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'There's nothing between the teams and yet we're playing in bloody Oriel Park'

Stephen Kenny’s side came agonisingly close to overcoming Rosenborg in the Champions League qualifiers.

DUNDALK MANAGER STEPHEN Kenny was full of praise for his players after last night’s disappointment at the Lerkendal Stadion in Trondheim.

The Lilywhites saw their Champions League campaign brought to an end at the first hurdle when Matthias Vilhjalmsson scored in extra-time in the second leg of their tie against Rosenborg to send the Norwegian champions into the third qualifying round.

Stephen Kenny after the game Stephen Kenny after the game. Source: Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

Vilhjalmsson’s goal separated the sides after both legs had ended 1-1, with Dundalk conceding just before the break on each occasion having taken a first-half lead.

“We were very disappointed to lose. The players were terrific overall,” said Kenny, who lamented the costly timing of Rosenborg’s equalising goals — both last night and in Louth seven days earlier.

“We were the better team in Oriel Park last week. We drew 1-1. Tonight Rosenborg were overall the better team but I’m disappointed to lose. In both legs to concede right just before half-time after taking the lead, that killed us really.”

David McMillan’s first-leg opener was cancelled out by Tore Reginiussen in the 44th minute. Yann-Erik De Lanlay scored in the 43rd minute of last night’s game after Brian Gartland had headed Dundalk into the ascendancy.

Despite being unable to match their European heroics of 2016, Kenny remained proud of his players for coming so close to overcoming a club with a rich tradition of competing in the group stages of the Champions League and the Europa League.

The Dundalk team The Dundalk team pictured before the second leg at the Lerkendal Stadion. Source: Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

“It’s tough for us to come to a club like Rosenborg, who get 20,000 [spectators] every week. There’s nothing between the teams and yet we’re playing in bloody Oriel Park with very limited facilities,” said the Dundalk boss, whose side return to domestic action with a Premier Division game at home to Shamrock Rovers on Sunday.

“Coming to grounds like this, the players deserve to be playing on stages like this, to be honest. I think they showed that last year every week and they’ve shown it over these two legs. We’ve gone out on the margins here and it’s very hard to take.

“Rosenborg are an excellent team. Obviously they have a lot of international players with great pedigree, but overall over the two legs we were unfortunate to go out. To go through wouldn’t have flattered us, even though at times Rosenborg had us pinned in during that second half. We’re very, very disappointed.”

Kenny also pointed to some potential flaws in the co-efficient seeding system for European fixtures. While Dundalk, who were unseeded in the second-round draw, have missed out on a third-round clash with Celtic, the team they eliminated at the same stage last year have progressed.

Icelandic champions FH Hafnarfjarðar, who were a seeded team again in 2017, got the better of Vikingur from the Faroe Islands to set up a meeting with Slovenian champions Maribor in the next stage.

Michael Duffy and Tore Reginiussen Dundalk's Michael Duffy being pursued by Tore Reginiussen of Rosenborg. Source: Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

Kenny said: “We played 12 games [in Europe] last year and did so well. The team we beat, we’re not seeded and they are — FH. They’re seeded, we’re not, we get Rosenborg and we’re out now. That’s the ruthless nature of it. There’s nothing we can do about it. You can’t complain about it. You’ve got to accept it.

“We have no divine right to expect to win big Champions League games against some of the major teams in Europe, but we believe we can do that. We were just unfortunate. Over 180 minutes there was nothing to separate the teams. It was just a goal in extra-time. We hit the bar and they scored. That’s it.”

– Additional reporting from Caoimhín Reilly

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Paul Dollery

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