Belfast Telegraph

Linfield can't get swept up in Celtic hype, insists Roy Carroll

 

By Steven Beacom

Roy Carroll has excelled for Linfield over the past year.

The Northern Ireland goalkeeper has proved to be a huge influence with his stunning saves on the pitch and his words of wisdom to team-mates off it.

Without him, the Blues would not have won a treble last season. While happy at winning the Irish League, Irish Cup and County Antrim Shield, the Fermanagh man is far from content and is determined that the Blues strive for more glory - starting in Europe.

Carroll kept a clean sheet in the first leg of the opening qualifying round Champions League clash with La Fiorita as David Healy's men won 1-0 at Windsor Park. Another in the return leg in San Marino and Linfield will face Celtic in what would be the most anticipated European tie ever involving an Irish League club.

True to form, the 39-year-old won't let his mind wander to a match-up with Brendan Rodgers' Invincibles even though Linfield are heavy favourites to progress.

"You can't get carried away by what might happen. We have to win our first round tie before thinking about the second. (La Fiorita) will think they have a chance as well so we must be on our game," said Carroll, who is well aware from his international career that in football just about anything can happen.

"No one expected Northern Ireland to lose to Luxembourg a few years ago but these things can happen so we have to be totally focused. This is a big game for the club. We did really well last season in the Irish League and now we are aiming to progress in Europe."

While Carroll is a sure thing to start, it will be interesting to see if Healy changes any of his outfield players from last week. Will, for instance, goalscoring hero from the first leg Jordan Stewart be on the bench again?

Regardless, Healy is certain they will be ready for the 8.30pm kick-off (7.30pm UK time).

"They will be switched on. I can see an eagerness and a hunger in the boys to get into the next round," said Healy. "We had a look at La Fiorita at Windsor Park in the first leg and will aim to expose their weaknesses.

"We need to be organised and professional but we won't be sitting behind the ball and we are capable of scoring away goals."

Healy, proud that around 100 Linfield fans will be cheering his side on tonight, added: "There is good togetherness in our squad and we need to keep proving that. Sometimes the final ball let us down last week but we could not fault the fitness of the players and the effort to go to the 90th minute when we scored. Again we will need that never say die attitude that the club has.

"The players are chomping at the bit. Some of these lads might never play Champions League football again, they may never have the chance to make it into the second round.

"Last week I was proud to manage the club in the Champions League and it will be like that in San Marino. It's exciting but I'm aware of the job to be done," stated Healy, who in 2009 played in a Northern Ireland team that won 3-0 in San Marino. The same outcome would do nicely this time around.

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