Dundalk focused firmly on Slovan test as they enter the Europa League

15th November 2023

Stepping off the plane last Thursday morning as the dawn broke in Dublin after a 10,000km energy-sapping round trip to the furthest point in Europe, Vinny Perth and his players didn’t have much time to lick their Qarabag wounds as they prepared for a

Stepping off the plane last Thursday morning as the dawn broke in Dublin after a 10,000km energy-sapping round trip to the furthest point in Europe, Vinny Perth and his players didn’t have much time to lick their Qarabag wounds as they prepared for a very quick turnaround to face Slovakian champions Slovan Bratislava. 

The players got back down to business throughout the weekend as their focus shifted from Champions League to Europa League qualification. 

A step down in competition, yes, but a step down in class of opponent? Absolutely not. Dundalk knows what’s coming tomorrow night and have prepared accordingly. 

Speaking at the press conference, Vinny Perth spoke to how the players are prepared and focused for what’s faces them ahead tomorrow night in the Slovak capital.

“The players have prepared really well, they have got here obviously in good time and at this stage they are just looking to get on the pitch, you are just holding your players back at this stage because they are eager to get on with it and they are in good spirits at the moment and just looking forward to training. I feel we are in a good place at the moment.”

Monday afternoon saw the draw for the Play-off of the UEFA Europa League, as Michael Heselschwerdt the UEFA Head of Club Competitions drew out Dundalk’s ball from the pot it became clear how mammoth the task would be to qualify for the group stages of the competition. 

On one side is Greek juggernauts PAOK and on the other side is the Dutch maestros Ajax, who was knocked out of a chance to play in the Champions League final thanks to a Lucas Moura’s last-minute goal in Amsterdam for Tottenham. 

For now, all it is is talk, as Vinny is firmly fixed on the Slovan. 

“People will be excited by who is waiting in the next round but I think both teams will just focus on the challenge ahead. For us, we want to be achieving what clubs like Slovan Bratislava have done over the last number of years and be in playoffs and at least try to be in the group stages and that’s our aim and this is just another stepping stone towards that. 

"Hopefully, we can achieve those goals over the next couple of years. This is a great experience for us as players and as a club and it puts us closer to where our goal is over the next number of years.”

The Tehelné pole or National Football Stadium is where Dundalk will step out onto tomorrow night, the UEFA four-star 22,500 seated stadium opened this year is ground the envy of many a Dundalk fan. How nice would it be to have a ground like this at Oriel Park? Vinny knows that this is also part of the long-term project that is Dundalk FC.

“I think it's a wonderful venue and its full credit I presume to the government yes?” enquired Vinny.

"And the current owner,” as was interjected by the local translator 

“So its a credit to everyone, these are stadiums that people at our level aspire to have and its a wonderful venue in a great setting in what has to be said a beautiful city so impressive so far for us.”

A far cry from Riga, Baku or Bratislava stands a village in Mayo called Bohola. With a population of just 203 people, one of its most famous sons is that of John Mountney. Mountney, despite being only 26, is an elder statesman of the Dundalk team. 

Along with Chris Shields he has been the longest-serving member of the squad, he has seen it all, the dark days and the brightest nights. 

With that comes experience and the ‘Boy from Bohola’ knows what is at stake tonight. The Village Inn pub where his mother is the owner and proprietor of will be full tonight such is the high interest in the local midfielder. 

“You refocus with this coming up and like Vinny said getting over here and once you see the ground we are all looking forward to getting on the pitch this evening and preparing right for tomorrow. 

“The mood is always positive in our group, our management and everyone is always upbeat and positive going into big games but of course we have watched them and they are a good side, we know we have to perform on the day, of course this is only the first leg and we will prepare right and go and enjoy it.”

Ján Kozák will take the hot seat for the home side tonight as caretaker manager following the recent dismissal of Martin Ševela who was relieved of his management duties following their Champions League Qualification exit. 

While some would see this as catching a side at their weakest, Perth is fully aware of the strengths of the side and knows tonight will a game in which Dundalk will have to be at their top level.

“Obviously Slovan are a top side and we have to be pragmatic away from home and be very careful they have got some extremely powerful forwards and they attack with real pace and we have got to be mindful of their qualities going forward. 

"Like all European games, there are nights where teams have lots of the ball and we have to adapt to that its not something that we would be normally used to. But at the same time, we believe in our players and we believe they can make a mark on this game which will be a difficult game. 

"We've got to go up a level to be able to compete but we are very hopeful.”