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Monday 17 December 2018

Dundalk wary of threat from Cypriots

Ready: Brian Gartland
Ready: Brian Gartland

Dundalk are wary of the threat posed by the international class of Cypriot side AEK Larnaca in the Europa League tomorrow night.

Dundalk's reward for a first round win over Estonian outfit Levadia Tallinn is a clash with Larnaca, the Spanish-influenced side who knocked Cork City out of Europe 12 months ago.

Some keen students of the game here might recall the name of Larnaca midfielder Ivan Trickovski as he scored for Macedonia in a Euro 2012 qualifier in Dublin, while a number of the AEK panel have been capped at senior level by Cyprus.

They also have a European pedigree of sorts, getting through three rounds of the Europa League for the last two seasons before losing out in the playoff round.

"They will be a decent side, there's no secret about that," defender Brian Gartland told Dundalk Sport.

"They have a lot of lads who have played in Spain and a lot of internationals, a couple of Macedonians and a few who played for Cyprus and they also have players who have played in La Liga. They will be technically very good and they are experienced.

"Europe is all about getting through, we have a team that works hard and defends together."

Dundalk already know what awaits them in the third round should they get past Larnaca, as they'd face the losers from the Champions League battle between Ajax and Sturm Graz and boss Stephen Kenny has already told his players they could be able to "dream" of a date with Ajax.

The Larnaca squad arrived in Ireland yesterday to prepare for the Oriel Park tie. It's an exotic-looking panel, 11 imports in a 20-man squad, eight of those foreign players coming from Spain, with a Spanish coach (Andoni Iraola).

They have dealt with opposition from Ireland before, knocking Cliftonville out of the Europa League two years ago (5-2 on aggregate) and also defeating Cork City 2-0 over two legs last season. Meanwhile Séamus Coleman says that his former Sligo Rovers team-mate Raff Cretaro deserves his testimonial at the Showgrounds this Sunday.

"It says a lot about how Raff is so highly regarded that so many of the lads want to come over and be back to take part in his special day.

"It is fully deserved and I am delighted to see that the club decided to grant him a testimonial," said Coleman. "He makes everyone welcome at the club whether they are a young lad or an old professional."

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