European Away Days: Derry City vs Kuopion Palloseura

Derry City have touched down in Finland to face Kuopion Palloseura in the second leg of their 2023/24 Europa Conference League second-round qualification tie.

The Candystripes will travel to Väre Areena, a shared 5,000-capacity stadium in the Eastern city of Kuopio.

Ruaidhrí Higgins’s side holds a slim advantage heading into this match. They came back from behind to win the home leg 2-1, courtesy of second-half goals by Will Patching and Cian Kavanagh.

That victory was a shining light in a grim evening for League of Ireland sides in Europe.

With Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk looking extremely likely to crash out of the competition, it’s up to Derry to fly the flag for Irish domestic football in the conference league.

Kuopion Palloseura

KuPS was founded in 1923.

The club came from the ashes of the now-defunct Kuopion Reipas.

Reipas was a general athletic society that competed in several different sports, including skiing, gymnastics, and football.

Following the conclusion of the 3-month Finnish civil war in 1918, friction began to creep its way into the society, and it slowly began to break down during the early 1920s.

This brought KuPS into existence, and the club spent their early years mostly playing friendlies, and competing in amateur district leagues.

They got their first major break in 1930 when they won the Savo district championship. This earned KuPS a promotion to the second-tier of Finnish football, B-sarja, which is now known as Ykkonen.

KuPS kept their place in this division until 1947, this is when they entered the topflight for the first time in their history.

Their first stint in the Mestaruussarja, now known as the Veikkausliiga would last only one season.

However, they would make a swift return and become a regular fixture of the Finnish top division.

KuPS have won the league title six times, most recently in 2019.

They currently hold the top spot in the 2023 standings, but only on goal difference with SJK, HJK Helsinki, and AC Oulu all breathing down their neck for the league title, and a coveted European spot.

European History

Kuopion Palloseura were due to make their European debut in the preliminary round of the 1959/60 European Cup against Eintracht Frankfurt but had to withdraw from the competition.

Their first appearance happened in the same tournament in 1967 when they played Saint-Étienne in the first round, losing 5-0 on aggregate.

KuPS would show up sporadically in the early rounds of the European Cup, UEFA Cup, and Cup Winners’ Cup throughout the decades.

They would face the likes of Club Brugge, Dynamo Kyiv, and even rematch with Saint-Étienne.

After their outing in the 1990/91 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, KuPS would be absent from European competitions for over 20 years due to them falling down the domestic leagues.

They would return for the 2011/12 Europa League and regularly popped up in the qualifying rounds.

Ties against Bursaspor, FC Copenhagen, Legia Warsaw, Slovan Bratislava, Union Berlin, and Young Boys would offer up a mixed bag of results.

Ultimately, while KuPS would make the playoffs, they never made an appearance in the group stage of any UEFA European competition.

Derry City vs KuPS

The Canary’s clash against Derry City was their first game in Europe, due to winning the Finnish Cup in 2022.

It was also the first time they squared up with a League of Ireland team.

Derry City are 90 minutes away from progressing even further in the Europa Conference League. Following the first leg, they’ll have a much better understanding of the dangers within the KuPS squad.

Urho Nissila has bagged six league goals for his side this season, Arttu Heinonen could also be a threat, as he scored a brace in KuPS’s last outing against KTP.

Jasse Tuominen will also be a danger going forward, the nippy winger has been capped 15 times for Finland.

Jake Jervis is also on the books at KuPS. The 31-year-old Englishman has had a solid career playing for the likes of Birmingham City, Ross County, Plymouth Argyle, AFC Wimbledon, and Salford City. With his intimidating frame, he could be an option off the bench if KuPS are still chasing a goal.

Derry City are unbeaten in their last six matches. This run has seen them knock Athlone out of the FAI Cup and HB Torshavn out of the Europa Conference League.

Shamrock Rovers are still leading the way in the Premier Division, but St. Pats, Derry City, and Bohemians are all trying to keep up in the race for the league title and European football.

Either FC Basel or Tobol Kostanay awaits the winners of this tie.
Kazakhstan’s Tobol Kostanay are leading 3-1 from the first leg, but Derry will need to hold back KuPS if they’re to get one step closer to the Europa Conference League group stages.

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