The UEFA Europa Conference League begins group stage play today. For the first time since the 2020-2021 season, a League of Ireland side will be competing in the group stages of a European club competition.
The Irish side that will be participating in Europe is Shamrock Rovers, who are currently in first place in the Irish Premier League and have had an interesting qualification process to get to the Conference League.
Rovers started their European qualification, in what feels like a long time ago, back in early July in the first round of the UEFA Champions League qualifiers. Rovers showed their strength against Hibernians, of Malta, beating them in a convincing fashion on a 3-0 aggregate scoreline.
The first-placed Premier side then faced a tricky tie against Ludogorets Razgrad of Bulgaria. Rovers fell behind 3-0 in the first leg in Bulgaria and that proved to be the difference. In the second leg, Rovers’ effort was admirable as they threw everything they had at Ludogorets and won the leg 2-1, but lost on aggregate 4-2. That result meant the Dublin-based club would fall into the third round of the Europa League Qualifiers.
Rovers would then face KF Shkupi of Macedonia and knew that winning this tie would guarantee them group stage participation in either the Europa League or Conference League. Rovers had an outstanding round against Shkupi as they won 3-1 in Ireland and followed that up with a 2-1 in Macedonia to advance to the playoff qualification round of the Europa League.
Unfortunately, the playoff round did not go so well for Rovers as they bowed out of the competition on a 4-1 aggregate score to Ferencvárosi TC. Since Rovers lost in the Europa League playoff round, Rovers automatically fell into the Conference League group stage.
Shamrock Rovers return to European football and make their debut in the UEFA Europa Conference League group stage
Shamrock Rovers start the group stages on Thursday, September 8 as they welcome Swedish opposition, Djurgårdens IF, to the Tallaght Stadium. Kickoff for Rovers’ first Conference League game is scheduled for 8 pm IST (3 pm ET).
The last time Rovers competed in Europe was back just over a decade ago, during the 2011-2012 campaign in the Europa League. Ultimately Rovers finished bottom of their group which featured Tottenham, Rubin Kazin and PAOK.
There is no doubt that Rovers think they can proceed to the knockout stages in their return to Europe as they feature in Group F with Djurgårdens IF, Gent and Molde.
One interesting to note about this Conference League group is that every side besides Gent, their domestic league runs in the summer rather than winter. This means Rovers, Djurgårdens, and Molde are all coming towards the end of their domestic seasons. Rovers are in first place in the Irish Premier League, Djurgårdens are in a title race in Sweden, and Molde are comfortably in first in Norway. On the other hand, Gent just started their season and are only seven games in.
It will be great to watch Shamrock Rovers make their return to European football. Rovers will have a thunderous crowd supporting them and will have a great chance to win this game versus Djurgårdens.
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If you are located in Ireland you can watch Rovers v Djurgårdens on a variety of different providers which are listed here, if you are located in the United States you can find the Shamrock Rovers match on Paramount+.
Shamrock Rovers Fans: What are your predictions for tonight’s match? Leave your comments below!