Larne’s European goalscoring hero Ronan Hale is confident the east Antrim history makers can perform more magic on the continent.
The 22-year-old’s stunning strike at Inver Park shattered Bala Town’s resistance and sealed a 2-0 victory on aggregate in their Europa Conference League tie.
It was Larne’s first taste of European football following their play-off win over Cliftonville and their reward is a second qualifying round showdown with Danes Aarhus with the first leg at home on Thursday night.
Substitute Hale cut in from the left and curled a sublime effort past Alex Ramsay with seven minutes left to suck any remaining hope out of Bala but Tiernan Lynch’s side know the Danes will be a step up in class.
Former Derry City and Crusaders ace Hale, however, is backing his side to weave more magic in Europe.
“We will always back ourselves while respecting the opposition. The boys are confident and you go into every game trying to get the win,” said Hale.
“There’s still a lot of good teams in the competition such as Maribor so you are still facing top quality opposition, but you need a little luck on and off the pitch in terms of the draw and performances if you want to make the group stages.
“We want to go as far as we can in the competition and it’s good our next game is a home one as we can hopefully get a positive result to keep the tie alive.
“It’s a bit of history for the club and all the boys are buzzing. We are excited to see how we will get on against tougher opposition.
“I don’t know much about Aarhus but they are playing in the top Danish league so it will be a tough test.”
The victory over Welsh league side Bala was another reminder of Larne’s impressive progress and Hale’s finishing prowess.
“It was a tight game,” added the striker. “They were coming at us in the last 20 minutes but we made changes and I felt we made an impact in the game. The goal killed the tie.
“If I get the ball outside the box I fancy myself to score, whatever way the goals come I will take them.
“At the end of last season I got the club’s top scorer and that gave me confidence.
“I’ve started off this season with another goal and it gives me something to build on.
“The fans have been back in the stadium and they were brilliant. With the new stand behind the net there was some roar when I scored and long may that continue.”
While Larne prepare for their test on Thursday night, Linfield will also be in action in the UEFA Conference League when they face Bosnian champions Borac Banja Luka at Windsor Park.
The Blues lost their Champions League qualifier to Lithuanian side Zalgiris Vilnius.
With summer football for Irish League clubs still a big debating point, Linfield boss David Healy was asked if they had been playing in the middle of their domestic season like Vilnius going into the tie if it would have made a difference.
He replied: “It’s a hard one to weigh up. There are positives towards it and there are some negatives towards it. That’s not for me to decide. There is no guarantee had we been 18 games into our league season like they were that we would have beaten them.
“You are never going to know. We were two games in and coming off the back of the most horrendous schedule from last season.
“It’s a hard one to judge at the minute but there is going to be some sort of lull with the players at some stage in the new season, be it at the start or midway through.
“We had a successful season last season but overall looking at the players possibly it wasn’t in their best interests to play 38 league games and five Irish Cup games thrown in at the end of it.
“Yes, we endured it and were successful but somewhere along the line there will be a lull and low part of the season for the players because basically we have been at it for so long and the games have been crammed in so tight.”