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IRISH CHALLENGE Niall Quinn insists talent gap can be breached by League of Ireland players as Dundalk's European adventure ends

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Niall Quinn

Niall Quinn

Niall Quinn

Niall Quinn believes Dundalk's adventure in the Europa League has highlighted the leap in class between League of Ireland clubs and Europe's top sides, but he insists Irish talent will thrive if given an opportunity.

Quinn's former club Arsenal are the high-profile visitors to Dublin on Thursday night as Dundalk look to pick up their first point of their challenging Europa League Group B campaign.

Six straight defeats may lead to the conclusion that Ireland's leading representatives in European club competition for 2020 were out of their depth in the Europa League group phase, but Quinn believes the League of Ireland can produce top-level talent if scouts are willing to give them a chance.

"It's a massive step up for League of Ireland players to compete in the Europa League or to play at international level, but there will be some who will thrive in this environment and it's up to clubs in England or elsewhere to identify the best of Irish talent," said former Ireland striker and Virgin Media Sport analyst Quinn.

"You just need someone to show some belief in you. You need someone to identify that you have the potential and the ability to transfer what you do in a League of Ireland setting onto a bigger stage and until you get that chance, you never know whether you can do it.

"Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho signed a League of Ireland player last summer who came through at Bohemians. Matt Doherty got his break, had a fabulous career at Wolves and they got a big move to Spurs to play in one of the most powerful squads in the Premier League. He came through the FAI's young coaching system and has enjoyed a wonderful career, so it shows what is possible.

"Brian Clough believed in Roy Keane all those years ago, signed him from Cobh and put him into his Nottingham Forest team. It is another example of a player who can thrive when given a chance.

"It just needs someone in a position of authority at a big club to have some belief in you and to give you that chance. Then you have to be good enough to take it."

Quinn has urged the Dundalk players to take advantage of the showcase they will have against Arsenal on Thursday, as it could provide them with a big break in their careers.

"The challenge for Dundalk against Arsenal is to seize their moment and you never know, one or two of them might catch the eye in the game, so it is a fabulous window of opportunity for all of them," he added.

"We want the League of Ireland to be viewed as a place where top players can be found and nights like this can help to alert a few people to that prospect. It is a real chance to showcase what our league has to offer."

Dundalk v Arsenal in the Europa League is live on Virgin Media Sport from 5.30pm on Thursday.

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