High drama in European competition is creating high rewards for League of Ireland clubs as Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic take leads into next week’s third round second legs.
The Hoops are 45 minutes away from completing their pre-season target of group stage involvement, attracting six more games until December and a minimum prize-money haul from Uefa of €4.7m.
Avoid ceding a two-goal cushion against Shkupi in North Macedonia next Tuesday and they’ll be guaranteed entry to one of the eight four-team Conference League pools.
That’s only a fallback in the event they don’t topple either Ferencvaros or Qarabag to reach the Europa equivalent.
St Patrick’s Athletic began their Conference League campaign at the second round stage, dumping out Mura from Slovenia before shocking CSKA Sofia in Thursday’s first leg.
Serge Atakayi’s late winner places them in a better position than most anticipated ahead of the return next Thursday, to be staged at Tallaght Stadium.
They have amassed €850,000 from their exploits so far – aside from gate receipts. Early uptake indicates they could sell out the 7,500-capacity stadium.
“I think as a group as a team over the last few years, we’ve worked tremendously hard to get to this position,” said Rovers defender Neil Farrugia, who overcame a litany of injuries to feature in Thursday’s 3-1 triumph.
“This doesn’t take a year; it takes a couple of years to get a good group of guys together to train hard and get into this position.
“Coming into the second leg, one game away from the group stages, it’s a great achievement.
“We’re in a great position and just have to finish it off now.
“We play our best when we control the game. Anything less than that and we could be in trouble, so we need to go there and try and control the game, keep the ball and keep attacking. And if we get a goal, it kills the game, doesn’t it?”