Wednesday 26 September 2018

Rogers: We are used to being written off in europe

Gary Rogers of Dundalk. Pic: Sportsfile
Gary Rogers of Dundalk. Pic: Sportsfile

A campaign in one code is already over for Gary Rogers even before the summer is in full swing.

But the Dundalk goalkeeper fully intends that, whatever about his native Meath in the All-Ireland Championship, the summer of '17 will bring a lot more football his way, as the Oriel Park club begin their Champions League campaign tomorrow night.

European regulars Rosenborg, currently top of the Norwegian league and on form having scored 11 goals in the last three league games, visit a sold-out Oriel Park tomorrow for the first leg of their second qualifying round tie.

It's a relatively quick return to the European stage for Dundalk, who only finished up their Europa League campaign in December, but Rogers believes that a good mixture of their own European pedigree, their hunger for more success and their own not-too-shabby domestic form can get them through, even though Dundalk are underdogs against a club who were a regular presence in the Champions League group stages for a spell.

"We're not the favourites for this one, Irish clubs rarely are once you are on the Champions League stage, but we have dealt with that before and will do so again," Rogers told The Herald.

Dundalk’s Gary Rogers with his teammates after their Europa League Group D match against
Zenit St Petersburg at Stadion Pertrovskiy in St Petersburg, Russia last November. Pic: Sportsfile.
Dundalk’s Gary Rogers with his teammates after their Europa League Group D match against Zenit St Petersburg at Stadion Pertrovskiy in St Petersburg, Russia last November. Pic: Sportsfile.

"But we are confident in our own ability that we can play against opposition of this standard. We have played top sides before, we know how to play against the likes of Legia Warsaw, BATE and Zenit.

"It's hard to know how Rosenborg will compare to those teams as they play a different style.

"I see Rosenborg as a different threat to, say, BATE Borisov. I'd see the BATE players as better technically, possibly more of a ball-playing side, though Rosenborg can play ball as well of course.

"We will show them respect, they are coming here on the back of two double-winning seasons at home, we know we are in for a big test.

"But with the experience we have had from the last two seasons in Europe we know we are capable of competing at this level and that should give us confidence."

Last season's European run breeds confidence for Dundalk but Stephen Kenny's players are also aware of the need to write a new chapter.

"Last year is gone," says Rogers. "It was great to have but we want to experience it again, not dwell too much on what we achieved before and I think that desire to taste more of those big nights in Europe is driving us on to do well this year.

"It's very hard to qualify for the group stages, it's only been done twice by a League of Ireland team so we know it won't happen easily. But it can be done."

While Rosenborg's recent form has been patchy, Dundalk have been most impressive: since last month's 3-0 loss to Cork they've had five straight wins with five clean sheets.

"We have turned our own form around and that's a huge positive going into what is the biggest game of the season for us," he says.

"On a personal level the clean sheets are nice but it's not just me, we are strong defensively and we have been getting into good habits, our record is actually nine clean sheets in 10 and I think any team in any league would be proud of a run like that."

For Rogers, Dundalk's success is a welcome change from that early exit in the all-Ireland for Meath, Rogers among the frustrated home fans in Páirc Tailteann last weekend as the Royals lost to Donegal, ending their summer of football in early July.

"It was a good performance from Meath, it was just disappointing that they didn't put the game away and maybe they just lacked that experience and know-how you need to get over the finish line in a tight game like that," says Rogers.

While there's clearly a lot to motivate the Dundalk players for this tie, Rogers has added incentive to do well: a clash with Rosenborg at his previous club, Sligo Rovers, was The One That Got Away in terms of European success.

In the Europa League in 2014, Sligo were fully in control of the tie against the Norwegian side, leading 3-1 on aggregate early into the second leg, at home, only for Rovers to collapse, lose the game, lose the tie 4-3 on aggregate and lose face.

"Yeah, that was one tie where we really left it behind us, Rosenborg were there for the taking," says the keeper.

"To beat them away was something else but to then go 1-0 up in the home leg was amazing. We had it in our own hands and you could not be an in a better position than that.

"But they scored soon after we did, they took belief from that and we had no answer to it and we were out.

"That was a bad one to lose but year is a really great opportunity for us to go on and do something in Europe," added Rogers.

"To progress in these ties, you have to perform on the big occasions, we have done that before with Dundalk and now we need to do it again."

Dundalk v Rosenborg is live on RTÉ 2 TV tomorrow at 7.45pm

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