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Swifts seek spark at Windsor Park

Having earned a UEFA Cup place despite a painful domestic cup final defeat, Dungannon Swifts FC hope for a happy return to Windsor Park against FK Sūduva.

After just ten years in the Northern Irish top flight, Dungannon Swifts FC are starting to become European regulars - quite a feat given that the same three or four sides tend to dominate football in the country. They fell foul of Icelandic outfit Keflavík on their European debut - a 2006 UEFA Intertoto Cup tie - but hope to make a better impression against Lithuania's FK Sūduva tonight.

Nyon trip
Assistant coach Terry McRory attended the UEFA Cup draw in Nyon and was impressed. "Regardless of whether you represented Dungannon Swifts or AC Milan, you were treated exactly the same," he said. "It was nice to rub shoulders with many of the greats in the game, but even more important is the fact that it brought home to me the enormity of what this club has achieved in qualifying."

Painful final
The Tyrone team earned their shot at Europe despite being beaten by league champions Linfield FC in the domestic cup final at Windsor Park, but only the hardest Swifts-hater would begrudge them their chance. After all, the unfancied side took the Blues all the way to a penalty shoot-out in that final, the game having ended 2-2 after extra time, and only lost after leading 2-0 on spot-kicks.

Guiding hand
The club's progress has been an example to all smaller teams as they continue to make up for a lack of finances by producing their own players through their renowned youth system. Much of the groundwork with the young players has been done by 'Mr Dungannon Swifts', Joe McAree, who is now the club's general manager after several spells as manager, the most recent ending last summer.

Superb display
McAree, who is currently in Canada where Swifts teams are competing in an international youth tournament, took the outsiders to fourth-placed league finishes in 2004/05 and 2005/06 - an amazing achievement given the limited resources available to the Stangmore Park side. That earned them a place in the cross-border Setanta Cup, but the UEFA Cup is a much bigger deal.

Unhappy home
Ground requirements mean Harry Fay's side have to play Sūduva at Windsor Park, but McRory has asked Sūduva to do their best to lure members of Northern Ireland's sizeable Lithuanian community to the game. "It would be nice to see a big crowd, but it remains to be seen whether they will get the message - or heed it," he said.