League of Ireland clubs ‘not’ in Europe – What did those teams who knocked the LOI sides out of Europe this year go on to do in their Euro campaign?

Breidablik knocked Shamrock Rovers out of the Champions League qualifiers while Dudelange defeated St. Patrick's Athletic in the Europa Conference League

Breidablik knocked Shamrock Rovers out of the Champions League qualifiers while Dudelange defeated St. Patrick's Athletic in the Europa Conference League Credit: Peter Fitzpatrick (left) and Conor Ryan (right)

All four League of Ireland clubs came up short in their attempt to qualify for European group stage football this year.

So how did the clubs who knocked Shamrock Rovers, Derry City, Dundalk and St. Patrick’s Athletic fair after eliminating the Irish clubs from each competition.

Shamrock Rovers (Breidablik and Ferencvaros)

The Hoops were defeated in two European competitions in 2023. In the Champions League qualifiers they lost to Breidablik and then in Europa Conference League qualifiers were knocked out by Ferencvaros.


The Icelandic Premier League champions Breidablik earned a place in the first round of the Champions League qualifiers against the Hoops by coming through the preliminary round – they hosted and won the four team qualifying tournament in their home ground in Kópavogur, just south of Reykjavik.

The first leg against the Hoops took place in Tallaght Stadium. Rovers struggled to get any momentum in the game, finding the high press of the Breidablik wingers very tough to deal with. The two teams were separated on the night by Damir Muminovic’s 39th minute wonder strike.

In the second leg, Jason Svanthorsson’s run from the halfway line carving through the Shamrock Rovers defence put the home side 1-0 up. Just before the hour mark, a well worked corner resulted in captain Hoskuldur Gunnlaugsson’s shot evading everyone.

Graham Burke’s VAR awarded penalty on 65 minutes, Rovers’ only goal scored in July, served as a mere consolation as the Hoops crashed out of the Champions League qualifiers.

Breidablik drew FC Copenhagen in the next round, with the first leg taking place in front of another sold out crowd in the Kópavogur Stadium. They lost the first leg 2-0 leaving themselves an uphill battle in the second leg.

In the reverse fixture in the Danish capital, Svanthorsson’s volley inside ten minutes gave the away fans hope. But all hopes were extinguished by half time, as the hosts went into the break 4-1 ahead.

Icelandic striker Orri Oskarsson did most of the destruction, scoring twice more in the second half to complete his hattrick, either side of two goals from Breidablik making the score 6-3 on the night and 8-3 on aggregate.

Breidablik dropped into the third qualifying round of the Europa League but their run in that competition was short lived. They were defeated 6-2 away to Zrinjski of Bosnia and Herzegovina although they did win the second leg 1-0

Then they entered the Europa Conference League play-off round, where one two-legged tie victory would be enough to make the group stage. Breidablik beat Struga from North Macedonia 1-0 both home and away to become the first Icelandic side to make UEFA group stage football.

In the group stages they were drawn with Gent, Robbie Keane’s Maccabi Tel Aviv and Ukrainian side Zorya, but finished bottom of Group B losing all six matches. Suffering a 5-0 loss away to Gent and 3-2 at home, losing 2-1 and 3-2 to the Israeli side and most recently a 4-0 defeat away to Zorya, having lost 1-0 at home.

Domestically, Breidablik, who also play a summer season, finished fourth in the Icelandic Premier League, earning them a Europa Conference League qualifier spot for next season.


Having lost to Breidablik, the Hoops dropped into the second qualifying round of the Europa Conference League. For the second consecutive season, the SSE Airtricity Premier Division champions were drawn against the winners of the OTP Bank Liga in Hungary.

In 2022, Rovers faced Ferencvaros in the Europa League play-off round, losing out 4-1 on aggregate.

This year Rovers and Ferencvaros would face off once again but this time in the Europa Conference League qualifiers.

The Hungarian side ended up in the qualifying second round after a huge upset in the Champions League qualifiers at the hands of Faroese side Klaksvik in their fairytale journey through Europe – they went to pick up four points the group stages of the Europa Conference League.

Naturally, Ferencvaros were angered by that result, and the Hoops fell victim to this with a 4-0 thumping in Budapest for the second straight year for Rovers.

In Tallaght for the second leg, expectations were low, and the football played by Rovers reflected that, going 1-0 down after 31 minutes. A 90th minute goal for Ferencvaros sealed the stamp on Shamrock Rovers’ exit from European football for 2023, bowing out 6-0 on aggregate.

Ferencvaros’ journey was far from over, still needing to win two more rounds of qualifiers if they were to make group stage football for the fourth year running. Next up was Maltese champions Hamrun, who defeated Dinamo Tbilisi of Georgia the previous round.

Ferencvaros did not want a repeat of their disastrous Champions League qualifier, and crushed Tbilisi 6-1 in the first leg in Ta’Qali. Barnabas Varga scored a 13 minute, second-half hat-trick to put the icing on a dominant display from the Hungarians.

Despite taking an early lead in Budapest through Joseph Mbong, the Maltese squad were brushed aside.

The Hungarian champions continued to show no mercy in the play-off round where they took on Lithuanian side Zalgiris.

They won 3-0 away and followed by more goals from Adama Traore and Barnabas Varga (who combined scored six of the seven goals in this tie) in the home leg to complete a 7-0 aggregate victory to secure their place in the Europa Conference League group stage with relative ease.

Ferencvaros landed a tough group, with Belgian champions Genk, Italian side Fiorentina, and Cukaricki of Serbia. However, they coped very well, going unbeaten in the group stage with two wins against Cukaricki, two draws against Fiorentina and Genk, putting them second in the group.

Qualifying for the knockout stage, the Hungarians were drawn against Greek side Olympiakos.

Back home, Ferencvaros have won the OTP Bank Liga five years in a row and are aiming to make it a sixth this year, but currently stand in second place behind Paksi.

Derry City (Tobol Kostanay)

The Candystripes were the most successful League of Ireland club in European qualifiers this year, getting back-to-back wins against Faroese side HB Torshavn and KuPS of Finland.

In the third qualifying round of the Europa Conference League qualifiers, the FAI Cup winners from 2022 faced Tobol Kostanay from Kazakhstan.

The first leg in the Centralnyj Stadion, was a very tight affair, with multiple chances at either end. Brian Maher had to make crucial saves during the game, but it would not be enough to avoid defeat.

Roman Asrankulov’s goal meant the hosts would take a 1-0 aggregate lead into the second leg which was held in Tallaght Stadium.

In that second leg, the football was of similar quality, with an early Will Patching penalty levelling the tie for the Candystripes to take the game beyond the 90 minutes. In extra-time there were chances but with, none were taken, the tie was decided on penalties.

The first eight were cooly converted before, Ben Doherty failed to score leaving Jovan Ilic with a chance to be the hero. However, Ilic also missed his spot-kick and they continued. Cian Kavanagh scored, and so did Bojan Mladjovic.

A brave call was made for goalkeeper Brian Maher to take Derry’s seventh penalty but that was saved by the opposition keeper, sending Derry City out of European football for 2023.

Tobol’s victory earned them a date with Viktoria Plzen from the Czech Republic with the first leg held in Kazakhstan. The visitors broke the deadlock on 73 minutes through Brazilian midfielder Cadu. Their lead was doubled 17 minutes after through Lukas Kalvach.

There was a ray of hope for Kostanay as a 98th minute penalty for Serges Deble, provided only a one goal deficit in the second leg.

Travelling to the city of Plzen provided difficult Tobol as they registered two shots in the entire match, in a 3-0 defeat that saw them exit Europe.

So there would be no group stage football for Tobol Kostanay, and European football for 2024 was looking far away for them, finishing in eighth place and 16 points from a European spot.

However, they secured European football through a victory in the final of the Kazakhstan Cup, defeating reigning champions Ordabasy 1-0 in November.

Dundalk (KA Akureyri)

Dundalk had an excellent start in European qualifiers, winning 3-1 against Gibraltar’s Magpies. The next round saw them drawn against KA Akureyri from Iceland who had knocked out Welsh side Connah’s Quay in convincing fashion in the previous round.

The opening leg was held in the 2,000 capacity Akureyrarvollur with a fantastic atmosphere. A frantic end to the first half saw four goals scored in 15 minutes. The home side took a 3-1 lead into the break, through a Sveinn Hauksson brace after Daniel Kelly equalised for the Lilywhites.

3-1 it would stay for the next 45 minutes, and the Icelandic side would carry a two-goal advantage to Louth the following week.

Dundalk were slow off the mark in this encounter, conceding just 14 minutes into the game. They equalised through John Martin’s well taken strike later in the first half. Needing three goals to go through, the task was made impossible when Akueyri winger Hallgrimur Steingrimsson slotted home a penalty. A late consolation from Greg Sloggett made the score more respectable but Dundalk were defeated 5-3 on aggregate to the Icelandic side.

After knocking Dundalk out of the Europa Conference League qualifiers, Akureyri had the difficult task of facing Belgian outfit Club Brugge with the first leg away. A completely dominant first half display from the home team saw them 4-0 ahead when the referee blew for the break.

Despite the visitors scoring once, so would Brugge, finishing 5-1 and giving Akureyri an uphill battle for the second leg.

In front of 935 people in their home stadium, the scoreline emulated that of the first leg. Falling 3-0 behind before the hour mark, and the game would once again end 5-1.

The loss would be a reflection of how their domestic campaign would finish - ending up in the Icelandic Premier Division’s relegation group and seventh place and they were beaten by Vikingur Reykjavik in the final of the Icelandic cup competition.

St. Patrick’s Athletic (F91 Dudelange)

Luxembourg’s F91 Dudelange were drawn against St Patricks Athletic in the first qualifying round in the Europa League Conference

A chaotic tie ensued beginning in the Stade Jos Nosbaum in Luxembourg. The hosts opened the scoring midway through the first half and doubled their lead just after the hour mark. The travelling support would get something to cheer about when Mark Doyle got a late goal to keep their hopes alive.

One goal is all that separated them heading to Inchicore, but when Oege van Lingen opened the scoring after nine minutes, the task became that much harder. Although there was restored hope as Dudelange shot-stopper Didier Desprez conceded a rather bizarre own goal, followed by an Adam Murphy goal in the second half to level the tie.

Not long after however Dudelange were back in front and added another to give Oege van Lingen a hattrick, and a 5-3 win for Dudelange.

A win in Richmond Park had to be backed up by a huge performance against Gzira of Malta in the next round if they were to progress deeper into Europe. This performance would not come however as Gzira prevailed 2-0 and Dudelange lost forward Yahcuroo Roemer for the second leg after picking up two yellow cards.

A brace from Frenchman Samir Hadji, the second of which came in the 84th minute, got them level late on. The elation would not last long as Gzira would score just three minutes after to send Dudelange out of European qualifiers.

A good run of form domestically sees Dudelange sit second in Luxembourg’s topflight at the midway point in the season.

However, in the cup competition, they were eliminated in the second round by league leaders Differdange. This leaves the league as their only chance of European football for next season.