Pat Fenlon: Hibs Euro rivals have advantage

Pat Fenlon says Irish clubs can have an advantage in Europe. Picture: SNS
Pat Fenlon says Irish clubs can have an advantage in Europe. Picture: SNS
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Hibs fans will get their first look at summer signings Liam Craig and Owain Tudur Jones as the Easter Road side begin preparing for their Europa League campaign by travelling to face First Division Dumbarton tomorrow.

The match at the Bet Butler Stadium is the first of four for boss Pat Fenlon’s players before they face either Irish club Drogheda or Swedish outfit Malmo in the second qualifying round of the competition with games against Gibraltar’s national team and Nottingham Forest to follow during next week’s pre-season trip to Spain and Portugal.

Hibs will wrap up their programme of friendly games by taking on Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park but, while happy with the plans he has put in place, Fenlon conceded both Drogheda and Malmo will have the advantage over his players due to the fact their respective League campaigns take place in the summer months.

As a result, Drogheda have already played 17 competitive games and Malmo 14, and, through his own experience, Fenlon knows full well just how beneficial that will be to them.

He said: “Before we switched to summer football in Ireland you always went into Europe as a part-time club with no games under our belts and that caused us a problem as late in games you just ran out of steam.

“But over the past ten years, since switching to summer football, Irish teams in Europe have seen a dramatic increase in positive results. Drogheda and Malmo have already played a number of games and will have played a few more by the time our tie comes along and that is an advantage.

“We’ll have played four friendlies that are not competitive, no matter what way you look at them so we have to make sure the team is set up and physically ready when we play either of them.”

Fenlon’s players have completed “plenty of sessions” at their East Mains training centre since returning last Friday and the Hibs boss acknowledged the help offered by Dumbarton manager, ex-Hibs star Ian Murray, in agreeing to tomorrow’s match. He said: “It’s really early for them but they committed to play the game early because we are in Europe and we have to thank them for that.

“We’ll try to give people a game but we also have to be careful not to pick up knocks or injuries. We’ll manage it as we see it on the day but we will give most of the boys game time.”

Admission to the match is £10 (adults) and £5 (concessions).