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Dublin: 14°C Thursday 29 October 2020
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Dundalk aiming for glory and to get step closer to €3m pot of gold

The Irish champions play Moldovan side Sheriff tonight in a Europa League qualifying round.

Dundalk play Sheriff this evening.
Dundalk play Sheriff this evening.
Image: Bagu Blanco/INPHO

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS FOR Dundalk. Win tonight in Tiraspol against the Moldovan champions, Sheriff, and only Faroese champions KI or Georgians Dinamo Tbilisi will block their path to the Europa League group stages.

In comparative terms, it’s the easiest route any Irish club has ever been offered to Europe’s big money market and if you are Peak6, the American based owners who coughed up a €1m loss running Dundalk last season, then you are bound to be thinking this is a chance to get some bang for your buck.

Victory tonight is worth €300,000 to the club but that figure is loose change compared to what is on offer if Dundalk follow this win up with another in the play-off round, next week. To cut to the chase, base entry into Europa League group stages is worth €2.92m per club but on top of that, a group match victory bags you €570,000 and even a point is worth €190,000.

It gets even more lucrative if you top the group – a €1m bonus is guaranteed for that prize, a mere €500,000 for the runners-up – but aside from the ching-ching-ching sound of the cash register, there is also the small matter of the glory.

League of Ireland players are used to operating out of the spotlight. European nights allow them a brush with fame, the chance to enhance their profile as well as their wages. Remember it was on the back of their journey to the 2016 group stages that resulted in Andy Boyle and Daryl Horgan becoming Irish internationals.

The short-term focus, of course, is just about winning tonight, which Dundalk’s recently appointed manager, Filippo Giovagnoli, believes can happen.  ”If we perform at the highest level, I think we can be in the group stage, yes, I believe so,” he said. “Why not? Of course, we have to perform at the best level we can.

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“There is a lot more potential in this team, especially if we think about the style and way to play the game. It’s a team that can have the possession and control the game more and dominate the game more.”

If we are perhaps a little guilty of downplaying the comparative strengths of Sheriff, Giovagnoli is not. “They are a team that doesn’t need to have possession because they have so many quality players that can swing the game in any moment that to have the possession is not that important,” the Italian said. 

Deprived the services of the suspended Boyle and the injured Dane Massey, Giovagnoli still has a decent squad to choose from yet he knows this test, in the sweltering Moldovan heat, will be considerably tougher than the ones thus far posed in his short tenure by Cobh, Shelbourne and Andorran side, Inter.

Nonetheless, it’s time they all stepped up to the plate – the manager, who unexpectedly got this job after Vinny Perth’s dismissal and who could earn himself a new contract if he managed to guide Dundalk forwards; the out-of-contract players who could do without the burden of staring into a winter without work and also the town itself.

Nothing about this new normal is likeable but if there is one thing that sport has always had the potential to do, it is to lift the moods of communities. Back-to-back European victories would do that. It’s a prize worth chasing.  

Sheriff (Moldova) v Dundalk, Europa League third qualifying round, kick off 7pm

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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