Dundalk dare to dream
The Premier Division and FAI Cup trophies were, understandably, left at home in the Oriel Park boardroom when the Dundalk squad flew out to Iceland yesterday for their latest bout of European action.
And for Lilywhites striker David McMillan, it will take a big feat in Europe - like a win away to Icelandic champions FH tonight (8.15pm Irish time) for the club, and this league, to be given credit from a wider audience.
The second qualifying round tie is open after a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Ireland, and FH will feel that their away goal, and their home record (unbeaten at home in all competitions for 12 months) could see them through.
The identity of Dundalk's third-round opponents, should the Irish club progress of course, was confirmed last night when BATE Borisov made it through their second qualifying round tie. BATE could only draw 2-2 away to Finnish side Seinäjoki but won 4-2 on aggregate.
BATE would provide Dundalk with a logistical nightmare, to make visa and flight arrangements in time to get to Belarus in time for Tuesday's second leg, but for McMillan, this summer is all about his club proving they can deliver on the big stage.
"We spoke about it this week, we have won everything there is to win here in Ireland and now we want to go and make a statement in Europe, we want to do more," McMillan told The Herald.
"I think we have a very good squad here but in Ireland, it takes a European win to get recognition. And we believe we are good enough to go and progress. If we get through this we have a few more games to come, so there are great opportunities there for everyone, the focus is on this game to make sure we do this and the opportunities are endless."
Despite the size of the task in Iceland, the players' European pedigree and the club's away form breeds confidence for Dubliner McMillan. "Within the squad we have a lot of European experience, lads who were in the group stages with Shamrock Rovers and others who won through a few rounds here and there," McMillan says.
"We went away and won in Croatia against Hajduk Split, we won away in Luxembourg and we put up a very good show in Belarus against BATE, so we have no fears.
"Especially after seeing FH in the home game I think we have no reason to be afraid, we can go there and win.
"I think we're more prepared now as we've seen FH up close and not just on DVDs. The game last week was decent, we started the game well and we were on top in the first few minutes, I think it was a feeling-up period, seeing how they would shape up and play the game.
"We were confident after that first 15 minutes that we could win the game, we deserved our goal, but it was just disappointing that we didn't hold on and see it out, I didn't see them scoring. But that's football, you have to take the setbacks and deal with them, us conceding at home was a setback so now it's about how we respond, but we're confident that we can win the game. We should have won at home but we have a chance now to make it right."
Their opponents FH have been strong domestically, though their lead at the top of the Icelandic league has been cut by two successive draws.
They have have some form of European pedigree and have won through at least round in Europe for the last four seasons, getting past opposition from Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Northern Ireland (Glenavon), Belarus and Finland.
Dundalk trained in Hafnarfjordur last night, after arriving on their charter flight.