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Dundalk's McMillan looking to build on impressive record in Europe as Levadia visit Tallaght

The 32-year-old recently overtook Glen Crowe as the top League of Ireland goalscorer in European club competition.

Dundalk's David McMillan.
Dundalk's David McMillan.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

DAVID McMILLAN KNOWS all about taking his chance when it comes to Europe and is hoping he can do so yet again when Dundalk host Levadia Tallinn at Tallaght Stadium this evening [KO 8pm] in their Europa Conference League second qualifying round, first leg fixture.

Back in 2016 when Stephen Kenny’s side reached the Europa League group stages, it was McMillan’s goals that helped get them there with his trio over two legs against Icelandic outfit FH Hafnarfjordur being followed up by a brilliant brace in the memorable 3-0 victory over BATE Borisov at the Dublin venue.

Those goals, along with his recent header in the first qualifying round against Welsh side Newtown, ensured the 32-year-old overtook Glen Crowe as the top League of Ireland goalscorer in European club competition with 12 goals, but it could all have been a little different for McMillan were it not for an illness to his former UCD team-mate Ciaran Kilduff five years ago.

The now retired Kilduff was due to start when Dundalk travelled to the Brandywell to face Derry City at the start of July 2016 but after feeling unwell McMillan got the nod and hit a hat-trick in a 5-0 win.

He would follow it up with another treble four days later against Longford Town and would ultimately carry that form into what became a memorable 12 match European run which saw Dundalk break records and earned Kenny the sort of status that would ultimately lead to him becoming the senior Republic of Ireland manager.

Five years on, McMillan is back leading the line due to a team-mate’s misfortune, with the fact Patrick Hoban tested positive for Covid-19 giving him a chance to break Crowe’s record.

He will retain his starting role tonight and is hoping to continue his prolific European goal record to ensure Vinny Perth’s side take one step towards a third qualifying round tie with Dutch side Vitesse next month.

david-mcmillan-scores-his-sides-second-goal McMillan was on the scoresheet in the first qualifying round, first leg win over Newtown. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Asked did European matches suit him, McMillan said: “I don’t know to be honest, partly it’s a bit of luck I suppose.

“I’ve been fortunate that in some games players who were going to play got injured or sick and I’ve got a chance. There’s a lot of luck in football and that comes your way if you keep working hard.

“It’s hard to put my finger on why I’m on a scoring run in Europe. The way we were set up, having quick players to counter, probably suited me. I’d find space in behind to get goals. Hopefully that continues this week.

“Since the backend of last year, I think anytime I’ve played, my goal record has been good and strong.

“I was frustrated at the beginning of the season to not be playing more often but you’ve got to keep yourself ready when the opportunity comes along.

It’s been a tough period for Pat to be out and to miss but when the opportunity arises I’ve got to be ready to go and thankfully I’ve been able to get amongst the goals and I’ve tried to help the team as much as possible, and hopefully that can continue on Thursday.”

McMillan had departed for Scotland when Dundalk beat Levadia in both legs of a Europa League qualifier in 2018. While he recalls watching the game he has little memory of it, but has tasted success at the A. Le Coq Arena – where the second leg will be played on 29 July – having come off the bench late on in a 1-0 win for the Republic of Ireland U23 team over Estonia in September 2010.

“I remember it quite well,” he grinned.

“I wasn’t in the original squad, got called up and my passport was in the Chinese embassy. I was heading to China at the end of the season in November and they had to give me a Visa.

“I had to stand outside the embassy in Ballsbridge trying to get my passport back to go on the trip. For that as much as anything I remember the trip quite well.

“I only played five or 10 minutes but it was a nice stadium and a lovely place. It’s a good trip to go back to visit but it’s more about before going that I remember.”

If Tallinn has some familiarity for him, so too will Tallaght Stadium, which is just a short journey from where he grew up in Templeogue.

Dundalk have had a good record there over the years and McMillan is hoping that continues this evening.

“It’s a venue that I suppose is a home away from home,” he said.

I think for the players in these European games, sometimes not to be on astroturf is a help. We would like to be playing on grass every week if we could be and the surface in Tallaght is possibly the best in the country. Even playing last year in the groups, the surface in Tallaght probably outdid the one in the Aviva.

“It’s one of the best pitches we have, a great little ground, and because we’ve had great success there we feel comfortable there.

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“As a player, it’s a place I enjoy playing in. It’s different for other people who may not have played there as much, they may not feel the same but certainly for me, and for a few of the lads, it’s been a good venue for us.

“It’s not my home ground but it so close to where I grew up and that helps. Living and playing in Dublin is an easy thing to do, it’s an easy journey to Tallaght.”

While the trip to the venue might be a short one, McMillan isn’t expecting anything easy against a Levadia side who currently sit top of the Meistriliiga.

“They seem to be a good attacking team who are scoring a lot of goals in their league and obviously winning a lot of games, they seem to be quite an aggressive side.

“We’re at home on Thursday, we want to try and win the game and give ourselves a good chance to progress. Being at home we will try and go out there and have a go.

“From what we’ve seen, they will do something similar, they set up to attack and to try and score goals so it should be quite an open game.

“We’re starting to see a lot of players performing closer to their levels that we would have expected.

“We didn’t deliver at the start of the season and we’re playing catch up now but there’s still plenty to play for, European places, the FAI Cup and these games in Europe.

“We’ve got to keep delivering performances and the key is getting through these rounds in Europe,” he said. 

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James Rogers

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