Liam Buckley hoping for League of Ireland boost after Euro 2016

Liam Buckley would naturally welcome an upsurge in support for the League of Ireland in the wake of Euro 2016.

But as he prepares his side for their venture into European football tonight (7:45pm) against Luxembourgers Jeunesse Esch, the St Pat’s manager believes support from every strand of the game here is needed to improve the struggling domestic product.

“When you look at the passion in the country, in every pub, in every house, including my own, for football, it’s fantastic,” said Buckley. “I’d love to see that transported into our local league.

“When you look at the fanbase, all the good news stories, I would love that to filter back.

“There were eight representatives in the (Ireland squad) who played in our league. I would love as many of them (fans) as possible to come to our games.

“But right from the grassroots up, it needs to be understood there is a professional league here. It’s a very competitive league.

“Ultimately, if it was supported more, I definitely feel it would be more professional.”

Pat’s have been maddeningly inconsistent this season, with a third defeat on the spin at Dundalk on Friday seeing them slip to sixth in the Premier Division. Nevertheless captain Ger O’Brien is searching for the positives. “The performance in Dundalk was much better than in previous games. So we can take some confidence from that to bring into these European games.

“This is certainly a tie that we believe we can win. We know that if we turn up on the night and perform we’ll give ourselves a good chance.”

Meanwhile, Cork City manager John Caulfield is expecting his team to receive a vociferous welcome from the Linfield support for Thursday’s Europa League first qualifying round tie in Windsor Park in Belfast (7.45pm).

The tie sees the Rebel Army face Northern Irish opposition for the first time in Europe, though they have played Linfield in the past in the Setanta Sports Cup. Caulfield isn’t focusing on any cultural aspects of the tie, but is still aware of what lies ahead.

“You’d be naive to think that you were going in and that it’d be a nice friendly atmosphere. They want their team to win and I’d expect they’ll make it as intimidating as possible,” said Caulfield.

“We need to be aware of that but, at the same time, we’ll be the same down here.”

Linfield finished second in the NIFL Premiership and also lost the domestic cup final. Caulfield is familiar with the size of the challenge.

“We’d have seen a lot of them last year, the bulk of their players are still there,” said Caulfield. “But we are a good team. While we mightn’t have played like that on Friday night, certainly our performances up until then were good and we need that kind of performance on Thursday.”


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