herald

Friday 9 December 2016

Boyle: 'We are on the verge of history'

Dundalk aim to knock out Dutch giants as last 32 of Europa beckons

Dundalk defender Andy Boyle insists his side can make more Irish football history by beating AZ Alkmaar in Tallaght tonight and making it into the knock-out stages of the Europa League
Dundalk defender Andy Boyle insists his side can make more Irish football history by beating AZ Alkmaar in Tallaght tonight and making it into the knock-out stages of the Europa League
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny is pictured during a press conference ahead of tonight’s Europa League clash

A little bit of history was made earlier this month when, for the first time in four decades, two players from the domestic league were called up for duty with the national team in a game of real consequence.

One member of the duo, Dundalk defender Andy Boyle, says he has unfinished business with international football and he hopes that his week-long spell in the squad under Martin O'Neill will not be his only taste of that scene.

Boyle's future at club level is also bright-looking as the former U19 cap, who has never been with a club outside of Ireland, is very much in demand, Scottish side Rangers extremely keen to secure his services.

But the 25-year-old has another kind of history on his mind in the month ahead, Boyle and his Dundalk crew very intent on making it into the knock-out stages of the Europa League.

Contention

The picture for Dundalk, and their pathway to the last 32, will be a bit clearer just before they kick off against AZ Alkmaar in at sold-out Tallaght Stadium tonight, as they will know the result of the 5pm kick-off in Russia between the already-qualified Zenit and Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Defeat for Maccabi in St Petersburg would mean that two draws from Dundalk's last two games would see them into the last 32.

"We have a chance to make history now," Boyle told The Herald.

"At the start of the group we'd have taken this situation, to be in serious contention to make the last 32 of the Europa League or at least take it to the final match day of the group stage.

"After tonight we'll know what we need going into the final group game in Israel, we could be going there knowing a win would put us through so it's all to play for.

"It would be the biggest achievement ever for an Irish club. It's one thing to go into the group stages but to go into the last 32 would be massive.

"It can't be understated how hard that is to do, the way we have done it, with the style of play we use, having been up against it in our own league and the schedule we had, it would be an amazing achievement to get out of the group.

"It could be a great two weeks for us, a win tonight would eliminate AZ and we could then go to Israel with it all to play for. Playing in Israel in December with a place in the last 32 of the Europa League is really something to aim for but we'll focus on tonight first."

A sold-out crowd at Tallaght Stadium, an attendance which will include a batch of cross-channel scouts eager to see Boyle and Daryl Horgan in particular, will expect great things of Dundalk, but there's also expectancy back in Holland, with AZ on the verge of elimination if they draw.

"A draw tonight would be better for us than AZ, clearly," says Boyle. "But that's a dangerous approach to take, we don't go out to play for a draw, we are at our best when we go out to win and tonight will be no different.

Changes

"They have to win so they will come out and go at us, they have made some changes to their team since we last played them and tonight they will use two or three players who weren't involved when we were in Holland, so we will do our homework."

Injuries will limit Stephen Kenny's options tonight but AZ, who have managed just one win in their last seven league games, have issues too with defender Rens van Eijden and keeper Gino Coutinho injured.

"AZ are a very good side, they will be tough opponents for us but we showed out in Holland that we can match them and get a positive result," Boyle added.

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