Gary Rogers might have only turned 39 in the hour or so after his penalty heroics against Sheriff Tiraspol next week but he is already dreaming of his 50th.
The Meath man knows that if Dundalk clinch victory over KÍ Klaksvik on Thursday night then he could be making the 50th European appearance of his lengthy career in the opening match of the group stages of the Europa League.
That would be some achievement for the veteran goalkeeper but ahead of Thursday’s €3 million play-off in the Aviva Stadium, he says neither he nor his team-mates are taking anything for granted against the Faroese.
“It would be great to play my 50th European game in the group stages but you have to make the 49th one first,” he said.
“You can’t take anything for granted. I don’t have any divine right to play.
“On Thursday I’ll be hoping to get the nod but we’ll have to wait and see. It would be brilliant to be making my 50th appearance in Europe this year because it would mean we have won the other game. That would be nice on a personal level but we can’t get carried away either. We have a massive job to do and if we can do that then we can enjoy what is to come.”
While Dundalk will start Thursday’s game as favourites, Rogers says his side cannot afford to take KÍ Klaksvik for granted on the back of their 6-1 win over Dinamo Tbilisi last week.
“It’s a great opportunity for them as well as us.
“They’re an experienced side and they’ve just had a brilliant result of their own. To win any game 6-1 in Europe takes a bit of doing. We’ll obviously have massive respect for them and we’ll do our homework right but having said that it’s a massive opportunity for us and them.
“They’ll be looking at it that it’s as good an opportunity as they’re going to get as well so let’s make no bones about that because it’s not as if we’re a European powerhouse.
“We have some experience of getting to a European group stage before and hopefully that hunger will drive us on to get there again.”
Rogers admitted saving a penalty to help his side win on the eve of his birthday was the best present he could have asked for.
“To be honest I wouldn’t get too carried away with birthdays generally but I suppose with the occasion that was in it then it will certainly go down as one of the more memorable ones so to get the win and the circumstances around it was great.
“We’ve now given ourselves a chance of getting to the group stages which at the start of the season is one of the goals that we set out.
“That is where we want to be and thankfully we’re going to have a crack at it this year.
“It was a brilliant win. Penalties can be tough and if you’re on the wrong side of them then it’s not nice but it was brilliant the other night with the elation afterwards.
“Everyone in the group was in great form and enjoyed it. It was one of those things where although there were no fans, and you do want fans there, it was nice to celebrate with the group. There was only 30 or so of us there and we had all been together in the hotel so there was great camaraderie between the staff, the players and the whole group that travelled. It was nice to enjoy that moment with everyone.
“If it had went the other way then we would have been very disappointed because on the balance of play I felt we were the better team. We were certainly the more dominant team.
“Obviously every team has spells and you have to remember that they were a home but I did feel that we took the game to them and created more chances. I think we had a perfectly good goal disallowed as well so it was great to get the right result for us,” he said.
Now Rogers is looking forward to another Aviva Stadium outing, hoping it isn’t the last big arena he plays in this season.
“Any time you go back to the national stadium is a good sign,” he said.
“It’s a terrific venue and ground and although there will be no fans there it will be a better stadium for us to play in than our own. It’s great to be going in at that level.
“Hopefully now we can take that next step and get to the group stages. That could turn our season around for us because we’re not where we want to be in terms of the league at the minute but qualifying for the group stages would really put a shine on the season for us,” said Rogers.