Anticipating The Return of European Football to Ireland

On Monday, June 20th, the draws for the 1st and 2nd rounds of qualification for the Champions League and the Europa League were made. As ever, there were League of Ireland teams involved in the draw, with the continental teams visiting Irish shores in the coming weeks. Here, we take a look at the opponents of Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and St. Patrick’s Athletic. The draw for the third round of qualifying for the Europa League will be made on July 15th, in which Sligo Rovers will be involved.

We start with Shamrock Rovers’ second round opponents Flora Tallinn.

Flora Tallinn, Estonia

Estonian champions Tallinn

Founded: 1990
Stadium: A. Le Coq Arena (10,000)
Manager: Martin Reim
Colours: Green and White
Nickname: Triibulised (Stripes)

Captain: Karl Palatu
Dangermen: Alo Dupikov, Siim Luts, Sergei Mosnikov
Notable former players: Mart Poom (Former Derby County and Sunderland goalkeeper)

Flora Tallinn, Although only 21 years old have been very successful in their own right in their country of Estonia. They’ve won
8 League Titles, 5 Estonian Cups and 6 Estonian Super Cups. In the 1997-98 season they recorded their first treble winning season to date.

Flora have qualified for European Competition every year since 1994, but have only won a total of 4 games. Their most notable victory coming against Norwegian outfit FK Lyn Oslo in 2006-07 Uefa Cup First Qualifying Round.

In their history, the best player they have had in their side was striker Vjatšeslav Zahovaiko who now plays for U.C. Leiria in Portugal. Over a 10 year spell with Tallinn, from 1999 to 2009, he scored 121 goals and 140 appearances for the club, making him the all time leading goalscorer for the club. Current manager Martin Reim is the closest to his record for Flora Tallinn with 69 goals.

Norwegian striker Tor Henning Hamre holds the record for the most goals in a single season, scoring 39 goals during the 2002-03 campaign. Their stadium is also the Official Stadium for the Estonian National team.

From what I’ve seen of Flora Tallinn, they are top side in Estonia, but it is a generally poor league, Shamrock Rovers should
progress past this team to the next round. However they are still the current champions and Rovers will have to pay full respects to the Estonian side.

Prediction: 3-0 Shamrock Rovers on aggregate.

Meanwhile, Bohemians will face the winners of Slovenian side Olimpija Ljubliana and NK Siroki Brijeg from Bosnia.

Olimpija Ljubliana, Slovenia

"One life, one love, Olipija Lubljana"

Founded: Originally in 1911, but that club was dissolved and the current club in operation now was founded in 2005.
Stadium: Stožice Stadium (16,038)
Manager: Dusan Kosic
Colours: Green with white
Nickname: The Dragons

NK Olimpija Ljubliana originally dissolved as a club only seven years ago, in the middle of the 04-05 campaign. As the season was well underway, they were allowed to finish the season in the Slovenian premier league, the 1. SNL. However the next year they began the season in the fifth tier of Slovenian football, as a reformed club. One league loss in three years then ensued, while the team won four leagues in a row and got back into the 1. SNL as soon as was possible. The reason for their demise was down to sponsors leaving the club and debts which had grown up to roughly €3 million.

The previous official club NK Olimpija Ljubliana, 1911-2004, had won four Slovenian league titles (ie. from 1992 onwards), as well as four Cups. Before that, the clubs, under many different names, had won 14 Slovenian Regional League titles.

Davor Skerjanc would be Olimpija’s danger man. The winger finished as the Slovenian side’s top league scorer last season. The twenty-five year old also made four appearances for the national Under-21 team. Dare Vrsic is always another of the first names on the Olimpija team sheet. The midfielder is a favourite at the club and is often involved in the Slovenia first team squad, and he has six caps to his name and has scored twice.

Should Bohemians face The Dragons, their chances could be improved by a goalkeeping crisis at the club currently. Seliga has been signed by the club, but is unable to play against Siroki at least due to UEFA sanctions. It’s unknown yet whether or not he’ll be eligible to play against The Gypsies. However if he doesn’t line up against Bohs, the stage looks set for Kristjan Lipovac to play. Lipovac is a young, inexperienced goalkeeper and in normal circumstances would not be the first choice ahead of one-time Slovenia international Aleksander Seliga.

The Slovenian league is lower than the League of Ireland in UEFA rankings, and Olimpijia finished fourth last year – lowest of the European places. These two facts bode well for Bohemians, although should the two sides face each other the Slovenian team would no doubt give the Dubliners an extremely tough game. Standards in Slovenian football would more or less match that of League of Ireland.

Olimpija have visited Ireland in European football very recently. In the 04-05 UEFA Cup they beat Pat Fenlon’s Shelbourne team 4-2 on aggregate. They then went on to play Liverpool but were beaten 3-0 after a 1-1 draw in Slovenia.

NK Siroki Brijeg, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Founded: 1948
Stadium: Pecara Stadium (8,000)
Colours: Blue
Manager: Ivo Ištuk
Nickname: Affectionately referred to as “Fascist Pigs” by rival supporters due to political ideology.

NK Siroki come from a small town in the south of Bosnia. The club have been Bosnian champions twice, as recently as 2004 and 2006. The team regularly qualifies for European competition, and have made either the Champions League qualification or UEFA Cup/Europa League qualification every year bar once since the 2002-03 season. Every year except for the 04/05 Champions League qualification first round, Siroki have beaten the first opponent they faced.

Argentine striker Juan Manuel Varea is the danger man for the Bosnians. The twenty-five year old has an impressive 16 goals in 37 appearances for his club. Varea was also awarded Best Foreign Player in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Siroki supporters are somewhat infamous for their fascist leanings. Flags have been displayed by their fans depicting white supremacist symbols, Swastikas and also flags of The Vatican City. In April of last year there was a large stadium riot in a match between Siroki and Sarajevo. Should Bohs have to travel there, they’ll be greeted with a hostile atmosphere, no doubt.

UEFA rankings place the Bosnian league slightly higher than the League of Ireland.

Saint Patrick’s Athletic will travel to Iceland in the opening of their European adventure. They’ll be hoping for as good a European run they had in 2008 when they brought Hertha Berlin to Dublin, and performed very admirably.

ÍBV Vestmannaeyja, Iceland

Founded: 1903
Stadium: Hásteinsvöllur (1,500)
Manager: Hiemir Hallgrimson
Colours: White and partially Black

Dangerman: Tryggvi Guðmundsson
Notable former players: Hermann Hreiðarsson (Left-Back formerly of Charlton Athletic, Wimbledon, Ipswich and currently of Portsmouth)
Ivar Ingimarsson (Former Reading and Wolves defender, currently with Ipswich Town)

Íþróttabandalag Vestmannaeyja (Or IBV if you don’t to go to the effort of pronouncing that) are Pat’s first opponents in this year’s Euopra League. The club have been on a bit of drought on the trophy front of late, they haven’t won anything since their double winnin season in 1998. In total they have won 3 league titles and 4 Icelandic Cups.

This is the first time IBV have qualified for a European Competition since 2005 and the furthest they have ever gone in a European competition was the 2nd Qualifying Round in the 1999/00 Champions League.

The best player the Icelandic team have had in their ranks will have been Hermann Hreiðarsson. The left-back who currently plays for Portsmouth was an absolute rock at the back and also chipped with a few goals. His outstanding form earned him a move to the England in 1997 when Crystal Palace showed an interest in him. He then went on to play in the Premiership for a number of years up until Pompey’s relegation in 2010.

I can’t see anything other than a Pat’s win here, this Icelandic team don’t seem to have the same quality as the Inchicore outfit and Pat’s could score 2 or 3 in one of the legs. There is some stunning scenary surrounding the stadium for those of you travelling as well.

Prediction: 4-0 Pat’s on aggregate

Stadium of IBV, where Pat's will visit

Beautiful scenery that Pat's will soon see

The potential opponents for Pat’s should they qualify for the next round are FC Luka Koper of Slovenia and Shakhter Karagandy.

FC Luka Koper, Slovenia

Founded: 1955
Stadium: Stadion Bonifika
Manager: Primož Gliha (4,010)
Colours: Yellow and partially Blue
Nickname: Kanarčki (The Canaries)

Captain: Ermen Hasić
Dangermen: Milan Osterc, David Eto’o, Konstantin Vassiljev

Despite being formed back in 1955, Koper have only found success on the domestic front in recent years. They won their only
League title to date in the 2009/10 season, back to back Slovenian Cups in 2006 and 2007 and won the Slovenian Super Cup last

Koper enjoyed a great run in the 2003 Intertoto Cup when they got through 3 rounds before being knocked out by SC Heerenveen.
Since then they’ve failed to make it past the first round of any European competition.

The main man Pat’s would have to watch out for is Milan Osterc, the veteran striker has scored 13 goals in 25 appearances since
joining the club in 2010. Koper also have David Eto’o, the younger brother of Inter Striker Samuel, in their squad as well.

I can see Pat’s getting by this team, but I have a feeling it would be hard fought.

Prediction: 3-1 Pat’s on aggregate

Shakhter Karagandy, Kazakhstan

Founded: 1958
Stadium: Shakthyor Stadium (19,000)
Manager: Viktor Kumykov
Coulours: Red and Black
Nickname: The Miners

Dangermen: Sergei Khizhnichenko, Aldin Ðidić
Notable former players: Sergei Mischenko (Shakhter’s longest serving player, making just under 500 appearances between 1983
and 1999)

Shakhter Karagandy are the least successful of the clubs in this article with just one honour to their name – The Soviet
First League title that was won in 1962. They’ve only qualified for European Competitions 3 times in their history. The 2006 Intertoto Cup, the 2008/09 UEFA Cup and the 2010/11 Europa League and they were knocked in the 1st round in all three.

They have recently signed Sergei Khizhnichenko, an exciting young striker who has broken into the Kazakhstan national team. Known for his pace, he might be a handful for the defence. Aldin Ðidić will also be worth looking out for, he was the team’s top
goalscorer last season.

I think Pat’s have the capability to beat them should they play them, but it’s important to make the most of the home leg, as the long journey for the away game could affect the players who wouldn’t be used to it.

Prediction: 2-0 St. Pat’s on aggregate.

Co-written by Alan Finn and Cillian Shields.


One Comment on “Anticipating The Return of European Football to Ireland”

  1. […] immediately began my research on both teams and places. I already knew that Ljubljana was the capital of Slovenia and knew it was […]

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