Shamrock Rovers will make the trip to Hungary to face Ferencvaros in the second qualifying round of the 2023/24 Europa Conference League.
The Hoops will travel to the Groupama Arena, an impressive 22,000-seater stadium in the nation’s capital, Budapest.
Stephen Bradley’s side crashed out of the Champions League, losing 3-1 over two legs against Iceland’s, Breidablik.
This defeat denied them a tie against Danish powerhouse Copenhagen in the Champions League second qualification round. But Rovers can still chase the European dream in the Europa Conference League via the champions pathway.
Ferencvaros were founded in 1899 and have built a stellar record since their inception.
They’re the most successful club in Hungary for domestic and European accolades.
The Hungarian giants were a part of the inaugural topflight division in 1901, now known as OTP Bank Liga. Ferencvaros have been a constant in the top-tier, bar three seasons in the late 2000s when they hit financial difficulties and were denied a license by the Hungarian Football Federation.
They won their first league title in 1903 and would triumph a further 33 times. Ferencvaros are the reigning champions after winning the league in the 2022/23 campaign, earning them their fifth title in a row.
The Green Eagles made their European debut in the 1960/61 European Cup Winners’ Cup preliminary round against Rangers. They were beaten 5-4 on aggregate by the team that would finish second in that year’s competition.
Ferencvaros would continue in the Cup Winners’ Cup until 1994/95, facing the likes of Sparta Prague, Werder Bremen, CSKA Moscow, and Porto.
The 1974/75 edition of the tournament would go down in Hungarian football folklore. Ferencvaros bypassed Cardiff City, Liverpool, Malmo FF, and Red Star Belgrade to reach the final.
Unfortunately, they were comfortably beaten 3-0 by Dynamo Kyiv in Basel, Switzerland.
A decade before, they managed to go a step further by winning the UEFA Inter-Cities Fair Cup. Ferencvaros swatted away Spartak Brno, Wiener Sport-Club, Roma, Athletic Bilbao, and Manchester United on route to the final.
They faced the mighty Juventus on their home soil in Turin. Ferencvaros edged out a 1-0 win, with Mate Fenyvesi bagging the famous winner.
Champions League, UEFA Cup, and Europa League football are a massive part of the club’s European history.
They first appeared in UEFA’s elite competition in 1963, facing Galatasaray in the preliminary round and lost out 4-2 over two legs.
Ferencvaros would go on to face the likes of Panathinaikos, Inter Milan, and Leeds United.
They made their first Champions League group-stage appearance during the 1995/96 campaign. Ferencvaros beat Belgium’s Anderlecht to qualify, and they found themselves in Group D alongside Real Madrid, Grasshopper, and that year’s silver medallist, Ajax.
Ferencvaros finished third, with Madrid and Ajax predictably dominating proceedings.
Group-stage football beckoned once again in the 2020/21 edition of the competition.
Ferencvaros were drawn into Group G with Juventus, Barcelona, and Dynamo Kyiv, finishing bottom after only registering a point.
UEFA CUP/Europa League
They made multiple group-stage appearances in UEFA’s secondary competition, but had to bide their time.
Ferencvaros made their first UEFA Cup outing in 1971 when they faced Fenerbahce in the first round. The Hungarian side beat their Turkish counterparts 4-2 on aggregate, and made it all the way to that year’s semi-finals where they were beaten by Wolves.
Marquee ties against Athletic Bilbao, PSV, Olympiacos, Newcastle United and Stuttgart took place as the decades rolled on.
That debut group-stage showing came in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup.
Ferencvaros defeated Millwall in the first round to progress into Group A with Feyenoord, Basel, Schalke, and Hearts. They finished fourth in an extremely tight group, just three points shy of advancing to the knockout stages.
The revamped Europa League hosted Ferencvaros in the group-stages for the first time in 2019/20. They were involved in Group H beside Espanyol, CSKA Moscow, and Ludogorets, finishing third.
Group-stage action rolled around the following season. This time the Green Eagles were placed into Group G with Bayern Leverkusen, Real Betis, and Celtic, finishing bottom of an admittedly difficult group.
Two seasons later, Ferencvaros went on their most impressive Europa League run.
The Hungary natives topped Group H ahead of Monaco, Trabzonspor, and Red Star Belgrade as they took one step closer to that year’s final in their hometown of Budapest.
However, the round of 16 was their hurdle, as they fell to Germany’s Bayern Leverkusen.
Current European Run
Like Shamrock Rovers, Ferencvaros have dropped down from the Champions League.
They were surprisingly dumped out by Faroe Island’s KI Klaksvik in the first round of qualification, and will now make their Europa Conference League debut.
This tie isn’t an introduction to League of Ireland sides for Ferencvaros throughout their European adventures.
They faced Bohemians in the first qualifying round of the 1997/98 UEFA Cup and battered them 6-0 on aggregate.
Shamrock Rovers first came onto the radar of Ferencvaros in the 2022/23 Europa League play-off round. The Hungarians came out victorious 4-1 over two legs, this will give the Green Eagles a massive confidence boost ahead of their upcoming tie.
Stephen Bradley’s side will understandably come into this encounter as underdogs.
Shamrock Rovers vs Ferencvaros
Ferencvaros have a historic back catalogue of Hungarian talent that represented the club, including Florian Albert, who won the Ballon d’Or when playing for the club in 1967.
Today, it’s a squad crammed with a diverse batch of international talent.
Former Everton midfielder Muhamed Besic is on the books but failed to appear in the side’s first two European run-outs.
Moroccan brothers Samy and Ryan Mmaee, Bosnian Amer Goji, Israeli Mohammad Abu Fani, and Mali’s Adama Traore are all vastly experienced at the international level.
While David Siger, Ender Botka, and Denes Dibusz are all regular fixtures of Hungary’s senior national team.
The 28-year-old, Barnabas Varga finished the 2022/23 OTP Bank Liga season as leading goal-scorer. The Hungarian international finished with a tally of 26 for his former side Paksi FC, earning himself a move to Ferencvaros at the start of June.
Shamrock Rovers are on course to win their fourth consecutive league title but aren’t enjoying the rub of the green.
The Dubliners are winless in their previous five matches.
Most recently, suffering a 1-0 defeat to a ten-man Dundalk side in the FAI Cup, and of course, fell out of the Champions League against Breidablik.
The luck of the draw certainly wasn’t on their side in the Europa Conference League, but if they’re to overcome Ferencvaros, they’ll face the winners of Hamrun Spartans FC of Malta, or Georgia’s Dinamo Tbilisi.
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