Dundalk picked up their first victory on the road in Europe for 35 years with a comfortable 2-0 win over Jeunesse Esch in their Europa League First Qualifying Round 1st Leg in Luxembourg on Tuesday.
The last time a Lilywhites travelling support savoured a victory on the road against continental opposition came in 1979 when a brace from Cathal Muckian was enough to beat Linfield in the European Cup.
That win did not come in the expected surroundings of Belfast, but the unusual surroundings of the Netherlands; the second leg having been moved due to crowd trouble at Oriel Park in the first leg.
On this occasion, it was Richie Towell who was at the double for Dundalk to set them up perfectly for the return leg with the Dundalk defence and goalkeeper on top form to nulify the hosts’ attacking threat and keep a valuable clean sheet.
It was an assured performance from Stephen Kenny’s side on a balmy summer’s evening in central Europe; Kenny’s first continental test as Dundalk boss.
David McMillan fired over their first chance and captain Andy Boyle brought the first save out of his Jeunesse counterpart Marc Oberweis with a headed attempt.
The dangerous Daryl Horgan, one of seven European debutants in the starting side, found McMillan in space but again the ex-UCD striker saw his shot trickle past the post.
Dane Massey went even closer shortly afterwards, again shaving the upright although the visitors survived a scare at the other end when Boyle and Brian Gartland combined to snuff out two attempts from star striker Sanel Ibrahimovic.
Before the break, Jeunesse would be denied once again with Peter Cherrie called into action and he produced a stunning save to keep out Kim Kintziger’s point blank header.
As the game approached the hour mark, Dundalk found the break that they deserved. Eric Adrien Portier shoved McMillan in the box and Towell was composed from the spot to fire the ball into the corner past Luxembourg international Oberweis.
With 20 minutes remaining, they got that all-important second. Substitute Ruaidhri Higgins, incredibly making his 13th appearance in Europe, picked out McMillan with a neat cross. His flick on was read by Towell who took a touch to settle himself before driving to the net and put his team firmly in control of the tie.
Further chances for Towell and Gartland failed to yield a third and despite Jeunesse throwing on David Suarez - meaning they had Suarez and Ibrahimovic in attack - they could not find that elusive goal that would have made their task somewhat easier.
Dundalk should savour such a win because they do not come around all that often. To pick up only the club’s third ever away victory in Europe with such confidence, it is a further sign of the class of this side.
The club’s eighth win in their history of European competition means they are in complete control of the tie and Kenny’s side ahve a fantastic chance to set up the tasty prospect of a second round qualifier against Hajduk Split of Croatia, not that anyone will be looking past completing the job at Oriel Park in the second leg.
JEUNESSE ESCH: Marc Oberweis; Kim Kintziger, Adrien Portier, Eric Hoffmann, Alexandre Vitali; Nenad Dragovic (Milos Todorovic HT), Marvin Martins, Jonathan Zydko (Mirko Albanese 67), Bryan Melisse (David De Sousa Suarez 81), Ken Corral; Sanel Ibrahimovic. Unused subs: Ricardo Delgado, Denis Agovic, Amar Catic, Yannik Jorge (GK).
DUNDALK FC: Peter Cherrie; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle, Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Richie Towell; Darren Meenan, Kurtis Byrne (Ruaidhri Higgins 70), Daryl Horgan (John Mountney 85); David McMillan (Patrick Hoban 79). Unused subs: Manuel Kaguako, Simon Kelly, Marc Griffin, Gabriel Sava (GK).
Referee: Lorenc Jamini (Albania).