Wednesday 11 December 2019

Qarabag the example for us says Treacy

Seán Hoare
Seán Hoare

Dundalk chairman Mike Treacy says that Champions League opponents Qarabag are an example that they want to follow.

Azerbaijan's top team have ascended the European ranks to become regular participants in group stage competition in the past five years, with four appearances in the Europa League and one in the Champions League.

They were in a group with Roma, Atletico Madrid and Chelsea on that adventure two years ago, and drew both encounters with Madrid.

Qarabag will be in Oriel Park next Wednesday, however, as they seek to advance in this year's competition.

Dundalk will be firm outsiders, but their American owners are viewing this tie as a learning experience as they hope to become regular contenders for group stage football.

It will be a costly journey too, with early quotes for a charter flight to Baku coming in at around €150,000, which will eat into the extra €400,000 they secured for Wednesday's dramatic penalty shoot-out success over Riga.

The prospect of a sell-out crowd for the first meeting with Qarabag will help of course, and Treacy is looking forward to seeing Dundalk in that company.

"You look at Qarabag and that's what we look at and what we want to achieve," said Treacy, speaking in the aftermath of an eventtful night in Riga.

"We want to look at where they were in 2012 and what did they do to get to where they are today.

"We're looking forward to it. We probably won't be favourites but our guys are so fearless and whenever they go out there, they think they can win."

The co-founder of Peak6, Matt Hulsizer, travelled to the first leg and Treacy said that Dundalk's ownership group was energised by the penalty shootout that provided a rollercoaster of emotions until Gary Rogers' second stop gave Sean Hoare a chance to win it.

"There were some nerves back in Chicago," said Treacy. "It was agonising, exhilarating, all back and forth in one night. It was madness."

Dundalk's opposition scout, Stephen O'Donnell, watched Qarabag defeat Albanian champions Partizani in Baku on Wednesday and is understood to have been very impressed by what he saw.

"We put so much into our preparation, our scouting and analytics and managing workloads," said Treacy, "It's that little bit which gives you a 1pc edge.

"We had Alex Rathke, who did our penalty analysis for us and ran down to make sure everyone had it before the shootout. Again, whatever little edge you can get is the only way you can survive in Europe."

Meanwhile, President Michael D Higgins has written to Dundalk boss Vinny Perth to congratulate him on his side's progression.

The Louth club received a letter today addressed to Perth, with passionate League of Ireland fan Higgins sending on his good wishes to Dundalk after they made their way past Riga FC following a dramatic penalty shootout.

"As President of Ireland, may I send my heartfelt congratulations to you and to the entire squad on the impressive victory," said Higgins in the letter.

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