In what instantly becomes the feel good story of the tournament, Irish Premier Division champion Dundalk advanced to the playoff stage of the UEFA Champions League. The Lilywhites defeated Bate Borisov of Belarus 3-1 on aggregate and have secured at a minimum a place in the Europa League.
Dundalk entered the match trailing 1-0 on aggregate and were forced to play the match in Tallaght Stadium instead of their home field. A late first half goal by David McMillan gave the home side life, and it was only about 15 more minutes until the Lilywhites took the lead for good. Rather than hunker down and protect the lead, substitute Robbie Benson added a late third goal to ice the tie.
Dundalk now advances to the UEFA Champions League playoff, which is the final round before the more well-known group stage. One big advantage they now have is they enter the champions pot, composed of league champions. That means they will avoid facing Manchester City, A.S. Roma, or Porto in this round and the biggest name they could face would be Celtic (currently in a 1-1 tie). The draw will take place Friday and, even if Dundalk loses in the next round, they are guaranteed a place in the Europa League.
Oh, and they make a cool €6 million with the win.
The Lilywhites are the most successful team in the League of Ireland Premier Division history, in terms of trophies won. They are not strangers to European competition, although their record in the Champions League is an underwhelming three wins, four draws, and 12 losses. That record does not include the now famous 14-0 aggregate loss to Liverpool in the UEFA Cup.
The club plays its matches at Oriel Park and have resided there since 1936. Despite recent renovations, its facilities are considered some of the worst in the League of Ireland, hence the recent match being played in Dublin.