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Lilywhites boss Stephen Kenny.
Lilywhites boss Stephen Kenny.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

Kenny: It would be up there as one of the best-ever Champions League comebacks if we pull this off

Dundalk must overturn a two-goal deficit in Warsaw tonight if they are to progress to the promised land.
Aug 23rd 2016, 8:00 AM 10,931 16

Ben Blake reports from Warsaw

DUNDALK WILL HAVE to be bold in their approach to tonight’s Champions League play-off with Legia Warsaw, says manager Stephen Kenny.

Trailing 2-0 from last week’s first leg in Dublin after a questionable penalty decision was added to in injury-time, the SSE Airtricity League’s top side must score two unanswered goals at the Polish Army Stadium (7.45pm kick-off Irish time) to force the tie into extra-time.

The Lilywhites have already secured a place in the Europa League group stages at least and a guaranteed windfall of €6 million thanks to the historic victory over BATE Borisov earlier this month, and Kenny is aware that they need to produce an extraordinary performance to qualify in Europe’s elite club competition.

“It would not just be one of the best results in Irish history if we pull this off, but I’m sure it would be up there in terms of comebacks in the Champions League,” Kenny said in the team hotel on Monday.

“There are various ways we can approach the game. There is a consensus that maybe we should try to keep it 0-0 for a long period and, in the last 20 minutes, see if we can penetrate and have a go.

“But that’s not in my thinking at all. I’m thinking that we have to do something remarkable. We are going to have to play brilliantly.

“We can’t be conventional, we are going to have to play differently. We need to score three goals, or two to bring it to penalties.

My attitude to the players is ‘get the first goal and see where it takes us’. Just get the first goal.

“I understand that playing that way that there could be consequences, I’m not naive. But we will live with that and try to play in a way that takes the game to Legia Warsaw.”

The Polish champions, who are hoping to make a return to the Champions League proper for the first time in 21 years, have clearly been fully-focused on the tie as manager Besnik Hasi rested his entire team in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat away to newly-promoted Arka Gdynia — their second consecutive league loss.

Dundalk, meanwhile, have been hit with some bad news in terms of available players as striker Ciaran Kilduff is missing with knee injury picked up during training at the FAI’s National Training Centre in Abbottstown over the weekend.

“That was a big setback,” explained Kenny. “Ciaran had a good spell out injured but came back. After the break, he came into the team and got two goals against Pat’s when we won 2-0.

“We never really get injuries in training even though we always have very committed sessions. It’s just one of those things. He’s had a scan today so we’ll see how he is.”

He must also decide whether to stick with Paddy Barrett alongside Andy Boyle at the centre of defence, or to bring Brian Gartland back into the team.

They are all decisions, Brian has been one of the main leaders in the team and such a strong personality, physically and that. It has been difficult for him with the broken wrist and playing with a cast.

“Paddy has performed very well. These are decisions you have to make and other players are pushing hard having done well too. Ronan Finn is back and is also capable of being very influential.”

He added: “Everyone else is fit. We had a good training session last night (Sunday). The only issue we had was mosquitoes. They annihilated us. We hadn’t planned that one — we thought we had left every stone uncovered but the mosquitoes had a field day!”

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Ben Blake


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