Cork City manager Pat Dolan believes his side are flying the flag for Irish football as they head into an Intertoto Cup quarter-final with French side Nantes on Sunday.
Cork, the first Irish club side to feature in the quarter- finals of any European competition, visit the Stade de la Beaujoire looking in good shape.
“This is the stuff of dreams,” admitted Dolan.
Republic of Ireland Under-21 international Kevin Doyle scored the header which put Cork into the quarter-finals as they added the scalp of Dutch side NEC Nijmegen to that of Swedish outfit Malmo.
“We’ve played and beaten a Dutch and a Swedish top-flight team, won home and away and didn’t concede a goal against Nijmegen,” added Dolan.
“This is great for all of Irish football. It’s not about me. It’s about the players.”
Defender Alan Bennett believes Cork’s progress has partly been down to the complacency of their opponents.
“Even after we got a 0-0 draw in Holland, Nijmegen were calling us an average amateur side,” said Bennett.
“Nijmegen underestimated us, as Malmo did. We’ve been written off since the start, but we’ve also been well prepared. I don’t think that Malmo or Nijmegen knew too much about us but we knew everything about them.
“We could go to Pat Dolan and ask him anything. He had us well drilled. He knew their stats, their positions, everything.”
Bennett added: “It’s a dream come true to play a team like Nantes. It’s French football and a great chance to test yourself against the best. I can’t wait.
“We’re an Irish club who have a chance of making the semi-finals of a European competition, that’s something you don’t hear too often.”
Cork have a clean bill of health ahead of the biggest game in the club’s relatively short history as Dolan hopes to set up a possible meeting with either Dutch side Roda or Liberec from the Czech Republic.
Cork, who lie third in the eircom League, have a backlog of domestic fixtures that now stretches to four League games and an FAI Cup tie away to UCD which had been scheduled for next weekend, but that clashes with Cork’s second leg against Nantes.