Ciaran Kilduff insists Dundalk’s European adventure isn’t over yet and is confident they can put their recent setback against AZ Alkmaar behind them by beating the Dutch side and Maccabi Tel Aviv to the runners-up spot in Group D of the Europa League tomorrow night.
By their own admission, Stephen Kenny’s side were below par when losing 1-0 to AZ in Tallaght a fortnight ago but Kilduff believes they can bounce back by winning in Israel and still making it through to the last 32.
In order to do that, Dundalk will need a favour from Zenit St Petersburg, who face AZ in Holland at the same time. If Alkmaar fail to win then a score draw would be enough to see the Lilywhites through while a second victory over Maccabi would also see the League of Ireland kingpins advance if it was a draw at the AFAS Stadion.
“We have a point to prove,” said Kilduff, who signed a new contract with the SSE Airtricity League champions this week.
“AZ was probably one of our flattest performances since the BATE Borisov game over there. We know how we reacted after that game so hopefully we can get a similar reaction. It’s a huge match, a history making match and if we can go over there and do what we’re capable of then we can make it a night to remember. We’re up against top opposition but if we can repeat the night in Tallaght against them then maybe that will be enough to take us to unchartered territory.”
Having secured qualification to the Europa League five years ago in Belgrade with Shamrock Rovers, Kilduff knows all about big nights in Europe but he’s hopeful of experiencing another big one in Netanya tomorrow having already scored history-making goals in this season’s competition with an equaliser away to AZ in September before a winner at home to Maccabi Tel Aviv a fortnight later on his 28th birthday.
“The Alkmaar night will be something I’ll always remember.
“Thursday is another one of these occasions that is set up for you to make history and what a way to finish a year it could be.
“We’ve an opportunity in matchday six to get to the last 32 of the Europa League and that’s what dreams are made of when you’re growing up.
“I’m a long time playing in this league and these days don’t come around too often.”
While Dundalk will once again go into the game as underdogs, the striker feels his side can take confidence from having already beaten a Maccabi side who have won just three matches from 11 in all competitions since that game.
“I got the goal that night but we actually created four or five chances. With another good performance, I think we can turn them over again because we’ve had a lot of success this year against European teams and one more big performance could be enough.
“I know you’re looking at results elsewhere as well. The games could toss and turn and you could need a draw or three points, you just don’t know but it will be an amazing game to be involved in. Training has been good and we have been preparing well so just one more big performance from us and we can achieve something that no one could have dreamed of before the season started,” he said.
Dundalk’s qualification hopes were boosted on Monday when both Chris Shields and captain Stephen O’Donnell featured in a training match at the AUL complex in Dublin having been fitness doubts for yesterday morning’s flight to Tel Aviv.
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