Madden: We're not far behind our European rivals
Even though Irish interest in UEFA competition is now over, before the big guns of the European game join in, Shamrock Rovers man Simon Madden believes that clubs here can make an impact on the European stage - if they get the support needed.
With Derry City already knocked out, at the first-round stage, the trio of Rovers, Dundalk and Cork City joined them in exiting Europe this week; now it's back to basics in the domestic scene, a quick turnaround for Rovers as they face Dundalk in Oriel Park tomorrow (5pm).
Flight problems meant that the Rovers party had a delayed return to Dublin after Thursday's 2-0 loss (5-2 on aggregate) in the Czech Republic, so there was not much time to brood over the Euro exit but for defender Madden, Europe is still on his mind.
"It's disappointing to see all the clubs gone - even though we're all rivals it's good to see an Irish team do well in Europe like Dundalk did last year and it would have been nice for one of the clubs to go through," Madden says.
"I don't think people can be too harsh on us for losing this week. People who don't see the games will look at our scoreline, 5-2, and maybe have a go, but there's a massive gap between us and the likes of Mlada Boleslav.
"We did well in the first round, came up against a better side in the second round and lost out. But I don't think we are too far behind.
"You play a good side from the Czech league and they have that bit of class, they are that half a second quicker than you and they punish any mistake.
"But if people, like the FAI, give the league more backing then it can happen.
"Mlada Boleslav had a couple of internationals in their side, the Rosenborg team that beat Dundalk had 11 of them and we have none in our league.
"They are full-time pros for their whole careers and we have young lads in our team.
"It's disappointing to be out of Europe but Dundalk is now the main focus, as we try to make sure of third place."
Catching third-placed Bray is possible for Rovers, only a point behind the Wicklow club, but bridging a 14-point gap to second-placed Dundalk is not so easy.
"Finishing in the top two is tough but not impossible, especially if we can win up there tomorrow," says ex-Dundalk man Madden.
Former Oriel Park favourite Ronan Finn misses out on a return to Dundalk through suspension.