herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Killian Brennan: No more hard luck stories, we want to do things

Europa league: Skonto Riga (Latvia) v St Pat's Ath, live Setanta 1 (KO 5.0 Irish time)

Killian Breenan
Killian Breenan

IFS and buts, highs and lows have all been crammed into the 10-year European career of Killian Brennan.

The Baltic states have proved to be an unhappy region for the midfielder in the past but tonight in Latvia, Brennan sets off on another Eurovision, his St Patrick's Athletic side serious about their task of getting past Skonto Riga and into the second round of the Europa League.

While Brennan is a good bit away from the appearance tally for a League of Ireland player in Europe (41 games, a record held jointly by Owen Heary and Ollie Cahill), he will reach a real landmark in Riga this evening as this will be his 10th consecutive season in Europe.

For Brennan, the highs were very high: knocking Gothenburg out of the UEFA Cup, holding Paris St Germain to a scoreless draw, drawing away to major clubs Red Bull Salzburg and Legia Warsaw. The lows were also very, very low, like unexpected and costly Champions League exits against weak opposition from Wales (with Bohemians) and Lithuania (Shamrock Rovers).

Brennan and his fellow players had to perform football's equivalent of the walk of shame after both of those games as upset fans were on the same flight back to Dublin as the team, an experience he doesn't want to encounter again.

Instead, the veteran holds out hope of progress past Skonto here in Riga and another summer of magic, not misery, in Europe.

"No more hard luck stories, we want to do things," Brennan told The Herald at the team's hotel in a sun-drenched Riga.

"I have had a lot of games in Europe, you look back at some of those nights and think 'what if?'. But you have to turn up in European games, you need every player playing to his best.

"Now we're back at the start with Pats again and I feel we can go on a bit of a run. If we can score and get a draw out here we have a great chance of going through," added Brennan, who has lined out in Europe for Derry City, Bohemians, Shamrock Rovers and of course St Pats, scoring four Euro goals along the way.

"We want to do well for the league but we also want to do well as individuals, players want to step up against the better teams, against the likes of Legia Warsaw and Red Bull Salzburg. Irish lads like rising to challenges and if we play better as a team, Skonto are beatable."

Brennan was an early visitor to the Baltics as he recalls playing in Riga for Brian Kerr's Irish U16s in Euro qualifiers back in 2000. But his last trip here, with Rovers to play Ekranas in the Champions League in 2012, was a disaster.

"We felt we could beat them in Lithuania but we just didn't show up. It was probably my own worst game in Europe, for any team, and a lot of the Rovers lads just didn't show up that day, that was disappointing as Ekranas were beatable," he says. "I remember the trip home with Rovers wasn't nice, in contrast to the flight home from Sweden with Derry after we'd beaten Gothenburg.

"Skonto are beatable, we have been in great form for the last month and our confidence is high going into this game. But we can't think that just because we won a few league games we'll have it handy as Europe is another level. We have rolled teams over for the last month but we'll have to battle more here in Riga."

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