AS Derry City prepare to kick-start their 2014/15 UEFA Europa League adventure with the first round qualifier next Thursday, July 3rd, we take a closer look at the Candy Stripes’ Welsh opposition, Aberystwyth Town.
Peter Hutton’s troops, top seeds in today’s draw for the first round qualifier in Nyon, were paired with the Welsh Premier League outfit and will play the first leg tie at home, with the return leg to be played on July 10th next.
And the powers that be at Brandywell Stadium and indeed, their counterparts at Park Avenue will be delighted with the draw having avoided potential trips to Lithuania, Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland and Latvia.
Managed by Ian Hughes, Aberystwyth Town qualified for this season’s Europa League qualifiers as runners-up in the Welsh Cup last season.
And their clash with Derry City marks just their third appearance on the European stage in the club’s history and their first appearance in a European competition in 10 years!
The club, which is situated in the west coast of Wales, finished in seventh place in the Welsh Premier League in Hughes’ first campaign in charge last year.
Hughes boasts a talented young squad which is captained by former Swansea City defender, Stuart Jones and includes the Welsh Premier League’s ‘Player of the Year’, Chris Venables.
Aberystwyth’s star man, Venables, also finished top goalscorer in the Welsh Premier League last season with 24 league goals while he netted five in the Welsh Cup competition.
He will no doubt be singled out as the danger man ahead of next week’s first round, first leg clash at Brandywell.
Club skipper, Jones meanwhile has plenty of experience having made over 30 appearances for Swansea between 2003 and 2005 before being released at the end of the 2004/05 season. Jones has also earned caps for both the Wales U21s and Welsh semi-pro squads.
As for the Welsh club’s manager, Hughes, now aged 30, was one of the youngest Welsh coaches to have achieved the UEFA ‘A’ license standard at 24 years of age.
Hughes was part of the coaching staff at the club for four years before being elevated to the manager’s role after previous boss, Tomi Morgan. left the club ahead of the 2013/14 season.
The youngest manager in the Welsh top flight, Hughes will cut his teeth in the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League having enjoyed an incredibly successful first season in charge, reaching the Welsh Cup final and qualifying for the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League as runners-up in the process.
Hughes was denied silverware when Aberystwyth lost 3-2 to champions The New Saints FC in the cup final.
The first round qualifier against Derry City will be Aberystwyth’s first competitive game of the season while the ‘Candy Stripes’ go into the game midway into their League of Ireland campaign and fresh from a two week mid-season break.
However, the Welsh club impressed at the weekend in a pre-season friendly and Europa League warm-up with a convincing victory against Cymru Alliance side, Porthmadog at their Park Avenue stadium.
And with E100,000 for the winners of the two legged tie and a second round clash against winnable Belarusian opposition, FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk for the victors, there’s plenty at stake.
In 1992, Aberystwyth Town Football Club was a founder member of the newly formed League of Wales, now known as the Welsh Premier League.
The club has remained in the League ever since and in 1999, after finishing in fourth position, represented Wales in Europe in the UEFA Inter Toto cup against Maltese side Floriana.
Aberystwyth again finished fourth in season 2003/2004 and qualified for the Inter Toto cup this time against Latvian side FC Dinaburg.
Favourable draws for Irish sides
Europa League 1st qualifying round: Derry City v Aberystwyth Town (WAL); FK Banga (LTU) v Sligo Rovers; AS Jeunesse (LUX) v Dundalk; FH (ISL) v Glenavon; B36 Torshavn (FRO) v Linfield; Crusaders v FK Ekranas (LTU).