Dundalk manager Filippo Giovagnoli has declared tomorrow's Europa League playoff game at the Aviva Stadium against Ki of the Faroe Islands to be a cup final and he is more than willing to embrace the pressure that comes with that.
Win and the reigning Airtricity League champions would progress to the group stages for only the second time and bank at least €2.9m in prize money. Lose and it will be seen as a huge opportunity lost against a side from such an unheralded outpost of the European game.
This is a huge game for the visitors as well. No Faroese side has ever reached this stage, let alone featured in the European group stages, but Giovagnoli's counterpart Mikkjal Thomassen has already gone on record as saying that all the pressure is on the Lilywhites.
“Yeah, I was discussing it with Giuseppe (Rossi, his assistant) and the feeling of having this kind of pressure and I said pressure is a privilege.
It's just over four weeks since Giovagnoli arrived in Louth from New York where he was director of a coaching academy and he admitted that this is a scenario that he had never envisaged back at the start of 2020 when the world and his part of it had yet to be turned upside down.
“It’s unbelievable, but thank God I don’t think like that. My brain is built to think step-by-step. I would go crazy if I start to dream, I have to be focused on tasks. That’s how I have to think. This is my task now, I have to perform.
“When I’m finished this one I will have to perform the next. Football is like that. You can be a hero one day and the day after, if you don’t perform, if you lose a game, you become stupid. It is what it is, but now the focus is on this game.”
The focus, he added, is not on him either. This is about the players, the club and, he believes, the country at large that will be supporting them. One or two league diehards might object to that but Giovagnoli reminded everyone of the bigger picture.
“If Dundalk go through it is in the interests of everyone. Imagine the points in the (coefficient) ranking.”
The Italian is still unsure as to whether Sean Gannon will be able to feature. The defender started further forward in the last round away to Sheriff Tiraspol before coming off after 13 minutes with a “minor” ankle injury.