The importance of the draw in Europe could be more crucial than ever for Dundalk FC after UEFA last week confirmed the set up for the 2020/21 European Qualifiers.
A meeting last Wednesday confirmed that Vinny Perth’s side would be in action in their first round Champions League qualifier on either August 18th or 19th with the draw due to take place the week beforehand.
The big change is that all ties up to the play-off round will be one-legged, with the first team drawn from the hat set to play at home.
Off the field, the good news is that there will be no cut to European prize money with any teams who have to travel and miss out on a home gate set to be compensated accordingly.
While that is good from a financial perspective, the importance of a home draw could be massive for Dundalk and the other League of Ireland sides in Europe.
Dundalk’s next game in Europe will be their 75th but they have own just five times away from home since becoming the first Irish club to win away in Europe when beating FC Zurich in 1963.
Since then there were wins against Linfield in 1979, Jeunesse Esch and Hajduk Split in 2014 and most recently against Levadia Tallinn in 2018.
That victory in Estonia two summers ago courtesy of a Dylan Connolly strike is the club’s only win away from home in their last 13 European ties.
There is a similar story for the likes of Shamrock Rovers, who since famously beating Partizan to qualify for the Europa League group stages in 2011 have played 12 European ties and won just once away against Stjarnan in 2017.
While results of recent years such as drawing with FH Hafnarfjordur and AZ Alkmaar in 2016 felt like victories, not to mention last year’s penalty shoot-out success away to Riga, going away undoubtedly means doing things the hard way.
The one good thing from Dundalk’s perspective is that no matter what they will have a second game when and if they lose whereas the other Irish clubs could lose one game and have their European campaign ended.
The key dates for this summer are as follows:
UEFA Champions League 2020/21
- Preliminary round: 8 and 11 August
- First qualifying round: 18/19 August
- Second qualifying round: 25/26 August
- Third qualifying round: 15/16 September
- Play-offs: 22/23 and 29/30 September
- Group stage: 20/21 and 27/28 October, 3/4 and 24/25 November, 1/2 and 8/9 December
UEFA Europa League 2020/21
- Preliminary round: 20 August
- First qualifying round: 27 August
- Second qualifying round: 17 September
- Third qualifying round: 24 September
- Play-offs: 1 October
- Group stage: 22 and 29 October, 5 and 26 November, 3 and 10 December