UCD join Shamrock Rovers in the second round of the Europa League qualifiers while St. Patrick’s Athletic and Cork City crash out after disappointing losses to Skonto FC and KR Reykjavik, respectively.
Rovers were the first Irish side to book a place in the second round after a comprehensive 3-0 win at home over Luxembourg’s Progres Niederkorn, and the Hoops are now joined in the second round by UCD after the Students advance on away goals despite losing 2-1 away to F91 Dudelange.
Pat Fenlon’s Rovers made light work of Progres Niederkorn as a Kieran Marty Waters double and an early David Webster goal ensured the Hoops a place in the second round. Rovers defence looked quite shaky at times but the Dubliners were able to make the most of their possession and turn chances into goals as they return to the second round for the first time since 2012.
Meanwhile, Collie O’Neill’s UCD have advanced from their first European tie after qualifying for the second round on away goals. Goals from Ryan Swan in both the first and second legs proved to be enough for the Students, as UCD book a place in the next round despite losing 2-1 in Dudelange.
UCD took the lead in the 17th minute through Swan as Jamie Doyle’s flick off a Mark Langtry throw-in found Swan, who was then able to head the ball past Jonathan Joubert to give the visitors a shock one-goal lead.
UCD look poised to coast on their two goal aggregate advantage but Sean Coyne’s 28th minute dismissal turned the game on its head for the Students as Dudelange quickly found a way back into the game after Coyne’s departure.
Coyne was shown a straight red by referee Rahim Hasanov for a lunging challenge on Dudelange midfielder Kevin Nakache, which in turn gifted the hosts a passage back into the game, as Dudelange capitalised on their numerical advantage, scoring twice before halftime.
Joel Pedro equalised for the hosts in the 43rd minute with a superb 20-yard drive that found the top corner before Nakache added a second just a couple of minutes later, heading home Daniel Da Mota’s long throw in.
The Students put in a brave and courageous second half defensive perofrmance and were able to keep the Luxembourgian’s at bay despite the host’s best efforts. Although UCD lost on the night, the club will consider it a big win given the extra €210,000 received for qualifying to the second round to add to the €200,000 secured for qualifying for the first round.
St. Pat’s will not enjoy the same financial benefits as the college after Liam Buckley’s side crashed out of the qualifiers after going down 2-0 to Latvian outfit Skonto FC. After losing the first leg 2-1 in Riga, the Saints returned to Inchicore needing a win to advance to the second round but disappointed those in attendance with an underwhelming performance at Richmond Park.
Goals either side of half-time from Vladislavs Sorokins and a second-half penalty from Arturs Karasausks ensured the visitors a 4-1 aggregate win as Pat’s slump out of the competition in its preliminary stages.
Cork join the Saints as the second Irish team to be dumped out of the qualifiers after John Caulfied’s side failed to take advantage of Skúli Jón Fridgeirsson’s dismissal after the Rebel Army lost 2-1 in extra time in Reyjakvik. Mark O’Sullivan gave the visitors an early lead after his deflected shot looped up and over KR goalkeeper Stefan Magnusson to give Cork a 2-1 aggregate lead.
Cork were aided by Fridgeirsson’s 43rd minute dismissal after the defender picked up his second yellow for a clumsy challenge on O’Sullivan, reducing the hosts to ten men. Cork failed to make use of their one-man advantage as KR continued to attack and after going close on several occasions,
Palmi Palmason found the equaliser for the hosts smashing home a downward header from Jacob Schoop. Both sides exchanged opportunities in a tense final 15 minutes but to no avail as the game went into extra time, where Schoop gave KR the lead after rounding Cork goalkeeper Mark McNulty and slotting the ball into an empty net.
It was a bitterly disappointing night for Caulfield and Cork as the Leesiders faded quickly after a strong start in Reykjavik.
Rovers and UCD advance to the second round while Cork and Pat’s European runs come to an end in a mixed night for Irish football. League of Ireland optimists would have been hoping for an Irish quartet in the second round, and it certainly looked that way at the beginning of the evening, but a poor performance from Pat’s and a fading and lethargic display from Cork means that Rovers and UCD will be the only Irish representatives to advance to the second round.
Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena