Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny hopes European success continues vs. Zenit
Dundalk could help finance a new stadium from their remarkable run in European football, according to manager Stephen Kenny.
The newly-crowned League of Ireland champions include an electrician and an architect among their ranks as they face off in the snows of Russia against the former UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg.
The Baltic side boast 17 internationals following expansive support from giant energy company Gazprom and will pose Dundalk's sternest test yet in Thursday night's Europa League Group D clash.
But the Lilywhites' Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle were on Wednesday called into the Republic of Ireland squad to face Austria in a World Cup qualifier.
Kenny said it was an exciting time for the team as they prepared to face glittering and cosmopolitan opposition.
"I do think that now that we are here and have to come to St Petersburg and it is heavy snow, that is part of the attraction -- that is quite exciting for us,'' Kenny said. "This is a new experience for a lot of the players and it is to be embraced and encouraged.''
They will play at Zenit's ageing stadium on the Petrovsky Island in the centre of Russia's westernmost city. It follows a pan-European odyssey through the early stages of the Champions League and the Europa League.
The Lilywhites are in second place in Group D, trailing their hosts who kept a 100 percent record by bouncing back from 1-0 behind to win 2-1 in Dublin last month.
Dutch outfit AZ Alkmaar are bottom but can draw equal with Dundalk on four points if they beat Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv. The Israelis can take second place if they win at home.
Zenit are building a new stadium which will be ready for the 2018 World Cup, while Dundalk have been seeking backing for a new ground for some time.
Their dangerous forward David McMillan is an architect.
Kenny said: "We want him to score the goals to finance the new stadium and then design the plans as well. The club will want to build a new stadium now -- that is part of the development of the club.
"It is an old stadium, it needs renovating. I am sure it would do no harm, the European run we have had will go towards that I am sure.''
His team have played 53 matches in 36 weeks and face tough conditions on Thursday, but Kenny said the team fitness is good and they should be up to the task.
Kenny added: "We see it as part of the challenge for us to do well.''
He welcomed international call-ups for two key players.
"That shows that we are doing something right,'' said Kenny.
Three players are out injured -- Shane Grimes, Danny Meenan and Robbie Benson.
Meanwhile, Zenit manager Mircea Lucescu has warned that his side's Irish opponents in the Europa League will be playing with abandon and are not to be taken lightly.
The Russians' veteran Romanian coach said: "I expect tomorrow to be a very difficult match. They have nothing to lose -- only to win. Zenit have a lot of things to lose in this.''
Lucescu said Dundalk played well when they drew with Dutch outfit AZ Alkmaar and beat Israelis Maccabi Tel Aviv during earlier Group D games, as well as for 70 minutes in the first fixture against Zenit in Dublin.
Lucescu said Dundalk did not play in a British style, but more in a European fashion.
"It will not be easy. The players are really skilful,'' he said. "It is a good team, a serious team.''
Zenit are full of attacking threat. Russian international striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov said he was aiming to help his side win and was feeling fit and confident.
He acknowledged that Dundalk played powerful football and said the first match was difficult.
He said: "We have great expectations and have a good standing. The aim for tomorrow is to win -- just to win."