Irish clubs prepare for Euro draw


The European season ended just over two weeks ago but the new campaign is very much on the minds of Irish clubs ahead of the first round draw on Tuesday.

Four Irish teams will take part in competitions, all dreaming of lucrative rewards and eventual group stage qualification.

Shamrock Rovers will compete in the Champions League, while St Patrick’s Athletic, Sligo Rovers and Derry City will be in the Conference League.

Pat’s are the only Irish team not to feature in Tuesday’s draw. Due to the sanctions imposed on Russian clubs, the Saints went from the first round to the second.

Here we explained the benefit for Pat’s, including financial and being one step closer to the group element.

The other major bright spot for Irish teams is a top seed for Shamrock Rovers. This represents a major opportunity, but as always, it depends on the luck of the draw.

Champions League – Shamrock Rovers

The first-round seeds would include Sweden’s Malmö, Slovan Bratislava who knocked out the Hoops last year and Qarabag (Azerbaijan).

Stephen Bradley’s side will be avoiding the likes of these teams as they have just squeezed inside the top-seeded teams with Linfield narrowly missing.

However, there is always a tricky opposition in the unranked category.

The possible opponents of Shamrock Rovers in the first round are:

  • Linfield
  • Zrinjski (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • Shakhtyor Soligorsk (Belarus)
  • Sutjeska Niksic (Montenegro)
  • KÍ (Faroe Islands)
  • Lech Poznan (Poland)
  • Hibernians (Malta)
  • Tobol (Kazakhstan)
  • Shkupi (North Macedonia)
  • Pyunik (Armenia)
  • RFS (Latvia)
  • Dinamo Batumi (Georgia)
  • Tirana (Albania)
  • Ballkani (Kosovo)
  • A winner of the preliminary round

Lech Poznan is definitely the biggest name among the unranked sides. Many teams represent a lot of travel, but there are certainly winnable matches for the Premier Division champions.

There is a real possibility of a clash on the island of Ireland between the Hoops and Linfield.

Possible opponents will be narrowed down to a small number of teams before the draw.

What can they get – progress and funding

The crucial aspect of the draw is that Shamrock Rovers are on the road to UEFA ‘champions’. Hoops are guaranteed over €800,000 as a representative of the Irish Champions League.

Figures are based on the latest UEFA prize money publication and assuming no changes from last season.

A victory would guarantee a place in the third round of the Europa League and at least a play-off for the Europa Conference League. Financially, it is a gain of more than 1.4 million euros.

An exit bonus for the champions of countries that don’t make it to a group stage makes up a big chunk of that money.

Shamrock Rovers suffered a heartbreaking loss to Slovan Bratislava last year

Two Champions League victories would guarantee the group stage of the Europa Conference League, a pot of almost 2.9 million euros.

Defeat in the first round of the Champions League qualifiers would move Shamrock Rovers into the second round of the Europa Conference. Last year they received a third-round bye, it’s unlikely to happen again. Above all, there would be a seeding that would accompany it.

Last year, the Tallaght side pocketed €1.5million in prize money when they exited in the Conference League play-off round.

This left them with a missed opportunity and qualification for the group stage is the main objective.

Stephen Bradley and his troops will also know their potential second-round opponents with this draw on Wednesday.

Europa Conference League – St Pat’s, Derry City and Sligo Rovers

Due to Ireland’s low ranking in the European club scene, League of Ireland teams no longer feature in the Europa League. As mentioned above, Derry City and Sligo Rovers will be interested in Tuesday’s first round draw for the Conference League.

St Patrick’s Athletic still have 24 hours to wait to find out their second-round opponents with the draw scheduled for Wednesday. Derry and Sligo will both be in this draw.

Not all Irish clubs will be ranked in their respective draws.

Derry and Sligo’s possible opponents currently total 30. As in the Champions League, UEFA will divide the teams into groups, narrowing them down to a handful of potential pairs.

For now, the list of opponents is as follows:

  • Pogon Szczecin (Poland)
  • Lechia Gdansk (Poland)
  • Flora Tallinn (Estonia)
  • Shkendija Tetovo (North Macedonia)
  • Riga FC (Lativi)
  • Alashkert FC (Armenia)
  • Olimpija Ljubljana (Lithuania)
  • KuPS Kuopio (Finland)
  • CS Fola Esch (Luxembourg)
  • Buducnost Podgorica (Montenegro)
  • Dinamo Tbilisi (Georgia)
  • DAC Dunajska Streda (Slovakia)
  • KF Laci (Albania)
  • Mura Murska Sobota (Slovenia)
  • FC Drita (Kosovo)
  • Dinamo Minsk (Belarus)
  • B36 Torshavn (Faroe Islands)
  • FK Liepaja (Latvia)
  • Petrocub Hîncesti (Moldova)
  • Europa FC (Gibraltar)
  • Partizani Tirana (Albania)
  • Breidablik (Iceland)
  • HB Torshavn (Faroe Islands)
  • Gzira United (Malta)
  • Milsami Orhei (Moldova)
  • Kauno Zalgiris (Lithuania)
  • City of Bala (Wales)
  • Tre Penne (San Marino)
  • St Joseph’s FC (Gibraltar)
  • crusaders

If the Champions League has a ‘luck of the draw’ element, that applies even more to the Conference.

Among the seeds are teams from San Marino, neighboring crusaders Northern Ireland, Wales, Luxembourg and the Faroe Islands. At the same time, there are two Polish teams as well as Slovak and Slovenian opponents. The LOI teams are hoping for a decent break and won’t be overwhelmed at the start of the competition.

What can they get – progress and funding

The Europa Conference League qualifiers are held over four rounds. No Irish team has ever progressed through a qualifying process where they have won four draws. The Champions League and the possibility of moving on to lower competitions remains the most favorable and realistic path.

Sligo Rovers were the only Irish team not to win a leg in Europe last year

For clubs in the North West, they watched with envy Bohemians and Dundalk advance to the third round and pocket more than €800,000 last season.

Sligo fell as the first hurdle, which netted €250,000. They missed out on the money their league rivals racked up.

The second round brings more recognizable names like Basel, Slavia Prague, PAOK (whom the Bohemians sailed through to the third round last year) and Scottish side Motherwell.

The Pat’s are guaranteed increased prize money, but more so they will be focusing on a bustling Richmond Park and hoping for a favorable draw to repeat the feat of the Irish clubs last season.

Draws begin Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

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