The Italian presence at Dundalk has been maintained by Alessio Abibi, the goalkeeper who insists favouritism was never a factor in his decision to join the club.
He was one of several foreign recruits drafted in during the reign of Italian Filippo Giovagnoli but has outlasted his compatriot and is soaring under his successor Vinny Perth.
Since Perth rejoined Dundalk in June, Abibi has started all 10 games, a run that includes seven wins and five clean sheets for the 25-year-old.
That’s a contrast from April when the stopper, who has declared for Albania through parentage, was dropped three games into his first season at Oriel Park.
In this evening’s European Conference League tie at Vitesse in Arnhem he expects to be busy against the side that finished fourth in last season’s Eredivisie behind Ajax, PSV and AZ Alkmaar but is feeling equipped for the task, having silenced a few doubters.
“It seems like I came to Dundalk because I’m Italian and Filippo was my friend but it wasn’t like that,” he explains.
“I was signed as a professional goalkeeper and, of course, I was happy given the communication was easier. But I play for myself first, Dundalk next and finally the manager. Whoever that is does not really make a difference to me but Vinny is helping me a lot.”
“Goalkeeper is a special position — sometimes it can be good and sometimes maybe not so good — but that’s the same for the best like Manuel Neuer and Gigi Buffon.
“The modern keeper is not solely about the saves; they must be involved in the sweeping position by building-up the play.”
It is Buffon’s successor, Italy’s Euro final hero Gianluigi Donnarumma, whom Abibi models himself most on.
“I’ve studied him for a number of years, not just recently. I see Donnarumma as a great example of the modern goalkeeper and we have similar physical characteristics.”
Michael Duffy is back available for Dundalk following his recent Covid-19 enforced lay-off.