RAHENY United are hoping the Irish football community will get right behind them tonight when they host English side Bristol Academy in the UEFA Women's Champions League last 32 at Richmond Park (7.30pm).
The Continental Tyres Women's National League champions will be the underdogs in the first leg tie but coach Casey McQuillan believes his side can make history and become the first Irish club to reach the last 16.
“We want to go out and show what we can do. It's a bit of a venture into the unknown but we've seen plenty of footage of Bristol and we know we're in for a tough evening," said McQuillan.
“If we play to our potential we can cause an upset. We've priced this game to get people in and cheering us on rather than trying to make money out of it. We've players from Cork, Wexford, Carlow and other places so we're hoping the wider football community gets behind us."
The winners of this tie will face the victors of the SK Slavia Praha and FC Barcelona game but McQuillan expects a less continental encounter against the English side.
"They are more disciplined in their shape than who we've played in the competition before. They are solid at the back, busy in midfield and get it forward early. They'd also be more experienced than us," he said.
“It'll be a British style game rather than lots of possession. I expect lots of battles all over the pitch.
“We've played well since the start of the season but there's more to come from us although we've improved. It's all about focus and being switched on in transitions so that we don't leave ourselves open."
Striker Clare Shine and defender Keeva Keenan are injury doubts while McQuillan hopes Continental Tyres WNL Player of the Month Katie McCabe can take her domestic form onto the European stage tomorrow.
"Katie could be the key to unlocking their defence. She's really hitting form at the right time but I expect the other girls to weigh in behind her when we attack too," he said.
Bristol Academy manager Dave Edmondson told the club's website that he expects a tough test. He said: “Irish women's football is in a good place at the moment and Raheny had a strong qualification process so will be a tough opponent.”
The visitors include England international defender Jemma Rose in their squad. Spanish striker Natalia has scored eight times in 13 appearances in the UEFA Women's Champions League for Rayo Vallecano while Welsh striker Natasha Harding has five goals in eight games at that level.
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