FAI Cup holders Dundalk begin their European odyssey on Thursday evening at Oriel Park as they get set to host Welsh side Newtown (kick-off is at 5.45pm).
So who are Newtown?
Newtown are one of the oldest football clubs in Wales and have been in existence since 1875.
The club are a founding member of the Welsh FA – and are one of two Welsh sides who have had an unbroken association with their football pyramid since its establishment in 1992.
The club have won two Welsh Cup’s, although they have not won one since 1895, eight years before Dundalk were founded in 1903.
Their most recent Welsh Cup final came in 2015 where they were defeated by TNS 2-0.
Newtown are like the Lilywhites in the sense that both clubs have 3G pitches.
Their manager, Chris Jones, is a UEFA Pro License holder and has been in charge of Newtown since 2013.
He also played for the club in the 1990s as a goalkeeper and has also played in Europe as a player with the club.
By trade, Jones was Sports Development Officer before taking up a role at Glyndwr University as a lecturer.
What European pedigree do Newtown have?
In comparison to Dundalk, Newtown have limited European pedigree, although they are not complete unknowns to European competition.
Their last European campaign saw them reach the second qualifying round after a historic first ever two-legged tie win over Valetta of Malta in the previous round.
They also played in the UEFA Cup in 1996 and 1998, but they lost both of those ties against Skonto FC and Wisla Krakow 7-1 and 7-0 respectively.
Their last European game was against Copenhagen in 2015 where they lost 5-1 on aggregate.
Who to watch out for?
Despite a Covid-19 outbreak threatening to plunge their European preparations into chaos, Newtown have a serious task on their hands if they are humble Dundalk.
But they do have a number of players who are more than capable of causing problems to the Lilywhites who have struggled for much of the 2021 campaign.
Pacy forward Lifumpa Mwandwe is one in particular who can cause Vinny Perth’s side problems.
The former Shrewsbury Town academy graduate can play on the wing or up front, and joined the club after a successful loan during the 2019/20 season.
Central defender Shane Sutton is one of the club’s few surving members from their famous European run in 2015 that saw them reach the second qualifying round of the Europa League.
Since then, Sutton has played in the English non-league with Telford United before re-joining Newtown midway through last season.
Who will the winners face in the European Conference League second qualifying round?
The winners of this tie will take on the winners of the European Conference League first-round tie between Estonian side Levadia Tallinn and Gibraltarian outfit St Joseph’s.
What are Newtown’s recent results?
Newtown are in pre-season, but their preparations for Thursday’s game have been heavily hampered with a Covid-19 outbreak in their squad.
They are expected to be without four squad members for Thursday’s game, with three testing positive for Covid-19 and one being a close contact.
Newtown were due to play Bala Town in a friendly before Thursday’s game versus the Lilywhites, but that clash was cancelled as a result.
Who is the match official for this tie?
San Marino referee Barbeno Luca will be the man in the middle at Oriel Park for Thursday’s first-leg tie while the second-leg will be officiated by Romanian referee Andrei Chivulete.
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