt we would be extremely disappointed if we came out on the other side with no points on the board.”

Jordan’s nomination referenced above is Jordan Flores’ being shortlisted for the Fifa Puskas Award, for his stunning volley in defeat to Shamrock Rovers in February. Keegan was part of the management team at the time, though wasn’t there to witness the goal. 

“I missed it! I was down in Turner’s Cross watching the opposition we were facing the following week. I was keeping an eye on things on my phone and when I saw the update on RTE Soccer, I couldn’t believe it and started showing it to everyone within touching distance of me in Turner’s Cross. 

“It was an absolutely sensational goal and is fully justified to be included.” 

The goal came from a corner, so was it right off the training ground?

“It was off the training ground in the sense that we had identified an area of weakness that we wanted the ball to be delivered to. I think the plan was for Jordan to head it form there, but because it was from an awkward height he had to improvise. And improvise quite well!” 

Rapid Vienna followed the defeat of Dundalk with a creditable draw with league leaders RB Salzburg, though returned after the international break with a 4-3 defeat to lowly Reid.  

Dundalk will be without Pat Hoban through injury tonight, though long-time absentee Dane Massey has returned to training and is in contention. 

Keegan says a final decision hasn’t been made as to whether Gary Rogers will be restored to the starting line-up, with Aaron McCarey preferred in Vienna. 

On TV: Virgin Media Two; KO 8pm

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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