FROM BELARUSSIA WITH LOVE
Dundalk are in Belarus this week where they face perennial Champions League qualifiers BATE Borisov in their, er, Champions League qualifier.
Win, and Stephen Kenny's side carry on to the play-off for Europe's most moneyed-competition with at least a Europa League group campaign in the bag.
Even if they lose, they'll have a second bite of the cherry in the Europa play-off round, so at worst they'll annoy upcoming opponents Galway United and Bray Wanderers by disrupting the fixture list.
Liam Buckley had spent the days before the away leg trying to convince the Belarusians they'd win by a cricket score, but Dinamo foiled his ruse by taking them seriously and emerging 1-0 winners at Richmond Park.
BATE are unlikely to take the champions of Ireland lightly, however, having tasted just how good they can be when somewhat fortunately winning 2-1 at home before boring the Lilywhites into submission at Oriel Park the following week.
Only a handful of Dundalk supporters have made the trip to Barysaw to witness the nil-all draw between the seasoned European competitors, following their exertions in Iceland last week.
So the expectant barkeeps of Belarus will be denied the opportunity to hear the Richie Towell songbook in its entirety, but in the floppy haired entertainer's stead has emerged a new hero in David McMillan.
The Dubliner has emerged as somewhat of a hat-trick hero in recent weeks – a less punny column than ourselves might call him the Milliner – bagging six goals in four days against Derry City and Longford.
And he put three – one in the home leg, two away – past FH to cap off a remarkable series of games.
We're going with a hats theme people – do keep up.
An away date in Barysaw is eminently more difficult than wandering to Beret (that's enough hat jokes – ed.) but McMillan has form in this fixture, having netted in the same fixture last season.
And after scoring without doubt the mowldiest goal ever scored by a League of Ireland side in Europe to draw level in Hafnarfjardur, McMillan was the toque (stop it – ed.) of the town when he scored a goal of pure beauty to settle the tie.
The Lilywhites will take any goal, no matter how mowldy, at the Borisov Arena, if only to spare the Irish public the drudgery of having to watch another 0-0 draw next week.
This time the return leg will take place in Tallaght as Oriel Park doesn't mean the standards to host a Third Qualifying Round game, though seasoned League of Ireland observers may wonder what standards exist for the second round.
What is for certain is that Dundalk will travel to Barysaw in expectation rather than hope – there's a mixture of belief and adventure in this side rarely seen in Irish football.
The last time an Irish side reached this stage of Champions League qualification, Shamrock Rovers became the first League of Ireland side to qualify for the Europa League group stage.
What odds for a repeat?
“He’s only 19 and hasn’t yet played at a decent level but he does a lot of things naturally,” says Burton Albion coach Nigel Clough.
It's just as well 19-year-old defender Ryan Delaney is a natural, his education having been stunted by Shane Keegan sending him out to pick strawberries rather than giving him some basic football training.
It seems to have paid off for the Wexford Youths boss – Youths have bagged an undisclosed transfer fee for one of their most impressive performers as he links up with the English Championship newboys.
And few would doubt Keegan's ability to unearth another fruit-picker in the rough down in the beautiful south-east – it does help to have a TD in your corner.
FROM THE ECHO CHAMBER
Dear 2800 people who were in Richmond Park tonight. Please come back. It helps.— Brendan Clarke (@BrenClarke1) July 21, 2016
RED CARD: Paul Murphy receives a straight red after a challenge on Paul Sinnott pic.twitter.com/jbyOswtOc8— Wexford Youths FC (@WexfordYouthsFC) July 22, 2016
IN THE NEWS
As discussed above, Wexford Youths defender Ryan Delaney is Burton-on-Trent-bound.
Cork City duo Connor Ellis and Craig Donnelan joined Cobh Ramblers on loan – and Ellis scored on his debut in a 1-1 draw with promotion rivals UCD.
Senior players Danny North and Max Blanchard departed Shamrock Rovers as Stephen Bradley continues to put a youthful face on the Tallaght side.
Longford Town released midfielder John McKeown to joint First Division promotion-chasers Drogheda United.
Owen Heary continues to model Shelbourne in his image as three more players depart Tolka Park.
The Extratime.ie Sportcast is back after the mid-season break, and this week senior analyst Macdara Ferris and junior non-analyst Dave Donnelly joined Gareth O'Reilly in the studio to talk with St Patrick's Athletic goalkeeper Brendan Clarke and Cobh Ramblers boss Stephen Henderson.
St Patrick's Athletic boss Liam Buckley lamented his side's inability to get the first goal as they were edged out of Europe by an impressive Dinamo Minsk side.