Friday, July 28, 2006

Turnip for the Books as Derry Mash Swedes

Congratulations to Derry City (the team we love to hate so well, as they are known in Sligo), on beating twice-former-UEFA-cup-winners IFK Gothenburg in the first qualifying round of this year's tournament. A 1-o win in each leg gave the Candystripes the victory. Following Cork City's victories over the past two seasons against Malmö and Djurgården, the National League can now claim superiority to the much better-funded, much better-supported and better-publicised Allsvenskan. There is no excuse of rustiness from the Swedes either: just like the Irish, they play summer football.

Drogheda United also progressed in the UEFA Cup, beating Helsinki side HJK after extra time at Dalymount. Both Derry and Drogheda should fancy their chances of reaching the first round proper as they now face Gretna (last year's surprise Scottish Cup finalists) and Start of Norway respectively. Cork faced sterner opposition in the Champions' League in Red Star Belgrade (6-0 aggregate winners over the mighty Sligo Rovers in the 1977 tournament), and went down unluckily to a first-half own-goal. Sligo, enjoying a good season so far - six wins out of the last seven - are in with a shout for a European spot next year, and surely will be hoping for Swedish opposition, maybe Hammarby (Stockholm is beautiful at this time of year), GAIS, Gothenburg's other team or even better, Henrik Larsson's Helsingborg. We've got league leaders Shelbourne - seven wins in their last seven - to take care of tonight.