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Filippo Giovagnoli wants Dundalk to make history

Dundalk v Slovan Bratislava – UEFA Europa League – Third Qualifying Round – Second Leg – Tallaght Stadium
(Image credit: Niall Carson)

Dundalk head coach Filippo Giovagnoli has urged his team to make history in Thursday’s Europa League play-off tie with KI.

The Irish champions take on the Faroese side at the Aviva Stadium and know victory will send them through to the group stage for the second time in four years.

Current Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny helped the Lilywhites secure the feat for the first time in 2016 but Dundalk’s preparation has been far from ideal.

After a penalty shoot-out victory at Sheriff Tiraspol late on Thursday night, Giovagnoli’s side were in league action three days later against title rivals Shamrock Rovers.

The Italian, who was only appointed last month, made 10 changes and suffered a 4-0 defeat – his first loss in charge – but insisted he had no choice.

“We had to let players rest, it wasn’t safe to play them,” Giovagnoli told the official club website.

“It was not only about the (upcoming) game, they can get hurt besides the importance of the game we have on Thursday.

“Of course our focus from now is to prepare for this game and to be part of the history of this club.”

Giovagnoli apologised to the supporters after Sunday’s thrashing but all will be forgiven if he can clinch a much-needed financial boost for the Oriel Park outfit.

Qualification for the Europa League group stage will pocket Dundalk at least €2.92million and considering the coronavirus pandemic, it is even more crucial than usual.

The club were able to host 100 fans for Sunday’s league encounter with Shamrock at Oriel Park and the same number will be in attendance for this weekend’s match with Finn Harps.

No supporters will be present for Thursday’s tie at the Aviva Stadium though, with Dundalk’s chief operating officer Martin Connolly able to explain why.

“Last Thursday night’s penalty shoot-out win over Sheriff in Moldova will go down as another famous night in the club’s history,” Connolly said.

“We move onto the play-off round now and it’s going to be a massive week for the club. It will be hectic but this is what we’re in the business for and I’m delighted for everyone involved with the club that we’re at this stage.

“We can confirm that the game will take place at the Aviva Stadium and I think it’s important that we make supporters aware of what exactly is going to happen.

“Dublin city is in lockdown so we have to abide by our own public health guidelines but, on top of that, we also have UEFA guidelines to follow.

“Irrespective of whether public health considerations allow it or not, UEFA won’t allow supporters into the qualifying rounds so the only people who will be in the ground are players, officials and match organising staff.”