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Tuesday 22 October 2019

Tallaght happy hunting ground

Perth hopes return to scene of great triumphs can inspire the Lilywhites

Brian Gartland was part of the win over BATE Borisov at Tallaght Stadium
Brian Gartland was part of the win over BATE Borisov at Tallaght Stadium

Local lad Vinny Perth hopes that a Tallaght Strategy can work in the favour of his Dundalk side tonight as he tries to coax a big performance from his players to keep the club involved in European competition.

Having lost 1-0 in the the away leg against Slovan Bratislava, Dundalk, of course, need to score at least once to stay in the tie and advance to a meeting with either Ajax or PAOK in the play-off round of the Europa League.

Scoring in Europe has been a battle for Dundalk this season, who have found the net just once in five games, though manager Perth feels that the tie is still evenly balanced, unlike their clash with the cash-rich Qarabag in the Champions League qualifiers.

In that tie, Dundalk knew, Perth said, they'd "have to go up a couple of levels" but were swatted away.

Tallaght is home turf for coach Perth, who jokes about a childhood playing on the field which would become Tallaght Stadium. "It was just a field so it was literally 50 yards to the estate where I was from," says the man raised in Killinarden.

And he also knows that Tallaght has been the venue for some of their biggest triumphs, notably the defeat of BATE Borisov, which qualified them for the Europa League group stages in 2016.

" I suppose we don't want to overplay what happened here before, we won a league here and we've beaten BATE here. But you can be inspired by big venues, good venues and big crowds," says Perth.

"David McMillan and Robbie Benson would remember the BATE night and Richie Towell would remember his penalty here.

"But we have also had people like Dane Massey and Andy Boyle here who were part of that, also Brian Gartland and Sean Gannon.

"But I think this is an opportunity for someone else to become a hero, someone to grab that big moment and those big goals.

"I think that there is a big performance in this team and I think that it has been coming.

"We have had a really difficult European run.

"It's not easy at this level but we will be inspired in this venue, hopefully. And that's the challenge for the players because of what has gone before."

Dundalk, who will be without Robbie Benson due to injury, have been forced to move to Tallaght from their Oriel Park home as UEFA won't pass Oriel for this stage of the competition, so the 'home' fans will have to travel.

But Perth hopes that neutrals put their rivalry aside and give his side their backing.

He also points out that potential jealousy over their income from UEFA (and Dundalk could make €1.5m from Europe this season) is negated by costs, like the €150,000 bill for chartering a plane to Azerbaijan.

"So money isn't a driver in that sense, it's not going to put us into a different stratosphere in football. It's about perception, it's about people believing in our league, people understanding, that's why it's important for the people to come together," he said.

"This is the deepest anyone (from Ireland) is in the competition. Look, the winners of this tie face PAOK or Ajax in the Amsterdam Arena. So, of course, it's the biggest game is Irish club football this year, it definitely is.

"It's massive for your league. There has been enough kicking of the FAI and Irish football over the last year. We could do with a positive story if we could have one."

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