Dundalk draw Levadia Tallinn but difficult tasks face Shamrock Rovers and Derry City in Europa League qualifyingWed, Jun 20 2018
Dundalk have been handed a very winnable Europa League first qualifying round tie with Levadia Tallinn, but Shamrock Rovers and Derry City face tough tasks following Wednesday's draw.
The Hoops have been drawn alongside Swedish league runners-up AIK while Derry face the daunting task of Belarus' second side Dinamo Minsk in the first round.
The Lilywhites were the only one the three sides to be seeded for the first round, on the back of their run to the group stages in 2016.
Potential opponents included Iceland's IBV, who St Patrick's Athletic beat in both 2011 and 2012, and Welsh side Bala Town.
They drew one of the stronger sides in their pool, the Estonian runners-up Levadia, who were beaten 6-2 on aggregate by Cork City at the same stage last year.
Like City, Dundalk have the advantage of playing their away leg first before hosting the Estonian side at Oriel Park a week later.
By curious coincidence, should Dundalk prevail they will face AEK Larnaca of Cyprus, whom Cork City faced (and lost 2-0 on aggregate to) at the same stage of last year's competition.
The two other League of Ireland sides face a more daunting task, with Shamrock Rovers becoming the first Airtricity League side ever to face AIK in European competition (home in the first leg).
The Stockholm club have finished second behind Malmo in the Allsvenskan for the past two seasons and, like Rovers, operate on a summer schedule.
Swedish international Sebastian Larsson has just concluded a deal to join AIK over the summer, although he may not feature if Sweden are involved at the business end of the World Cup.
Should Rovers upset the seeding and advance to the next round, they'll likely face more Scandinavian opposition in Nordsjaelland, assuming they beat Cliftonville.
Derry City come up against Dinamo Minsk, who prevailed 2-1 on aggregate over St Patrick's Athletic in 2016.
The Saint drew 1-1 in Minsk before being narrowly defeated in Inchicore, but Derry have the more difficult path with their home leg coming first.
The Candystripes' record against Belarusian opposition is not promising – they lost 6-1 on aggregate to Shakythor Soligursk in 2014, losing 5-1 away in the second leg.
Should Derry make it past Dinamo, they will face the winner of Dunajska Streda of Slovakia and Dinamo Tbilisi of Georgia.
All first leg ties are provisionally scheduled to take place on Thursday, July 12th, with the return legs seven days later on the 19th.