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Dublin: 19°C Sunday 13 June 2021

Raheny United aiming to make history in Champions League last-32 tie

We speak to head coach Casey McQuillan as the WNL champions face into a first leg with Bristol Academy at Richmond Park this evening.

The Raheny team (file photo).
The Raheny team (file photo).
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETICS may be out of Europe but Richmond Park tonight host Champions League football as Raheny United meet Bristol Academy (7.30pm kick-off).

The Women’s National League champions topped their group back in August to progress to the knockout stages for the first time in the club’s history.

As the lowest ranked team in the draw, the Dubliners were paired with Bristol Academy — runners-up in the English Women’s Super League last season and currently sixth in the table.

If Raheny can get the better of Bristol over two legs, they will become the first Irish club ever to make the last 16 of the continent’s elite club competition where the winner of Barcelona and SK Slavia Praha await.

“It would be huge,” coach Casey McQuillan told TheScore. “Peamount United led the way, we have picked up the mantle and we want to bring the flag on and plant it a little bit further along the way. Hopefully then that will bring out everybody on to emulate what Raheny have done.

“We had to be realistic about it. We were ranked 32nd and the lowest seed we could get was 16 and that was Bristol. That doesn’t mean that they are the 16th best team, it just means that’s the seeding they have.

It’s going into the unknown but we’re as happy as you could be with the draw.”

McQuillan travelled to England to scout Bristol a couple of times and has also been using video footage to brush up on Raheny’s opponents. That said, he insists that the emphasis will be on stamping their style on the game as always/

“We have work done on what we want to do but I’ve always maintained that we play the Raheny way and other teams should have to adapt to that. We’ll see how the first 20 minutes go and reassess but you’re always doing that in games.

“They are physical and solid right through the team and have a couple of fast players and technically good up top who do a lot of interchanging.

“There is no doubt they are going to be tough. There are no two ways about that. But if they looked at us then I’m sure they will be looking at a few things and says ‘we need to watch X,Y and Z’ as well.”

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“We’re in the unknown. If we were in these stages playing every year we would have more knowledge of it but we are doing the best we can with what we have.”

Katie McCabe Player of the Month Katie McCabe. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Winger Katie McCabe was this week named Continental Tyres WNL Player of the Month for September having notched eight goals in three games but McQuillan is confident taht Raheny have strength in depth.

You have to remember that she got a Player of the Year award after coming back from a serious injury and then going to the European championships. The way she has adapted to that, she has actually come back better from the injury. That’s part of her improvement.

But Katie doesn’t perform unless the players around her perform. You’ve got Niamh Reid-Burke and I’d say she was in the running for POTM as well. Then you have the likes of Clare Shine, Siobhan Killeen, Rebecca Creagh and Rachel Graham.

“I know it’s an old saying but one player doesn’t make a team. Katie is the stand-out player at the moment but when she drops off a little bit there will be another player to step to the fore.

That is one of the qualities we have at Raheny. Every so often, a player will hit form and then they will drop off a little bit and someone else will step up.

Due to UEFA restrictions, Raheny cross the Liffey to play the first leg at the home of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division champions before the return next week but McQuillan isn’t worried.

“We would have liked to play on our own pitch up in Morton Stadium for obvious reasons,” he added. “The dimensions of the pitch are off for UEFA so we couldn’t play there.

“Richmond Park is tight and could suit us on the day. If we get a crowd for the game, they will be right beside the pitch which could also help us on the day. That’s what we’re hoping.”

Raheny United play Bristol Academy in the last 32 of the Champions League this evening. Kick off at Richmond Park is 7.30pm

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Ben Blake

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