- Monday September 29th, 2008 @ 17:08
SAINTS PREPARE TO SHOCK BERLIN
Despite trailing their Bundesliga opponents 2-0 from the first leg of their UEFA Cup First Round tie you won't catch anybody around Inchicore, or Ballsbridge for that matter, waving a white flag ahead of tomorrow's much awaited clash between St Patrick's Athletic and Hertha Berlin in the RDS (Kick Off 5 p.m.)
John McDonnell's team will have their full array of stars on show as they seek to become the first Irish side to progress to the group stages of a European competition and speaking at the RDS today the Saints boss is looking forward to the challenge with a near fully fit squad.
“We're 90 minutes away from potentially a huge change for everyone and everything at this club but we need to put that to the back of our minds for now.
“Dessie Byrne took a bit of a knock against Sporting Fingal but should be ok. John Murphy is still struggling a bit with his back but may be available to make a bit of an impact at some stage. Apart from that we're in good shape with a full squad to choose from.
“Jason Gavin and Derek O'Brien are both back, fresh from being rested and it's great that we were able to rest some players in recent games."
While St Pats defeated Sporting Fingal last Friday to move into the semi-finals of the FAI Cup their opponents suffered defeat to lowly Energie Cottbus in front of 42,000 at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday. Despite the Saints good performance in Germany, McDonnell is acutely aware that improvement is needed.
“We'll need to be in control, we have plans in place for the game but it's important we don't get done on the counter attack.
“We'll have to get in behind them and put plenty ball into their box. We need to improve on the last day and get at them in the last third.”
Midfielder Gary Dempsey, who has European experience from his time at Aberdeen and Dunfermline, is confident that a typical Irish performance from players and supporters will give the Saints every chance.
“It would be good to give them a typical Irish performance - get in their faces and make it difficult for them to pass it around.
“It's been a long season but with games like these adrenaline kicks in and as soon as the whistle goes it will be 90 miles an hour stuff.”
American winger Ryan Guy has been a revelation this season for Pats and scored the goal in Latvia against JFK Olimps to give the Saints their first ever away victory in European competition. He told reporters today that his team are confident of overcoming their more illustrious opponents.
“We probably don't have the notoriety or the respect that the German side have but it comes down to 11 against 11 and with our squad, our supporters we're confident of being able to do a job.”
The Germans have doubts over strike duo Marko Pantelic and on loan Liverpool striker Andrej Voronin but both are expected to be passed fit to play. Hertha however look set to be without talented Serbian midfielder Gojko Kacar (calf) while fellow midfielder Patrick Ebert is also expected to miss out.
The Saints have been forced to move the home tie from Richmond Park to the RDS due to UEFA regulations but boss McDonnell is hoping that this historic encounter will draw a big crowd to the Ballsbridge venue.
“I'd be more confident if it was in Inchicore but we'll keep the dimensions of the RDS pitch similar to our own in Richmond Park. We're not going to start playing games with the size of the pitch.
“We'll need to pass it and play so we need the width and use it for the likes of Ryan Guy to show his pace.
“It's not often that you have the calibre of a team such as Hertha Berlin playing competitive football in Dublin. It's a major sporting event probably the most important game in the club's history and I'd love to see the crowds coming out to support us.”
Tickets for tomorrow's game are still available from Richmond Park (until 2 p.m. tomorrow) and Ticketmaster outlets nationwide. Tickets will also be available at the ground from 2.30 p.m.