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Dublin: 3°C Thursday 26 November 2020

'Sometimes when you start a mission it is a kamikaze, but then the dream becomes the normality'

Rookie boss Filippo Giovagnoli has silenced critics and takes Dundalk into the Europa League group stages tomorrow night.

Filippo Giovagnoli.
Filippo Giovagnoli.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

FILIPPO GIOVAGNOLI DESCRIBED his arrival at Dundalk as a “kamikaze mission”, but he has somehow managed to stick the landing and tomorrow will become only the third manager to lead a League of Ireland club in the group stages of the Europa League. 

It’s quite a list he joins: Michael O’Neill oversaw Shamrock Rovers’ run in 2011, while Stephen Kenny did the trick with Dundalk in 2016. 

Giovagnoli had not even managed an adult side before he was called to replace Vinny Perth at Dundalk, but he has since guided them past the champions of Andorra, Moldova and the Faroe Islands to make the group stages, which kick off against Norwegian champions Molde at Tallaght tomorrow night. 

“Sometimes when you start a mission it is a kamikaze but then the dream and the mission become the normality and now this is our normality and you have to perform on the stage . It is what it is, but it has changed a little bit yes. 

“When you work hard during your life, you study and go around the world to learn, it pays off. And now this is our opportunity and for many good coaches around the world, sometimes the work does not pay off, so I hope our story can help coaches around the world to have a dream and we are the example that the dream can come true.” 

The dream could vault a few horizons further if Dundalk can get off to a strong start against Molde tomorrow night, with Rapid Vienna and Arsenal lying in wait after that. 

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“Get points everywhere”, was Giovagnoli’s response when asked for his objective in the group stages. “Perform, do well, be competitive and show everyone that Dundalk deserve to be there and they can perform at a high level.” 

Molde are in a somewhat similar domestic situation to Dundalk: reigning champions out of the title picture and striving to secure European football in 2021. 

They arrested a slump in form with a 4-2 win against league leaders FK Bodø/Glimt at the weekend, however, to boost confidence ahead of tomorrow’s game. 

“We watched the game and I think they did well”, says Giovagnoli. “We know their strengths and their weaknesses. But we study more than one game. Last game is not enough. We saw something that didn’t work for them and we are preparing our strategy.” 

Dane Massey is missing through injury, but Dundalk have no other significant injuries ahead of the tie, with Chris Shields returning from the suspension that ruled him out of the play-off win against KI. 

Dundalk’s games were all slated for the Aviva Stadium, though a double-booking with the Irish rugby team has meant tomorrow’s game has instead been moved to Tallaght, the venue for Dundalk’s home games in the 2016 group stages. 

This raised the ire of Dundalk chairman Bill Hulsizer, and he briefly explored moving all three games to Windsor Park in response. That was swiftly shot down by Uefa, however, and so his club will switch between venues in Dublin. 

“I know for the club it was important to play [at the Aviva], but for me, it makes no difference”, said Giovagnoli. “I know my players are happy to play here and if they are happy and feel comfortable to play here, then I am happy too.”

Tomorrow’s game kicks off at 5.55pm and is live on Virgin Media Two. 



About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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