Derry City winger Paul McMullan determined the club's Euro run doesn't end in Kazakhstan

​PAUL McMullan doesn't want Derry City's thrilling European journey to end and the Scotsman is confident the Brandywell club can return from Kazakhstan with their place in the Europa Conference League still very much intact.
Derry City winger Paul McMullan. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2327GS - 033Derry City winger Paul McMullan. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2327GS - 033
Derry City winger Paul McMullan. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2327GS - 033

​The Candy Stripes faced an arduous 10 hours trip, including two fuel stop-offs, on their chartered flight for the first leg of their third round qualifying tie against FC Tobol in Kostanay (k.o. 3pm. Irish time) before the return fixture the following week.

Czech Republic outfit Viktoria Plzeňn or Gzira United of Malta meet the winners in the play-off round with Derry potentially just two, two-legged games away from the group stages.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It's a tall order for Ruaidhri Higgins' troops to keep this European run alive against a team who eliminated Swiss giants Basel in the second round when they meet in the sapping summer heat in Kazakhstan on Thursday.

However, McMullan, who has been so influential in Derry's historic run to the third round, insists the City dressing room will travel to the outskirts of Western Siberia with real belief after last week's memorable victory over Finland's KuPS.

"It was great to get through. Everyone was delighted but now it's another tie and we want to see if we can get through again," said the former Dundee winger.

"They look like they have a good side. They obviously beat Basel who went to the semi-final of this competition last year so it's going to be tough.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We touched on them and watched them during the last couple of days and got as much information as we can on them and I’m sure over the next couple of days we'll watch more and more and be as ready as we can be going out on the pitch on Thursday.

"But we think, in our group, that we can go over there and do something and hopefully bring it back with it all to play for back home."

The prospect of playing in Europe was one of the main attractions for McMullan when contemplating a move to Foyleside and amazingly he's represented the club more on the continent than he has domestically since joining at the start of July.

He played a key role in Derry's advance to the third round, setting up both Will Patching and then Cian Kavanagh in either leg against KuPS.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"It's nice to contribute and especially to contribute directly to the score by setting goals up or whatever. That's what you want to do as a forward player, make that sort of impact and hopefully I can keep doing it.

"It's been great here,” he added when asked how he was enjoying life in the red and white. “I've not really seen much of Derry since I've come over because we've been travelling here, there and everywhere but it's been great.

"That's why I came over here, to go on a run like this and I don't want it to stop in this round. Hopefully we can keep going and see where it takes us.”

Derry’s attacking approach to games against HB Torshavn and KuPS has worked in their favour and Higgins will likely adopt a similar approach as he plays to his team’s strengths in Kostanay.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Obviously the staff will decide what approach we take for the game and what they think will do us best. We just have to be ready, whether you're called upon from the starter or from the bench to make an impact and hopefully we can continue to keep making that impact.”

How’s he looking forward to the long journey to the far reaches of eastern Europe?

“To be fair we're going out a couple of days before so it gives you a wee bit of time to get as used to it as we can.

"You've just got to do the best you can. It's going to be a lot warmer over there than it's been anywhere else we've played so far so you do your best to try and adapt.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

With the second leg tie to be played at either Tallaght Stadium or Windsor Park should it get the green light from Uefa who will hold talks with both the IFA and FAI and Tobol, it will be a much better proposition for City fans.

However, the fact Derry can’t hold category three games in Brandywell remains a thorny issue.

“You would rather have it in Derry and you would probably be able to sell the stadium out two or three times,” added Mullan.

"We have to go to Dublin or Belfast and hopefully we can keep the tie in the balance and the fans can roar us on to the next round.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It' been a couple of tough ties we've had already. KuPS in the last round was a really good side and I don’t think anyone would've fancied us to get through against them and we did.

"I've no idea if we're favourites or underdogs in this tie but we're hoping we can get through the tie and see where that takes us.” group stages."