City’s Euro Adventure Ends in Belarus

THEY say that a week is a long time in politics but the same could be said about sport.

Following the first leg results in European football, hopes were high that one, or maybe even two, Irish clubs could progress further in Euro competitions this season.

After what appeared to be positive results in the first legs of their second qualifying round ties, those hopes were dashed within the space of seven days with all four Airtricity League teams crashing out, with some having shipped comprehensive defeats in the process.

I wrote in this column last week that Shakhtyor Soligorsk were technically better than Derry City but I didn’t think they would be capable of netting five goals against the Brandywell club in the second leg in Belarus.

League champions, St. Patrick’s Athletic, after their incredible 1-1 result in Poland, surely had one eye on a dream tie against Glasgow Celtic before a clinically ruthless Legia Warsaw ended that dream when scoring no fewer than five goals in Tallaght Stadium to devastate Liam Buckley’s side.

And the roar which greeted Danny North’s opening goal at the Sligo Showgrounds to increase the “Bit O’Red’s” lead over Rosenberg, would surely have been heard in neighbouring counties before they Norwegian side rallied to run out 4-3 winners on aggregate.

Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk pulled off a major shock when defeating Hadjuk Split 1-2 in Croatia, but their 2-0 defeat at Oriel Park saw the “Lilywhites” also crash out 3-2 .

So all of the above results has presented us with a timely reality check which does no harm at all!

There are talented teams playing in the Airtricity League with quality players representing them but the luck of the draw is so important in European football.

Indeed, draws in the second qualifying round of the competitions can sometimes make it extremely difficult for Irish teams to progress when pitted against the more fashionable sides who are normally superior at that stage of the competition.

Rewind back to 2006 when the “Candy Stripes” went on that never to be forgotten rollercoaster ride in the UEFA Cup and the importance of the draw. Very few gave Derry City a chance in the opening tie when drawn against FK Gothenburg, who had won the competition on two occasions.

Yet Stephen Kenny’s side probably caused the shock of the first round when defeating the Swedish team 1-0 both home and away.

And while very few Derry supporters travelled to the game in the Ulevi Stadium, thousands took advantage of the next match against former Scottish fairytale club, Gretna, who were put to the sword at Fir Park in Motherwell, Derry recording an astonishing 5-1 win thanks to fabulous goals.

And then the visit of French aristocrats, Paris-St. Germain to the Brandywell for a 0-0 draw, with Derry crashing a shot off the crossbar in what was a superb performance before losing 2-0 in Paris - one can only wonder if the club will ever repeat such amazing heights again?