Ireland call-ups boost Dundalk

Dundalk’s trip to Russia received a welcome boost yesterday with Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle included in Martin O’Neill’s provisional 35-man squad for next week’s World Cup qualifier against Austria.

Ireland call-ups boost Dundalk

It was just the tonic the squad needed after something of a false start the day before when their chartered flight was delayed by more than six hours, resulting in them not arriving in the team hotel until around midnight.

The international call-ups were the talk of the squad yesterday in the build-up to tonight’s Europa League clash with Zenit St Petersburg at the Petrovsky Stadium (kick-off 6pm, live on eirSport). Both Boyle and Horgan were understandably chuffed at the honour but, as has been typical of Dundalk in recent years, they now want more.

A place in the provisional squad is one thing but making the final 23-man panel for the trip to Vienna would be major. Martin O’Neill will find it increasingly hard to ignore their international claims if they produce another top Europa League showing against the Russians.

“When we landed last night, the gaffer (Stephen Kenny) said it to me on the bus on the way in so it was a nice surprise,” said Boyle.

“The hope is to get into the 23-man squad — but the first thing is to enjoy this part of it, we have a big week to look forward to.”

Manager Stephen Kenny described two League of Ireland players being called up for such a big game as a “development” and will be hoping it gives his side a boost for tonight’s game.

“It’s a very positive development and obviously it’s great for them to be named in the provisional squad. Daryl obviously has captured a lot of attention recently and rightly so and he’s had a terrific few seasons and is just a joy to watch.

“He has shown his natural talent and people pay in to see him play. He gets people on the end of their seats.

“He’s been a great, really creative influence in Europe. You see teams making contingency plans to deal with him which you wouldn’t have envisaged for any of our players.”

On Boyle, Kenny said: “He has just been a model of consistency as you can see from his development. He has captained the team a huge amount of times, for one so young.

“He’s a player that maybe a lot of people who don’t follow the league wouldn’t be aware of, but anyone who watches football week in, week out wouldn’t be surprised.

“He’s very comfortable on the ball as well as being a terrific defender. The step up, I wouldn’t have any concerns. He’s well capable of stepping up. He deserves it.”

Dundalk will be without Robbie Benson for tonight’s game, which Kenny has described as a major blow. He is aware Zenit will start as huge favourites but believes his side can build on the performance that saw them lead the Russians up until the 71st minute of the corresponding fixture in Tallaght a fortnight ago.

“We still feel we’ve a chance in this group,” he said. “Someone was saying to me would you be better off writing this one off and just focusing on the AZ game but I just couldn’t do that.

“You can’t go into a match admitting defeat to any team and I won’t entertain that thinking either. We’ve got to try and get ready to get a result.

“We would ideally like to have more possession than we had in Tallaght but it’s just bloody hard to get hold of it. We didn’t deliberately sit right off but they force you back. They dominate you and it’s nearly like going back to playing a team in the ’50s with five forwards because the two wingers are like inside forwards and they have two full backs who play as wingers so it’s almost like a 3-2-5.

“We’re a brilliant counter-attacking team though. There’s nobody in our group better at counter-attacking than us. I think we’re exceptional at it.

“We’ve scored in Holland, we’ve scored in Belarus last season and we’ve scored in Poland and Iceland, so we’ve rarely not scored so we shouldn’t be fearful of not scoring.

“Just because it’s away it doesn’t bring any extra fear factor for me.”

Zenit boss Mircea Lucescu has warned that Dundalk have nothing to lose and can’t be taken lightly. “I expect it to be a very difficult match,” he said. ”They have nothing to lose — only to win. Zenit have a lot of things to lose in this. It will not be easy. The players are really skilful, they are a good team, a serious team.”

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