Nathan Shepperd says that Dundalk must put thoughts of Europe on the back burner as the Lilywhites prepare to enter a crucial period of the domestic campaign.

Supporters have spent the last couple of days scouring the internet for flights and hotels following Tuesday’s UEFA Europa Conference League first qualifying round draw that paired Dundalk with FC Bruno’s Magpies from Gibraltar.

It will be the first time that a number of Dundalk players, Shepperd included, will taste European club football but the Welshman said his immediate focus was on the small matter of Friday’s Louth Derby against Drogheda United.

The clash at Weaver’s Park marks the start of a four-game period that will also see Dundalk play St Patrick’s Athletic, Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians before the first-leg tie in Gibraltar on July 13th and Shepperd said it was important that the players weren’t distracted by what lay ahead.

“It’s exciting,” said Shepperd. “We all watched the draw live on Tuesday and we’re looking forward to it. It’s a bit mad because it’s only the Premier League back home that gets European football but it’s here for us and that’s great.

“Europe has obviously been the focus for a lot of people this week but we aren’t looking past Friday’s game with Drogheda,” he said. “It’s a derby and it’s always a good atmosphere and a good game up there and we’ll be hoping to come away with the three points.”


Shepperd played a big part in Dundalk’s 1-0 win at Weaver’s Park in March, saving a penalty from SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers Ireland Player of the Month for May, Freddie Draper, after Connor Malley struck the only goal of the game for Stephen O’Donnell’s men.

“It was a good night,” he said. “It wasn’t the prettiest game but that doesn’t really matter sometimes, especially in a derby. Connor scored a great goal and the ending was good as well,” he smiled.

Dundalk went into the mid-season break buoyed by wins over UCD and Cork City, a return that sees them sitting fifth in a very congested SSE Airtricity Men’s Premier Division table, but the Drogs also finished on a high, beating an in-form St Patrick’s Athletic 2-1 in their final outing before the interval.

“It’s always a tough game at Weaver’s Park,” said Dundalk head coach Stephen O’Donnell. “When we beat them up there early in the season, they played very well and they were unlucky to lose.

“We’re aware of the challenge that’s ahead of us but we went into the break on the back of two of our best performances of the season and we’re looking forward to it.”

Team News: With the exception of long-term absentees John Mountney and Robbie Benson, Stephen O’Donnell has a fully fit squad at his disposal.