From Tallaght to Tallinn, the latest hurdle in Dundalk’s European quest will be bolstered by the return of Pat Hoban.
Levadia may be top of the Estonian Meistriliiga table but their defensive weaknesses are there for the likes of Hoban, Dundalk’s all-time record scorer, to exploit.
Both sides looked suspect at the back in last week’s 2-2 first leg draw. Hoban — returning from a Covid-19 enforced lay-off before teammate Michael Duffy is over his — could have a defining role to play to see which team progresses to face Vitesse in next week’s third round.
“Having Pat available to play is a huge boost for the group,” said Dundalk manager Vinny Perth.
“Pat has spoken openly about his Covid issue. He had some difficulties with his breathing which required him to take an extra six days away but he’s trained in recent days.”
Dundalk — who reached the Europa League group stage last season and in 2016 — will maintain their adventurous approach.
“I expect Levaida to improve from Tallaght and we’ll have to raise to another level,” Perth said.
“We need to stop them from scoring. If we do our business right, we’ll give ourselves the chance to go to the Netherlands next week.
“The days of parking the bus for Irish clubs are gone; we saw that with Bohemians in Luxembourg last week. We won’t be gung-ho but if they score twice, we’ll be going to score three times.”
Another Patrick — McEleney — put any potential distractions about his return to Derry City at the end of the season aside to seal Dundalk’s progress in Sunday’s FAI tie against Treaty United.
Perth fumed at the timing of Derry’s announcement, within an hour of their win against Newtown in the last round, but carries no concerns about the playmaker’s commitment.
“There is a temptation when that sort of news breaks, even from a coach’s view, to think twice about keeping the guy around,” the manager said.
“I spoke to Patrick about that and, from a managerial point of view, he completely understood. He cares deeply about Dundalk. We’ve moved on from that a few weeks ago.”