Fenlon confident Shels can upset odds

Shelbourne manager Pat Fenlon insists his battling Irish side will be the underdogs when they take on Lille in the first leg of their UEFA Cup first-round tie at Lansdowne Road.

Shelbourne manager Pat Fenlon insists his battling Irish side will be the underdogs when they take on Lille in the first leg of their UEFA Cup first-round tie at Lansdowne Road.

The Dublin club surprised many with their fine performances as they fought through two rounds of the Champions League qualifiers again KR Reykjavik and Hajduk Split before losing out to top Spanish outfit Deportivo La Coruna.

French club Lille currently languish 13th in their own league while Shelbourne are top of their domestic table.

However, Fenlon urged optimistic fans to be cautious.

He said: “The European games have put us on the map this year. People know about the Irish international team but it’s nice that a league team has got some credit, it’s well overdue.

“But I don’t consider us favourites in this tie, definitely not. We are coming out of a league that’s 70% part-time while their league has three representatives in the Champions League.

“We do fancy our chances over the two legs but by no means are we favourites.”

Fenlon insists his team’s thrilling European performances to date this season mean they will be able to play free from pressure against the French side.

He said: “We had a poor record in the Champions League in previous seasons so that first tie against Reykjavik was the one that really mattered and we got through that.

“We knocked out Hajduk and that was a big plus for everybody and then we did quite well against Deportivo.

“So this game against Lille is a plus for us. We would like to do a little bit more in Europe but we’ve made progress and we’ve got to do this every season.

“The game against St Patricks on Monday is a bigger game as far as I’m concerned because it’s a league game and it’s a trophy we can win. It also gives us a chance to get into the Champions League next season.

“But we won’t take the UEFA Cup lightly, we will be trying to get through and if we do it will be a huge boost for the League but the pressure is off regarding how we perform.

“I watched Lille against Nice at the weekend and they’re a physical side, probably better than Hajduk but not as good as Deportivo.

“But even a 0-0 scoreline will be okay because I’m confident that we’ve got the players who can go over there and get a goal.”

Shelbourne will be without Alan Moore and Stuart Byrne, both suspended for the yellow cards picked up in the Champions League tie, while Joseph Ndo is rated no more than 50-50 due to a niggling groin strain.

Fenlon admits the loss of all three players would be a blow to his side’s prospects of taking a lead over to France.

He said: “If they all miss out it will be a big blow to us but we have a couple of players who we can bring in and it will be an opportunity for them to show what they can do.”

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