Mixed emotions for returning Boyle
It was a night of mixed emotions for Dundalk defender Andy Boyle on Wednesday night as the Lilywhites made their UEFA Champions League return with a 0-0 draw against a resolute Riga FC.
On a tense night in the stands and on the pitch, Boyle was introduced at half-time for the injured Chris Shields to make his first appearance at Oriel Park since rejoining the Lilywhites at the start of July.
The 28-year-old was delighted to make his return to both Oriel Park and Champions League football, but was left frustrated by the outcome on the pitch.
“It’s a frustrated dressing room,” said Boyle. “It was hard. I don’t think we created as much as we would have liked. They came and were probably happy with the draw – the way they setup.
“We had an idea that’s how they’d play. They were cynical at times but that’s part of European football. The main thing is that we haven’t conceded the away goal and we’re looking forward to next week.
“We’ll dust ourselves down over the next couple of days re-analyse the game and what we think we can do better and where we think we can hurt them.”
Named on the substitutes’ bench, Boyle made his Oriel Park return sooner than he would have anticipated, following a nasty clash of heads between Chris Shields and Daniel Cleary.
With Shields unable to reappear after half-time thanks to a facial injury he sustained in the clash, Boyle stepped out for the second half to a great ovation on his return.
“It’s great to be back in Champions League football and it’s nice to be back in Oriel Park playing – I got a great welcome from the fans,” he said.
“It was really unfortunate what happened to Chris obviously but it was great to be back playing. I really enjoyed it and it was nice to get a clean sheet. It would have been great to get a late winner but it wasn’t to be.”
A tense first leg at home is not unheard of in recent European campaigns, but Vinny Perth’s squad have a terrific record of scoring on the road. In 12 away ties since 2014, the Lilywhites have failed to score on only two occasions – BATE in 2016 and Larnaca last year – and Boyle is confident that they can grab an important away goal in Riga next week.
“Sometimes the away legs have suited us a bit better, because the home team has come out a bit more – they’re under a bit of pressure from their own fans to play a bit more offensively,” said the Dubliner.
“We’ve always had top players at the right end of the pitch that can score goals and this year is no different. We’ve so much talent there. If we can keep a clean sheet or limit them to very few chances, we know lads at the top end of the pitch that can always get us goals.”
With the possibility of another memorable European trip on the horizon, Boyle is in no doubt that Dundalk’s travelling contingent will descend upon Riga in great numbers next week, which he knows will be a huge boost to the team on matchday.
“You can’t underestimate the power of that support, especially away fans,” said Boyle. “Some of the away trips I remember we had massive support. Thinking back to AZ [in 2016], I think we took a thousand, which is amazing support.
“Those who make it, hopefully we can share another joyous moment. They were great tonight and we need more of that out there.
“Whether people are watching out there or on TV back at home, hopefully we can give them something to shout about.”
Dundalk supporters planning to travel to Riga can now purchase their tickets for the game online. Find out how to secure your ticket.