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Monday 23 July 2018

David holds Euro key

Dundalk striker McMillan aiming to shoot down Rosenborg and set up huge Celtic tie

Dundalk striker David McMillan is aiming to get on the scoresheet against Rosenborg again in this evening’s Champions League second qualifying round second leg tie in Trondheim, Norway. Photo: Sportsfile
Dundalk striker David McMillan is aiming to get on the scoresheet against Rosenborg again in this evening’s Champions League second qualifying round second leg tie in Trondheim, Norway. Photo: Sportsfile

When Rosenborg went looking for a new striker last winter, they considered a move for Dundalk's David McMillan but their plans changed when Nicklas Bendtner became available.

Their manager Kare Ingebrigtsen confirmed as much yesterday in Trondheim.

"His name came up but we found Nicklas so we were happy," he said, with a smile.

Both forwards were born in 1988 but their football backgrounds couldn't really be more different. Bendtner has Premier League, Serie A and Bundesliga experience in addition to appearances at a World Cup and European Championships.

Dubliner McMillan arrived at Dundalk after a couple of spells at UCD, a stint in Australia and an unremarkable spell at Sligo Rovers. He still does a few hours every week as an architect.

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny before the start of the UEFA Champions League Second Qualifying Round first leg match between Dundalk and Rosenborg at Oriel Park in Dundalk, Co Louth. Photo: Sportsfile
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny before the start of the UEFA Champions League Second Qualifying Round first leg match between Dundalk and Rosenborg at Oriel Park in Dundalk, Co Louth. Photo: Sportsfile

But in last week's first leg at Oriel Park, it was McMillan who made his mark while Bendtner was quite subdued.

"He's a good striker, definitely, we looked at him, saw him, and he scored a lot of goals last year and this year as well so he's definitely a good player who can play out of Ireland if he wants to," added the Rosenborg coach.

The in-form front man will be hoping to provide Rosenborg with a further reminder of his ability in tonight's decider at the Lerkendal Stadium.

McMillan has scored seven goals in Champions League qualifiers over the past three seasons and manager Stephen Kenny admits that he feared losing him over the winter.

"I know he played it down a bit last week but he was one or two or three they (Rosenborg) were looking at," says Kenny.

"I think finances had been discussed and all of that and obviously it wasn't anything we were going to compete with if the deal happened, but obviously it didn't happen. I'd say, to be truthful, if the offer had been what he anticipated then he would have taken it.

"He certainly has improved by adding and improving aspects of the game. Number one his heading ability, number two his movement in the box, number three his first touch has got better and the other thing that has got better is his hold-up play generally with his back to goal."

Dundalk will need their lone striker to be influential if they are to succeed in their mission and bounce back from the disappointment of conceding an away goal at home in a game that Kenny feels they should have won. Ingebrigtsen would dispute that view, arguing that the Norwegian champions were in control for the final hour after being second best in a ropey opening. He wants his side to control the tempo from the outset on their own patch.

The ex-Manchester City player spoke confidently about his players' ability to raise their levels when it matters and set up a meeting with Celtic in the next round. It's a quick turnaround for the winners with the first leg provisionally pencilled in for Glasgow next Wednesday with the return the following Tuesday.

Venue

Dundalk are trying to delay a final decision on what home venue they would use if they made it through with Tallaght Stadium more likely than the Aviva Stadium at this juncture.

They don't want to get dragged into a discussion of the topic, especially as they are the outsiders to make it there so it's all very hypothetical.

That said, Ingebrigtsten took issue with Kenny's suggestion that it would be a 'catastrophe' for the hosts if they were to be eliminated at this stage of proceedings.

"There is no catastrophe in football," he replied, "There are in other places but, no. For us it's important to get into the group stages (but) we know where we are in European football. Everybody dreams to play in the Champions League but I know it's really difficult for a Norwegian team to get through to the group stage.

"We want to win the game and we will go into the game to win it. We think Dundalk have to score more than one goal if they are going to beat us."

Kenny has indicated he is ready to pitch Stephen O'Donnell into battle after a good week's training and that could mean Chris Shields dropping to the bench. He is less likely to take a risk in defence with Niclas Vemmelund only returning to training on Sunday after leaving the pitch in the first battle with a hamstring problem.

"I don't want him playing and then coming off after 20 minutes," said Kenny, "That's a disaster for you as a manager, especially if you're trying to win a game. Attacking substitutions are important."

There is a belief in the visiting camp that they can upset the script. "From our point of view, we have a lot of motivation," he continued, "We're not booking our hotels for Glasgow but I'm sure they are. There is a lot of football to be played here and if we play as well as we did last week, then we have a great chance.

"We're capable of stepping up again. We're going to have to play the game of our lives, defend really well and put in an extraordinary performance but it's not beyond us to try and get a result."

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