Derry City's ultimate goal is to reach Euro group stages as Brandywell outfit await fate

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DERRY City Chief Executive Sean Barrett insists the Brandywell club's 'ultimate goal' is to reach the group stages of Europe and was delighted when learning of their potential opponents ahead of Tuesday's Uefa Conference League first round qualifying draw.

​The Candy Stripes are seeded in Group 5 of the draw which takes place at Uefa headquarters in Nyon at 3pm and will face one of Bala Town of Wales, Vikingur of the Faroe Islands, Vaasa of Finland, Magpies of Gibraltar or Iceland's Stjarnan.

Last season's European run presented no shortage of logistical difficulties for Ruaidhrí Higgins charges who reached the third qualifying round stages where they lost out on penalties to Kazakhstan outfit Tobol at Tallaght Stadium.

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The club chartered a flight to Faroe Islands where they defeated HB Torshavn before dispatching of Finnish outfit KuPS followed by an arduous 12 hour journey to Kostanay in Kazakhstan via refuelling stops in Budapest and Tbilisi for the first leg clash.

Fans celebrate Derry Cty’s Europa Conference League win against  HB Torshavn, at the Brandywell last season. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2329GS – 53Fans celebrate Derry Cty’s Europa Conference League win against  HB Torshavn, at the Brandywell last season. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2329GS – 53
Fans celebrate Derry Cty’s Europa Conference League win against HB Torshavn, at the Brandywell last season. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2329GS – 53

Derry could well face another trip to the Faroes or Finland next month but Mr Barrett is pleased with how the groups have worked out for the Foylesiders and admits a trip to Wales is the preference.

"It's a good draw in terms of what we had to do last year," said the club's CEO. "Obviously we'd be hoping to go to Wales as it's the closest one to us and the easiest to get to.

"Gibraltar is fairly easily accessible also as is Finland, Iceland and of course the Faroe Islands where we were before.

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"That's one thing about Uefa, they're good at that and try to regionalise the draw as much as possible so clubs can travel without too much inconvenience. So we're delighted from that point of view.

"The draw will be made then on Wednesday for the next qualifying round if we're lucky enough to get through. So it gives you a good clear idea of where you might be.

"We've been to Wales before and did really well so it would be great if we could get a draw there which would be good logistically for the Welsh club and for us. It's a fair enough draw and let's hope we can progress like we did last year."

Cymru Premier League team Bala Town secured their place in Europe for the ninth time since 2013. The last time they qualified was in July 2022 when they were dumped out at the Europa Conference League first qualifying stage by Sligo Rovers on penalties when goalkeeper Ed McGinty was the hero at the Showgrounds.

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Another of Derry's potential opponents Magpies were beaten by Dundalk two seasons ago while Stjarnan have lost to both Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers in the past 10 years.

Irish League giants Linfield are interestingly on the same path as Derry as a seeded team in group 5 but Mr Barrett is looking forward to beginning preparations when the draw is made.

As a seeded team Derry's chances of progressing to the second round have increased and Mr Barrett insists the club's 'ultimate goal' is to reach the group stages of European competition.

"Being seeded gives you that advantage. The more we can do in Europe the more we can play and win in Europe will only enhance our chances of getting further up the coefficient which gives you a better opportunity to progress. So it's all about that.

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"I'm looking forward to it, I spoke very briefly to Ruaidhri [Higgins] who is on holiday at the minute and he seems to be fairly happy with it. The big thing is the travelling and at that time of the year but we'll see how it pans out.

"It's going to be tough no matter who we play. There's no easy opposition in these games anymore so it's just a case of hoping to get a favourable draw and see where it takes us.

"Derry City Football Club wants to be in the group stages. That's our goal. Obviously we want to try and win the league title but we were very close last time around. We've shown how close we can get to that.

"Bear in mind we went out on a penalty shootout and were one game away from the group stages so we'll get there sooner rather than later. Hopefully that will continue.

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"That's where we endeavour to be. We want to be in the group stages of Europe. Dundalk have been there, Shamrock Rovers have been there and we want to be there. We want to be there regularly - that's our ultimate goal - win league titles, get better facilities for the club and get into the group stages as much as we can."