Former Republic of Ireland player Pat Byrne can have few regrets from a career in which he played in three countries, sampled international football and won league titles as a player and manager.
Yet the Shamrock Rovers FC legend believes the current ensemble are better equipped to compete on the European stage than the great Hoops side which won four successive titles in the 1980s. The Dublin club meet FC København in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first leg on Wednesday, the trip to Denmark a reward for their 1-0 aggregate win against FC Flora Tallinn.
"Rovers will go with a very professional and serious approach and I'm confident they can give a good account of themselves," Byrne told UEFA.com. "They will be very well prepared. Irish teams now prepare better in terms of travelling; they have more time to adjust and acclimatise."
It is the club's second major European tie in 12 months, having met Juventus in UEFA Europa League qualifying last season. These are the games that Byrne − who managed Rovers between 1996-97 − missed out on in his playing days at the club.
Byrne was a key member of the team which dominated Irish football from 1984-87 and produced fellow Republic of Ireland players Liam Buckley, Liam O'Brien and Jacko McDonagh. Despite their domestic dominance, Rovers exited the European Champion Clubs' Cup at the first hurdle every year during their four-in-a-row success.
"We can have no excuses − we were beaten by some better sides," added Byrne. "We could have done better but Europe just didn't happen for us. That Rovers team of the '80s was a very attacking side in general; we liked to go at teams. We carried that approach into European ties but it just didn't work out for us. Maybe we were naive to play like that in Europe but that's how we were. We had one or two near misses. [Against] Celtic was probably the closest we went. We deserved a lot more out of that tie but they beat us 3-0 [on aggregate] in 1986."
As for the class of 2011, how does Byrne think they will fare against a team which fell to Chelsea FC in the round of 16 last season? "
FC København is a massive challenge for Rovers, they are in with the big boys, but the great thing is that Rovers will look forward to the challenge. They have nothing to lose and all the pressure is on the Danes.
"The Rovers players will go out there and enjoy the occasion; they will give it a go. This Rovers team is playing better in UEFA competition this season than they are domestically. They looked very good against Flora Tallinn in the second qualifying round, especially away from home.
Their performance in Tallinn was the best I have seen them play away this season; they were excellent. They have been very impressive in Europe over the last two seasons and I hope that will continue."
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