Well, what a week it was for the League of Ireland in Europe! Despite Pats being dumped out by Dinamo Minsk, Dundalk progressed to the 3rd round of the Champions League where they will take on the might of Belarus side BATE Borisov, who knocked them out last season, and Cork City defeated BK Hacken of Sweden to set up a date with Belgian side, Genk.
I’ve been to Turners Cross on many of an occasion, but never have I felt an atmosphere like what I felt last night! Hacken were billed as favourites for the game, with the Swedes having 20 times more of a budget than the Leesiders, the array of international talent they boast in their roster including a Brazilian (a bloody Brazilian) and the fact that the Allsvenskan is meant to be streets ahead of the League of Ireland, but with one strike from Kevin O’Connor, none of those facts mattered, because no matter what, pride always triumphs over money.
Whatever about the game though, it’s more the work in the background which allowed the game to take place that made the result all countless hours that were poured into the club worthwhile. When people like Tom Coughlan and Arkaga came and went, the fans stayed loyal, they helped picked the little scraps that the aforementioned left behind.
Last night was a result of them, last night was a result for the volunteers how spend so much time making sure things are as going as smoothly as possible week in week out, that result is for those in The Shed, who make a fantastic atmosphere week in week out with banners and crowd covers, that result was for the people and sponsors who stuck by the club when they were struggling in the First Division, who stayed while there was only 13 players (two of which were goalkeepers) who travelled to Derry City and saw they side scrape a 1-1 draw.
Seven years ago, last night was just a pipe dream, while people had the results against Malmo were relatively fresh in the memory, you could not help but think that Turners Cross might not see nights like those again, they were, thankfully, proved wrong. Genk are up next for City, a side who are out of season and barely scraped pasted Buducnost on penalties, there’s a belief in both the stands and the dressing room, that maybe Cork could progress to the elusive group stage.