Cork City manager John Cotter sees the positives and negatives of a Europa League draw that leaves the club in the dark as to whether they will play Luxembourg’s Progres Niederkorn or European debutants Cardiff Metropolitan University FC until they complete their preliminary round second leg on July 4.
“It’s not ideal that we don’t know who we’ll be playing and where we’re going for another couple of weeks,” said Cotter, reacting to yesterday’s draw in Switzerland. “It’s not ideal from the club’s perspective in terms of organising travel and hotels, although we have no complaints about the fact that we won’t have to travel long distance for either game.
“It’s also a bonus that the games they have to play against each other will give us a good chance to have a look at them and analyse both teams. That’s what we’ll be looking to do to make sure we’re prepared for whoever we have to face.
On the face of it, the draw is much kinder than last year’s Champions League and Europa League experience for City, who suffered a marked decline in their domestic form after defeats to Legia Warsaw and Rosenborg, setbacks which then manager John Caulfield felt took a heavy psychological toll on his players.
“We’ll know if they were much tougher games after we’ve played these ones in July but, obviously, Legia Warsaw and Rosenborg were two teams of high European calibre,” said Cotter. “We can’t forget about the league, so it will be important that we maintain our focus and don’t have the same dip in form that we had after the European games last year.”
Progres Niederkorn, who are celebrating their centenary year, qualified for this year’s Europa League by finishing fourth in Luxembourg’s National Division, whereas Cardiff Met made it to Europe for the first time in just about the most dramatic way possible, winning a penalty shoot-out against Bala Town last month. For the side known as The Archers, it was a case of third time lucky, the students — some of whom had exams to do around the game — having failed at the Welsh Premier Division’s Europa League play-off final stage in the previous two seasons.
Progres will have home advantage in the first leg of their preliminary round game on June 27 before Cardiff Met welcome them to the Leckwith Stadium for the second leg on July 4. City will host the winners at Turner’s Cross in the first leg of the first qualifying round on July 11.
Unlike City, neither Shamrock Rovers nor St Patrick’s Athletic were seeded in yesterday’s Europa League draw and both have been handed stiff tests in Scandinavia, with the Hoops facing SK Brann of Norway and Pat’s — who replaced Waterford in the competition after the Blues were refused a licence — up against Sweden’s IFK Norkopping. Rovers are away in the first leg while Pats will be home first.