Louie Annesley says that Dundalk will pay Bruno’s Magpies the utmost respect when the sides meet in the UEFA Europa Conference League.
The first qualifying round tie, which will be played on July 13th and July 20th, sees a League of Ireland side take on Gibraltarian opposition for the very first time in European club football.
Formed in 2013, Bruno’s Magpies won the Rock Cup and finished third in the Gibraltar National League last season, and Annesley knows more than most about what Dundalk will be facing.
Five of the Gibraltar squad that the 23-year-old was involved in for the EURO 2024 Qualifiers against France and the Republic of Ireland over the past week play for Bruno’s and Annesley said Dundalk should take nothing for granted against a club ranked 415th in the UEFA club coefficients.
“We watched the draw together and we’re all buzzing and excited for it,” he said. “Being a Gibraltarian team makes it a little bit more special for me and I’ll be playing against a few of the boys who I’ve just been on the international camp with. I have a bit of inside info about them that I’ll be able to pass on to the gaffer.
“They’ll be a good team. They have players from Spain, Gibraltar and from England, a variety of nationalities, so by no means is it going be an easy game for us but we’ll prep it like any other game, to go out and win.”
The first-leg tie at the Victoria Stadium in Gibraltar on Thursday, July 13th will be the 91st time that Dundalk have taken part in a European fixture, whereas for the Magpies, it will be just their third.
The club marked their European debut with a memorable 2-1 win over Crusaders in the first qualifying round of the ECL last year but the Belfast side recovered in the second leg at Seaview, winning 3-1 on the night to secure a 4-3 aggregate win.
“They deservedly won the first leg in Gibraltar and that shows that they’re a good side,” said Annesley. “We’re going to have to respect them and make sure we’re ready for the game because it’s not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination.”
The former Blackburn Rovers defender was speaking less than 24 hours after he produced a fine display for his country in the 3-0 defeat against the Republic of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.
It was Annesley’s 37th cap for Gibraltar and saw him become the first League of Ireland player to face the Republic of Ireland, which he acknowledged was a nice stat, even if the result didn’t go his way!
“It was a tough night at the Aviva and we were disappointed with the second half but we’re developing with every game we play. From a personal level, I was really, really happy to get through 90 minutes after being back for less than seven weeks.
“If you had told me seven or eight weeks ago that I would’ve played three 90-minute games and a 30-minute game, I would have said there was no chance. Twelve weeks ago I couldn’t even walk!
“I’ve come a long way and that is a testament to everyone here at the club. Danny Miller and the medical staff have worked hard and I have worked hard so I just have to continue now because we have loads of games coming up now and everyone’s got to be ready.”
Miller also doubles up as the Republic of Ireland’s physio and he presented Annesley with a nice gift afterwards in the form of a green jersey!
“It was Nathan Collins’ shirt,” revealed Annesley. “Matching centre-back obviously! A good player.
“I got another centre-back’s shirt, Dayot Upamecano, against France and I also have Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong’s from our games against Holland.
“The Gibraltar boys were sharp after the game with France,” he added. “I was switched off. I looked around everyone was nicking jerseys. I thought ‘That’s me’ but then I spoke to Upamecano afterwards and he was a nice fellow.”