Filippo Giovagnoli’s arrival at Dundalk started as a “kamikaze mission” but has now become a dream.
Few could have envisaged the unknown Italian would guide the Louth men to the Europa League group stages when he was plucked from obscurity to replace Vinny Perth at the end of August.
However, the 49-year-old called it that his side would produce big European performances against both Sheriff Tiraspol and KÍ Klaksvik in the qualifiers and they duly delivered.
Now ahead of their Group B opener against Molde in Tallaght Stadium tonight, Giovagnoli has similar good feelings.
“Yes I do have the same feeling because I see them working every day and I can see them performing in practice, ready for this difficult task so I feel positive that we’ll have a very positive performance.
“Then usually when we perform well something good can happen in terms of the result so I’m really positive,” he said.
Giovagnoli has confounded everyone by producing three wins in Europe to date but he put the credit for that on his players ahead of a campaign which will also include home and away matches against Arsenal and Rapid Wien.
“Sometimes when you start a mission it’s kamikaze and you are jumping into a dream but then the dream and the mission become your normality. Now this is our normality and we have to perform on this stage.
“This is a really successful team. They’ve a winning mentality and when the challenge is raised you can see them become more focused and raising their level.
“It’s a quality that was already in this squad. We didn’t bring this. It was already here. We are facilitators for them. We try to help them technically and tactically but they have this kind of mentality already so it’s a big advantage.”
While he admitted nerves got to his side in their play-off win over KÍ Klaksvik at the Aviva Stadium last month, Giovagnoli feels Dundalk can express themselves better now that the pressure is off somewhat.
“We had a problem with nerves in the play-off when we played KÍ but it was a big thing to get to this stage in the play-off. Now I think we’re going to perform. We are more relaxed and we have nothing to lose. We just have to do well and make sure we can compete at this level.
“We want to get points everywhere, perform, do well and be competitive. We want to show everyone that Dundalk deserves to be there and that we can perform at a high level. That is our objective,” said Giovagnoli.
The club’s opposition analyst Shane Keegan is expecting a tough test from the Norwegians but hinted that there were weaknesses Dundalk could exploit.
“They’re very, very strong there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
“I wouldn’t think there’s a million miles between themselves and Sheriff. Obviously we equipped ourselves very well in that game so we’d be confident enough.
“I think they’ll have a lot of attacking quality but we would be looking at them defensively and thinking there are one or two areas where we could possibly go and exploit,” he said.
Molde coach Erling Moe also warned that Dundalk could not be taken for granted.
“We have been looking at them now for quite some time since the draw and we think we have a good view on what Dundalk is,” he said.
“I think they have done well in Europe. They’re a team that seems to have adapted a bit under the new coach in terms of playing out from the back. I think they are quite strong going forward. The left and right winger and the top man are really good players so we expect a tough game.”
Leke James, Fredrik Sjølstad, Henry Wingo and Kristoffer Haraldseid are all missing for Molde through injury while Dundalk have doubts over Sean Hoare, Daniel Kelly and Nathan Oduwa.