Keith O’Hara wants Portadown’s European adventure to leave a tangible legacy, even if it ends in Azerbaijan tomorrow night.
And that means using the momentum gathered from the club’s first European success in 35 years to mount a serious challenge for the Premiership title when the season starts for real in just over two weeks time.
O’Hara has won the lot in 11 years as a Portadown player and after tasting European victory for the first time when Ronnie |McFall’s side sent Skonto Riga spinning out of the Europa League a fortnight ago, he is hungrier than ever to bring glory back to Shamrock Park.
Another European victory is the aim in the meantime though, with the Ports trying to turn around a 2-1 deficit against Qarabag tomorrow night.
“This is a great time to be at the club,” said O’Hara.
“With the dressing rooms and everything else complete the new stand is now fully up and running and that plus winning in Europe has given everyone a boost.
“There is a good feeling about the place and now the target is to win things.
“Ronnie McFall has been at the club a long time, but he’s never lost his hunger. Winning still drives him and this experience we’ve gained in Europe will do a lot for us going into the season.
“People will probably tip us to do well after winning in Europe. I’m not saying that we’re going to go out and win the league because of that, but we’ll be doing all we can to challenge and that has to be the aim. We have to drive on from here and not let the positivity go to waste.”
After that 2-1 defeat at home last week, the Ports need to go one better than they did when they won 1-0 in Riga to reach this stage.
They need to score twice tomorrow to have any chance of going through and only once have they managed to do that in Europe before — when they lost 3-2 to Belshina Bobruisk of Belarus in the 2002 Champions League.
Either Siauliai of Lithuania or Wisla Krakow of Poland lie in wait if the Ports can pull off a result, Wisla travelling with a 2-0 lead from the first-leg.
There is one positive for Portadown — they were saved a 220 mile road-trip after their arrival in Baku yesterday. Instead of playing in their home town of Aghdam, Qarabag use the Tofig Bahramov Stadium in the Azeri capital — where Northern Ireland drew 0-0 with Azerbaijan in October 2004 — to host their European games.