Fourth-placed Hoops host the Sainst who sit just one place behind them in the early season table in the South ...Thu, Mar 15 2018
I REMEMBER THAT SUMMER IN DUBLIN ARENA
Football is back!
Welcome back, football. How we've missed you.
Ever since Ireland fell to the hosts France in Lyon in June, the plain people of Ireland have sat, twiddling their thumbs, eagerly awaiting the return of the beautiful game.
Sure, there's MLS and the A-League, and other obscure leagues around the world that possibly only exist on betting websites, but nothing beats the Real Thing.
And this week sees the arrival of the Real Thing to Ireland as A Team We've Actually Heard Of, Legia Warsaw, arrive to play Dundalk in the Champions League play-off at the
Aviva Stadium Dublin Arena.
It's not the dream draw of Celtic, so it won't be a wonderful occasion for the entire country to savour, like Saturday's International Champions Cup tie in Limerick, but as scraps go it's OK.
More than 30,000 tickets have already been sold for the encounter, and the Polish fans will be out in force – the Legia fans will roar for their team, while the neutrals will also roar for Legia, to lose.
And the League of Ireland family will be there too – if there's a lull in the action, you may just be able to hear hushed debates over whether a Dundalk win will benefit the league/destroy it forever.
Not that any of that should matter to Dundalk, who stand to gain enough money (€19 million) if they progress to sign Neale Fenn back from Shamrock Rovers and have enough left over for a Supermacs on the way home.
And it's that, perhaps, which excited the Lilywhites most, and manager Stephen Kenny explained they head into the tie brimming with optimism.
“We have had good preparation and training,” Kenny said in the pre-match press conference at the
Aviva Stadium Dublin Arena.
Dundalk followed the historic win over BATE by losing at Galway United and followed it up with a loss away to Bray Wanderers on Wednesday.
“Everyone is coming into this on a high,” added captain Stephen O'Donnell, who was a second-half substitute in the loss to Galway before returning for the loss to Bray.
“Football-wise we are going into this full of confidence.”
Not that Legia head into the tie full of confidence either, having sustained back-to-back league and cup losses in their last two games.
But as A Team We've Heard Of, it's natural and right to assume they'll have too much for Dundalk to handle, so we might as well just enjoy the occasion.
It's never steered us wrong before.
FROM THE ECHO CHAMBER
Maloney was sent off for the penalty incident, giving a finger to the crowd on his way out pic.twitter.com/XJnq86EdzZ— Cobh Ramblers FC (@CobhRamblersFC) August 13, 2016
Still can't believe I got called offside from a throw in the other night against Waterford! #GreatestLeagueInTheWorld— Gav Boyne (@GavBoyne) August 14, 2016
IN THE NEWS
Longford Town manager Tony Cousins fell on his sword after the loss to Wexford Youths all but ensured relegation.
Derry City eased their defensive crisis with the signing of Spanish defender Cristian Castells on a short-term deal.
Cork City and Dundalk's under-19 teams could be in line to compete in the prestigious UEFA Youth League.
Chris Lyons turned down Drogheda United to rejoin Bray Wanderers.
Shamrock Rovers named John Martin as their new under-19 coach, taking over from Marc Kenny.
Galway United boss Tommy Dunne questioned his team's desire after their loss to St Patrick's Athletic in an interview with Dave Donnelly.
League of Ireland pundit Alan Cawley spoke to Dan Lucey about his experience managing the transition from footballer to working in the media.
Photographer Al Robinson recounted his experience travelling the length and breadth of France covering Euro 2016 for ET.
Philip Nolan experienced first-hand the football obsession in Louth and believes European progression can have a lasting impact in Dundalk.
ET's Book/Game Reviews section was launched, with reviews of John Kavaagh's Win or Learn, Jean-Philippe Toussaint's Football and Ronald Reng's A Life too Short – the Story of Robert Enke.