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Tuesday 18 September 2018

Sheppard and Cork prepare for their own Warsaw pact

 

EURO AIM: Cork City’s Karl Sheppard is relishing this evening’s Champions League clash with Legia Warsaw. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
EURO AIM: Cork City’s Karl Sheppard is relishing this evening’s Champions League clash with Legia Warsaw. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Past battles in European competition have seen Dubliner Karl Sheppard cross paths with the likes of Harry Kane, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale.

In fact, the 2011 Europa League group stage was a big deal for forwards Sheppard and Kane: Sheppard scored his first European goal while Kane netted his first-ever Spurs goal back then, against Shamrock Rovers.

"Modric and Bale were on the bench against us, Kane scored in both games against us, and he turned out to be an ok player, you never know how good players will turn out to be," says Sheppard as he gears up to play in the Champions League for the first time tonight, for Cork City in their home date with Legia Warsaw.

And he knows that a tussle with Legia, in front of a capacity crowd of 6,000 at Turner's Cross tonight, will demand everything of his Cork side.

City have got past the first-round hurdle in their last two European campaigns, the biggest success a win over Swedish side Hakcen in the Europa League two seasons ago, but Euro veteran Sheppard admits that this test, against a Legia squad packed with internationals such as Finnish forward Kasper Hamalainen, is a horse of a different colour.

"When you play the likes of Hacken you play against players who are maybe slightly above the standard you usually play at, so you can raise your game to their level quite easily," he says.

"But when you talk about boys who play in the World Cup and give the Champions League a good go each year then you know you are up against it.

"We have seen Legia and we know how good they are but we're at home and hopefully we can do ourselves justice," added Sheppard.

"You can't show them too much respect and fear can be a motivating factor, when you know how good a team is you know you have to be on your game."

Boss John Caulfield is aware of the size of the task: "Other than Bayern Munich, financially, Legia is the biggest team that this club has possibly played in the club's history."

Legia are technically in pre-season mode as tonight will be their first competitive game of the season, though they have been impressive in a run of friendly games.

Polish internationals Michał Pazdan and Artur Jedrzejczyk are not in Cork, the pair given time off following their efforts at the World Cup in Russia, but Legia's Croatian-born coach can still include nine full internationals in his 19-man squad for tonight's game.

  • Champions League Cork City v Legia Warsaw (Turner's Cross, KO 7.45)

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