Longford manager Alan Mathews has warned of the dangers at every turn in European competition, even though his side kick off their UEFA Cup campaign against a team from just across the Irish Sea.
Welsh side Carmarthen provide the opposition at Flancare Park tonight for Mathews’ team, who have won back-to-back Irish Cups and the League Cup in the last two seasons.
Their domestic cup prowess contrasts with their defeat to FC Vaduz of Liechtenstein in Europe last year and Mathews takes his side’s favourites’ tag for this tie with a pinch of salt.
“On the face of it we drew a team from Liechtenstein and people would have said, ‘Oh, that’s a good one, you should be able to go through there’, but there are so many teams dotted around Europe that we know little or nothing about,” Mathews told the Press Association.
“Vaduz play in the Swiss league, they have the Liechtenstein national team manager and have nine full internationals in their side. They beat us 4-2 over the two games.
“If you go through one round, you could end up playing a team whose name means nothing but when you dig deep you find they have got six Bosnian internationals or six players who played for Steaua Bucharest two or three years ago or whatever.
“Europe is littered with thoroughly good teams. That makes it very difficult to look beyond this game, because you might draw a team that are technically more advanced or further along in their league season than you. It can go pear-shaped very, very quickly.”
As it is, Longford have the advantage of being 17 games into the Eircom League season, where they sit fifth, the highest-placed of the six part-time sides in the 12-team top flight.
Carmarthen have won two and drawn one of their warm-up friendlies and manager Mark Jones has been satisfied with his side’s preparations for the new season, which began on June 11.
“I want the players to approach the game as professionally as we can,” he said.
“We have succeeded as underdogs before, we beat Rhyl in the Welsh Cup and only just lost to TNS, who are full-time, in the final. We have to stick to our gameplan and if everybody does that we have a chance.”
Mathews hopes his side’s cup pedigree kicks in and is confident of the right outcome if his players adopt the right approach.
“If we concentrate on our own performance and the players carry out their jobs to the best of their ability then we will take whatever result comes.
“We need to take on board the lessons of last year and see where that takes us. It’s not a disaster if we don’t win the first leg, what is important is to get a good performance and ensure the tie is still alive.”
Mathews has drafted Bohemians goalkeeper Seamus Kelly in on loan after his usual back-up Michael Dempsey suffered a broken ankle in the League Cup win over Cork last week.
Carmarthen are unable to field new forward signings Craig Hughes or Tony Bird in the first leg due to work commitments, but both should be available for the return at Richmond Park in a fortnight.