Dundalk will travel to Croatia on Wednesday morning more in hope that expectation following last week’s 2-0 defeat to Hajduk Split at Oriel Park.
Lilywhites boss Stephen Kenny admitted as much in his post match press conference on the night but he said his players would give it their all in a bid to turn the tie around.
“Although we have given ourselves a mountain to climb, it’s still only half-time. We have to go over there and give it a right good go,” said Kenny.
“We have given ourselves a lot to do. Even 2-1 would have given us a better chance but we are not giving up. We could be really punished over there or we could get a good result but we are not throwing in the towel by any stretch of the imagination.”
League of Ireland sides have pulled off some notable scalps in Europe over the past few weeks, notably Sligo Rovers’ 2-1 win against Rosenborg in Norway.
St Patrick’s Athletic also went tantalisingly close to beating Legia Warsaw in Poland last week and those results, coupled with the fact that Dundalk created a number of good chances against Hajduk, means that Kenny believes there is still hope.
“What those results show is that the away tie is sometimes not as difficult as the home tie, which can be a more open affair.
“Hajduk only created three chances in the match and they scored two. We created three or four and they were gilt edged really. The chances we had were easier and that’s the disappointing part. We are kicking ourselves. I didn’t want a gallant defeat,” he added.
Kenny blamed an ‘inconsistent’ performance as the reason for his side’s defeat.
“I feel we are capable of better than what we showed. The early goal was a killer blow but we came back into it. We can play a lot better than what we did, that’s for sure. We had spells in the game that when we played well and spells when we were a little bit erratic.
“We had some players who really excelled and others who were probably a bit below par. We didn’t have a consistent 90 minutes. We had spells when we were good and spells when we were very wasteful.”
One Dundalk player who did have a consistent 90 minutes was right-back Sean Gannon.
The 23-year-old received the man of the match award for a display that would have undoubtedly caught the eyes of Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill who attended the game.
“Sean really catches the eye,” said Kenny. “He is exciting and swashbuckling. He overlaps and he dribbles inside and outside. People can identify with him and people think he is very exciting.
“I thought both full backs were very good,” he continued. Dane Massey has been a really consistent per for us. His development has been great and we can rely on him and we know what we will get from him every week. Defensively he is excellent and his use of the ball is very good. The performance of the full backs was the real plus point for us.”
Kenny’s counterpart, Hajduk Split boss Igor Tudor, felt his side were deserving winners on the night.
“Dundalk are a good team but our quality decided the game. In my opinion, we have more quality players. That’s why we won.
“It’s a good result for us,” he added. “It was quite strange to play this game on a synthetic field. Dundalk are a team that play strange football for us, based on duels, physical football and lots of long balls. It wasn’t easy for us to understand their movement because it is different to what we see in Croatia.”