Success at home yet failure abroad has been the story for Sligo Rovers FC in recent seasons. The Irish Cup winners have faith none the less that the 2014/15 campaign could finally see them make an impact in UEFA competition.
"It would be a major achievement for the club if we can get past Rosenborg and into the next round," Sligo goalkeeper Gary Rogers told UEFA.com ahead of their UEFA Europa League second qualifying round decider on Thursday.
Since earning top-flight status in 2005 after six years in the second division, Rovers have spoiled their fans, winning six major trophies in the last five seasons. However, the Bit O'Red have been unable to repeat that in Europe, exiting UEFA competition at the first hurdle in four successive campaigns from 2009 to 2013.
Thus, a defeat of Lithuanian side FK Banga in the first qualifying round was a notable feat, a 4-0 home win the club's first in Europe since 1994. That secured Sligo a second qualifying round tie with Rosenborg and the Irish club, who are effectively the only full-time professional outfit in the country, shocked the Norwegians with a 2-1 win in Trondheim.
"It's hard to explain why this club has been so successful domestically but struggled to make an impact in Europe," Rogers explained. "I had the opposite experience when I was with St Patrick's in 2009/10. We had brilliant wins in the Europa League, we knocked out Valetta and Krylya Sovetov Samara but couldn't win games in our domestic league.
"With Sligo, when we played against Spartak Trnava and Molde in recent seasons – we went straight into the second qualifying round and right away we were up against strong opposition. But by competing in the first qualifying round this season we were able to get two games under our belts and build up momentum that took us into the Rosenborg game."
Sligo have coped well this term despite turmoil and injury problems. Manager Ian Baraclough, who led the side to domestic glory in 2012, left in June after a poor run of form and his successor, John Coleman, had overseen just one league fixture before facing Banga. Coleman has also had to deal with a crippling injury list that has seen talisman Joseph Ndo sidelined since April, while veteran defender Gavin Peers has played just once in 2014.
Sligo will have a full house at their Showgrounds home for the Rosenborg return, but progress is all that matters. "This is my fifth season in UEFA competition and the stand-out game for me was at St Patrick's when we beat Krylya Sovetov at home," said Rodgers. "But it only meant something because we won the tie and made it to the next round."
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