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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 21 March, 2019
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Cork City midfielder relishing 'chances that you wouldn't get in England'

The Leesiders arrived in Belgium yesterday ahead of tomorrow night’s Europa League meeting with Genk.

Cork City's Gavan Holohan is tackled by BK Hacken's Martin Ericsson during their Europa League clash at Turner's Cross.
Cork City's Gavan Holohan is tackled by BK Hacken's Martin Ericsson during their Europa League clash at Turner's Cross.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

BEING FORCED TO return home from a club in England is a blow to any young Irish footballer, but there’s plenty to be said for life in Ireland’s domestic league.

The presence of eight former SSE Airtrcity League players in Ireland’s 23-man squad at Euro 2016 reinforced its status as a solid platform for launching successful professional careers.

The chance to compete in European club competitions is another benefit of plying your trade at home — something Gavan Holohan is currently enjoying at Cork City.

Having failed to make the breakthrough at Hull City, who he joined at the age of 16, Holohan signed for Drogheda United in 2013 before being snapped up by Cork City ahead of the start of the 2015 season.

Now 24, the Kilkenny native is eager to help the Leesiders to continue their run in the Europa League. That campaign resumes tomorrow evening with the first leg of a third-round qualifier away to Belgian side KRC Genk.

“It’s obviously something that you wouldn’t get over in England, unless you were playing for one of the top Premier League clubs or whatever,” says Holohan, discussing the opportunity to experience playing European football.

A lot of people have a bit of negativity about coming back home, especially if they’ve been over in England, but for me, the chance to play in these games is massive. It’s definitely something that you wouldn’t get over in England.

“You’re playing against top sides in Europe so it’s great experience, it’s great to have on the CV, and it’s something that the likes of myself, Seanie [Maguire, ex-West Ham] and Gearoid [Morrissey, ex-Blackburn Rovers] have kind of embraced. You definitely grab the opportunity with both hands.”

Gavan Holohan Holohan in possession during the second leg of Cork City's first-round tie against Linfield. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Cork City booked their place in this stage of the Europa League by eliminating Belfast side Linfield and Swedish Cup holders BK Hacken. Genk, who were Belgium’s fourth-best team last season, stand between John Caulfield’s men and a play-off to reach the group stages.

“We can take confidence from the two rounds — obviously the Linfield game and the Hacken game. I think we really showed our qualities. We didn’t look out of our league by any means,” said Holohan, who started in the second leg against Linfield and was introduced as a substitute in the return fixture with Hacken.

I know Genk is going to be a step-up. They’ve got good pedigree in Europe. But I think we’re more than capable and we’d be confident enough that we can rise to the occasion, definitely.”

This is the third time in Cork City’s history that they’ve progressed from two rounds in a European competition. To emerge from a third, they’ll need to overcome a club who played in the Champions League group stages as recently as 2011-12, the highlight of which was a 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea.

But Holohan says City aren’t lacking belief thanks to their recent performances and results: “Everyone’s flying at the moment, especially after the other night. It was a good side [Hacken] that we’re after turning over so it’s good confidence for the lads. I think we can go into this round now, in a way, having no fear and knowing that we can cause an upset.”

The midfielder added: “The main thing is that we give a good account of ourselves and keep the tie alive coming back to Turner’s Cross next week.”

Tomorrow night’s game at the Luminus Arena kicks off at 7pm Irish time (live on eir Sport 1), with the second leg fixed for Turner’s Cross seven days later (Thursday, 4 August at 7.45pm).

‘He’s playing on half an ankle but that just shows you the type of man he is’

Live TV coverage confirmed for both legs of Cork City’s Europa League tie against KRC Genk

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Paul Dollery

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