Dundalk’s very own Benjamin Button Gary Rogers will reach yet another landmark in his storied career when he lines out against Molde at Tallaght Stadium on Thursday.
Should he take his place between the sticks for the clash with the Norwegian champions then it will be the goalkeeper’s 50th European appearance of his career.
At 39, many footballers have either hung up their boots or have seen their powers begin to wane but after big contributions in the victories over Sheriff Tiraspol and KÍ Klaksvik and back-to-back clean sheets in the league last week against Cork City and Bohemians, Rogers is in flying form ahead of what he hopes will be another memorable few months.
“To get to 50 European appearances, I’m pretty happy with that in general but for the 50th one to be in the group stages is pretty special,” he said of Thursday’s landmark.
“Hopefully now I can put in a good performance and mark it with a good result.
“It’s brilliant to have this to look forward to because they’re huge games.
“For the lads who have been here before we’ve tasted it and for the new lads in the squad, it’s a great opportunity and occasion to go and embrace and enjoy. Obviously it’s disappointing that there’s going to be no fans there but it’s still a hell of an achievement to get there and it’s something we’re all looking forward to.
“We’ve had some big games and moments in Europe as well so it’s a big turnaround from six or eight weeks ago. We’re just hoping to go out there and play as well as we can and try and get some points on the board in the group stages.”
Rogers admits that players will have to raise their game to perform in the group stages, like they did in 2016, but he feels the current group are capable of doing that.
“The benefit of having played in it before is that lads know what it’s about. It’s obviously a huge level of football to be playing at and little things will be punished so you’ve got to be on your game. Everyone has got to be eight or nine out of 10 and really playing to the best of their ability but you’ll find our players are good enough to play at that standard and they’ll relish the opportunity to go and show their talents on the big stage. It’s certainly something that we’re all delighted to be there but we all want to go and give a good account of ourselves and the league.
“People have been talking about 2016 for the last four years and all the great nights that we had there. Now we’ve another great experience ahead of us and for lads who are at the same stage as me in their career it’s something that you’ve just really got to cherish and try to make the most of.
“It’s really good to be going into big European nights at this stage of my career and I’m really looking forward to it and I’m sure the rest of the lads are the same.”
Rogers, who lost home and away to Molde in 2013 while at Sligo, is expecting a tough test on Thursday but is hopeful of another memorable night in Tallaght.
“We know they’re a very talented team. There’s a really good standard of football over there. You don’t win their league easily, especially when you’ve a team like Rosenborg in it who we’d all be familiar with. They’ll be difficult opponents but it’s not an insurmountable task.
“Hopefully it’s a good omen to be going back to Tallaght. We picked up our first group stage win there against Maccabi. Hopefully we’ll get off to a really good start. It would be great to get three points on the board and really kick on into the group stages with a positive start,” said the goalkeeper.