With four Europa Leagues this summer having failed to result in a defeat, Cork City’s goalscoring hero Kevin O’Connor believes that the team are displaying an impressive adaptation to continental fare.
On Thursday night, O’Connor’s first-half goal gave City a 1-0 win over Sweden’s BK Häcken, allowing them to progress to the third qualifying round on a 2-1 aggregate scoreline.
Belgium’s KRC Genk will provide the opposition next week, but the left-back is relishing the challenge.
“In Europe, I think sometimes you find it a bit easier to play because teams will stand off you and let you play a bit rather than being in your face.
“Saying that, obviously, the tempo is higher and the standard is higher than our usual league.
“We’ve seen that BK Häcken are a great side and they’re a massive club over there but I think we showed how good we were, more than anything.
“On the counter-attack, we’re as good as any side. We’re frightening them with Seánie [Maguire], ‘Dools’ [Stephen Dooley], and ‘Beatts’ [Steven Beattie], they can tear any defence apart.
Obviously, the lads backing them up from defence and then the defence stood tall and wanted to get through for the club and each other and wanted to fight for each other and I think we did that.
“We’ll look forward to the next round but we’re not going to just make up the numbers, we’re going to try to progress again.
“It’s history now and we just want to keep creating it.”
O’Connor’s goal, volleying home Greg Bolger’s free kick after O’Connor himself had got forward and was fouled, was just his second of the season, after scoring against St Peter’s in the Munster Senior Cup.
“This is a bit of a bigger one alright,” he laughed, “I don’t think I’ve scored a more important goal anyway!
“It was just one of those things that work out in a game. We won the free kick on the counter and Greg played a great ball in, it was just getting it on the target was the main thing and I managed to do it, I can’t be any happier.”
For the club, further advancement in the competition meant another windfall, though such considerations aren’t to the forefront of the players’ minds.
“You don’t really think about that, you just want to go out and enjoy the moment,” O’Connor said.
“A couple of years ago, Cork were in the First Division and they were dreaming about moments like this.
When you’re back here in Europe again, you just want to get out and play the game.
“The biggest game of the season you play is Europe and, if you get through the first half, it gets tougher again but everyone just looks forward to the games, it’s massive for the club.
“I think it’s worth about five or six league titles but we don’t look at it that way as players, we just want to get out there and enjoy it and take every moment as it comes.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved