Dundalk will make the trip to Iceland to face KA Akureyri in the second qualifying round of the 2023/24 Europa Conference League.
The Lilywhites will travel to Greifavöllurinn, a compact ground in the Northern fishing port town of Akureyri.
Stephen O’Donnell’s side earned safe passage from the first round of qualification after beating Gibraltar’s Bruno’s Magpies 3-1 over two legs.
A cagey 0-0 draw in the opening leg left the return home tie wide open.
Dundalk flexed their attacking muscles in Oriel Park, winning the game 3-1, and putting themselves in the draw for the next round.
KA Akureyri was founded in 1928.
Despite this, the club has a surprising lack of documented history, and what is available doesn’t reflect a glittering wealth of success.
KA currently plays in the top tier of Iceland’s footballing system, Besta deild karla.
They won their only topflight title in 1989 on the final day of the season.
FH entered the last fixture with a marginal lead but failed to beat the already relegated, Fylkir.
This handed KA Akureyri their first piece of silverware in 20 years, two decades after their Icelandic Cup triumph in 1969.
Shortly after becoming league champions, Akureyri would win the annual season curtain-raiser, the Icelandic Super Cup. The Community Shield-like trophy is the last major accolade they’ve added to their trophy cabinet.
KA Akureyri is in sixth place in the current Besta deild karla campaign. With the Icelandic league becoming quite competitive, Akureyri will need a fantastic final stretch if they’re to keep making appearances in European competitions.
KA Akureyri made their European debut in the first round of the 1970/71 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. They faced FC Zurich and were battered 14-1 on aggregate.
They would have to wait 20 years to resume their European adventures. KA clashed with CSKA Sofia in the first round of the European Cup. Once again, they fell at the first hurdle, losing 3-1 over two legs.
An appearance in the 2003 UEFA Intertoto Cup would be their next outing in Europe. They came up against the Bosnian side, Sloboda Tuzia, and agonisingly missed out on progressing to the next round on penalties.
The Iceland natives are currently enjoying their most fruitful European run.
They dumped out Connah’s Quay Nomads from Wales. Akureyri comfortably won the tie 4-0 on aggregate, setting them up with Dundalk and their first experience with League of Ireland opposition.
Dundalk vs KA Akureyri
This is a fantastic opportunity for Dundalk to advance further in the Europa Conference League and gain a healthy injection of financial reward. However, as Shamrock Rovers found out, Icelandic opposition should be overlooked at one’s peril.
KA Akureyri attacking talents Daniel Hafsteinsson, and Steinþór Freyr Þorsteinsson have both been capped at the international level for Iceland.
Bjarni Adalsteinsson is another homegrown player for Dundalk to keep an eye on. The 23-year-old is the team’s top goal-scorer in the current season, his four league goals won’t have Erling Haaland sweating anytime soon, but Hallgrimur Steingrimsson and Asgeir Sigurgeirsson will complement him in their preferred 4-3-3 formation.
Harley Willard will also look to make an impression off the bench. The former Arsenal and Southampton youth product ply his trade in Iceland following a career in the English lower leagues, Sweden and Cambodia.
KA Akureyri has been home to several notable players throughout the years.
Þorvaldur Örlygsson spent almost a decade in England playing for Nottingham Forrest, Stoke City, and Oldham Athletic. He even made 20 Premier League appearances for Forrest in the inaugural 1992/93 season.
Dean Martin may also be a name familiar to Bohemians supporters of a certain vintage. The Englishman was a part of the esteemed West Ham academy and has played for the likes of Colchester United and Brentford.
During his well-traveled career, he played for Bohs during the 1998 campaign, only lining out for the North Dubliners three times.
Dundalk will be bouncing coming into this tie.
The Louth outfit are fresh off their 1-0 to Shamrock Rovers in the FAI Cup. Winning the FAI Cup could be their most likely route to European football next season, with Shamrock Rovers, St. Patrick’s Athletic, Derry City, and Bohemians all ahead of them in the league standings.
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