Dundalk will face Legia Warsaw in Champions League playoff

SoccerBy Sunday World
Dundalk now know what they have to do to make history
Dundalk now know what they have to do to make history

DUndalk have been drawn to play Legia Warsaw in the play-off round of the Champions League.

If the Irish champions can get past the Polish side they will make history and become the first League of Ireland club to reach the group stage of the biggest club competition in European football.

Elsewhere in the draw, Manchester City will face Steaua Bucharest while Celtic will take on Hapoel Beer-Sheva of Israel.


Ahead of the draw, Dundalk's David McMillan revealed the extent to which becoming the first Irish club to reach the Champions League could transform their fortunes.

The 27-year-old striker's two goals inspired their 3-1 aggregate defeat of BATE Borisov and secured their progress to the competition's play-offs.

Beyond the attention that would attract, however, McMillan is motivated by the potential of a historic achievement, an invaluable boost to the club's finances and the prospect of playing full-time.

"It's something that hasn't been achieved by an Irish club to date," the 20-hour-a-week architect told Press Association Sport. The majority of his team-mates concentrate only football, but also in Dundalk's squad is an electrician and children's football and basketball coach.

Though they are already guaranteed the minimum of a place in the Europa League, he said: "There's only been one Irish side even in the Europa League. That was Shamrock Rovers in 2011. To be this close is a great opportunity.

"At this stage (the Europa League) would feel like a disappointment, but if you asked me realistically a month ago, I would have said, 'Yeah, that would be a very good achievement'. It would have meant we'd won two rounds in Europe.

"But now that we've got this far, and beaten a team of BATE's pedigree, we feel we can go further and we want to create more history and be that first team from Ireland. It would be a dream for anybody who plays in the League of Ireland.

"It has been widely reported that Dundalk can already expect a minimum of £5.94million (E7million) for progressing this far.

Beyond the potential life-changing experience reaching the Champions League group stages would provide for their players, there is also the possibility of finances capable of transforming the club.

McMillan believes their success could lead to the development of their stadium, Oriel Park, and also the chance for him to concentrate on football full-time.

"To have secured the Europa League group stages, it's something between E5million and E7million," said McMillan, whose other employers are Dublin's O'Brien Finucane Architects.

"To qualify for the Champions League it's upwards of E12million, so it'll be a massive amount of money for the club for what their annual turnover would be in a normal year.

"On Tuesday against BATE, we had to play in the Tallaght Stadium in Dublin, which is 60 miles away from Dundalk. That meant that all the Dundalk supporters going week in, week out have to travel to watch the game.

"Ideally the club would spend on upgrading the stadium. I know there's some sort of legal issues at the moment to stop that happening, but hopefully they could be overcome. I'd like to see it well spent, improving facilties. It'd be great to see.

"It could (result in me becoming a full-time player). It's up to the club to decide. The players, we practically are full-time. Although we're technically called a part-time club, we train just like any other full-time club. I've been at full-time clubs and we train the same amount."