Sligo Rovers have safely guided themselves into the second round of qualification for the 2022/23 Europa Conference League.
Johnny Russell’s team will now face Scottish Premiership side, Motherwell.
The first leg will take place on Thursday, 21st of July, at Fir Park. While the return leg will be a week later, on the 28th of July, at the Showgrounds in Sligo.
The Bit O’ Red narrowly beat Welsh side Bala Town in the previous round.
Despite picking up a 2-1 win in the opening leg, they offered up an extremely underwhelming performance in the Showgrounds, and only progressed after a nail-biting 4-3 victory on penalties.
Goalkeeper, Ed McGinty was the hero on that night, pulling off a string of world-class saves. Without him, there’s no doubt Sligo Rovers wouldn’t be in this round of the competition.
Unfortunately for Sligo, it seems their highly-regarded shot-stopper is close to completing a move to League One outfit, Oxford United.
That would be a massive loss for any League of Ireland club, as the Scotsman is arguably the best goalkeeper in the league. However, Motherwell won’t have it easy against his protégé, Luke McNicholas, if McGinty completes his move before this encounter.
Speaking of Motherwell, most of you will be familiar with the North Lanarkshire team. But we’re still going to dive in, and take a deeper look at them ahead of their date with Sligo Rovers.
Motherwell were formed 136 years ago in 1886.
Two work teams in the area, Alpha FC and Glencairn FC decided to merge together, with the aim of creating a club to represent the entire town at a higher level.
Success followed after the first World War, they won their first, and only top-flight championship in 1932.
Today, the Well are a consistent presence in the Scottish Premiership, and have been there since their last promotion in 1985.
Most recently, they finished 5th in the SPL, securing themselves a potentially lucrative Europa Conference League position.
Their first European run came throughout the First Round of the 1991/92 Cup Winners’ Cup, facing Polish club GKS Katowice. They lost on away goals, after the tie finished 3-3 on aggregate.
Despite never making it to the group-stages of a major UEFA competition, they’ve clashed with some notable names throughout the decades.
Motherwell played the likes of Borussia Dortmund in the 1994/95 UEFA Cup, Panathinaikos of Greece in the third round of qualification for the 2012/13 Champions League, and Spanish side Levante, in the Europa League play-offs the same year, which is the furthest they’ve ever went in any major European tournament.
While they’ve never played any League of Ireland teams in Europe, they did come up against some Northern Ireland competition in their most recent European stint in 2020.
They consecutively beat Glentoran and Coleraine, before crashing out to Hapoel Beer Sheva from Israel in the third qualifying round.
Overall, Motherwell have played in 33 competitive European fixtures. With a record of ten wins, three draws, and 20 defeats, leaving themselves with a win percentage of 30.30%.
Sligo Rovers vs Motherwell
Even though Motherwell have never faced any League of Ireland sides in their previous European ventures, they have several players in their current squad that have called the league home in the past.
Former Bohemians duo Ross Tierney and Robbie Mahon are apart of Graham Alexander’s attacking options. Plus, former St. Patrick’s Athletic full-back Jake Carroll has made himself a regular in the Motherwell back line.
Club captain Stephen O’Donnell has been capped 25 times for Scotland, and played in all three of their Euro 2020 Group D games.
Ugandan Bevis Mugabi and Finland’s Juhani Ojala have been capped at international level, and feature in Motherwell’s back three.
While Dutch striker Kevin van Veen finished up as the club’s top goal-scorer in the league last season, with eight goals.
While Motherwell are a recognisable name, even to a somewhat casual football fan.
They shouldn’t be overly feared by this Sligo Rovers side. The element of summer football could play an advantage for the West of Ireland natives, as Motherwell are into the early stages of their pre-season preparation.
A tie with either Sparta Prague, or Norwegian club Viking awaits the winner.
Everyone here at the Big Kick Off will be rooting for Sligo Rovers, as they look to continue their crusade towards the group-stages of the Europa Conference League.
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