Estonian date on the cards for Shamrock Rovers

Three Airtricity League sides learned their European fate this morning. Find out where they are heading.

Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Updated 14.15

IT’S A LONG aul’ way from Tallaght to Tallinn – 2000 kilometres in fact – but that’s the prospect facing Shamrock Rovers fans following this morning’s draw for the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League.

The Airtricity League Champions were paired with the winners of Estonia’s Meistriliiga, FC Flora Tallinn, during the draw in UEFA headquarters in Nyon.

The game’s first leg will take place in Tallaght Stadium on 12/13 July, with Michael O’Neill’s men travelling abroad for the return fixture on 19/20 July.

“We’re obviously delighted to be there,” Shamrock Rovers chairman Jonathan Roche told earlier this afternoon. ”It’s the first time in a long time that Shamrock Rovers have been in the European Cup.”

“I think we have to be happy enough with the draw. From a supporters’ perspective, there are direct flights from Dublin to Tallinn so I’m sure there’ll be a huge travelling crowd.”

It was a huge bonus to be seeded. It’s certainly a winnable match for us, but Flora Tallinn are probably thinking the same thing. All of the unseeded teams would have been hoping to get Shamrock Rovers.

Tallinn are Estonia’s most successful club with eight domestic titles to their name, though last year’s league success was the club’s first since 2003.

A regular feature in European competition, they were knocked out of the Europa League by Dynamo Tblisi in the first qualifying round last year. On their five previous occasions in the Champions League qualifiers, they have never progressed past the first qualifying round.

Meanwhile, St. Patrick’s Athletic will travel to the Icelandic island of Heimaey next week, 30 June, for the first leg of their Europa League first qualifying round tie against ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar with the return fixture taking place a week later.

The winners of the other first round qualifier between FC Koper (Slovenia) and FC Shakhter Karagandy (Kazakhstan) await the Saints in the second round should they progress.

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Last year’s league runners-up, Bohemians, will begin their European campaign with a trip to either NK Široki Brijeg of Bosnia-Herzegovina or Slovenian side NK Olimpija Ljubljana in the second qualifying round of the Europa League.

Bohs have been drawn away from home for the first leg on 14 July, with the return leg pencilled in for Dalymount Park on 21 July.

Ireland’s other representative in this year’s Europa League, Sligo Rovers, will have to wait for the draw for the third qualifying round to be made on 15 July before they discover their European opponents.

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Niall Kelly

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