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Skipper O'Donnell setting sights on European giants as Coleraine look forward to Europa League draw

 

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Bring it on: Stephen O’Donnell wants a glamour fixture

Bring it on: Stephen O’Donnell wants a glamour fixture

Bring it on: Stephen O’Donnell wants a glamour fixture

Coleraine defender Stephen O'Donnell is hoping that the Bannsiders will be rewarded with a "big and glamorous" tie in the second round of Europa League qualifying.

The Bannsiders produced the best result in the club's history on Thursday night as they beat NK Maribor on penalties.

Oran Kearney's side will now wait for Monday's draw with the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, AC Milan and Rangers a possible glamour fixture.

"To be honest, after getting through to the second round we want a big and glamorous tie," he said.

"To test yourself against the likes of AC Milan or Tottenham Hotspur away would be out of this world as they are filled with world-class players. It would be a nice reward for our hard work in matches, training and everything else over the last nine months.

"We can dream between now and Monday that we are drawn away to one of the top seeds."

Coleraine produced a well organised performance against a side who have qualified for the group stages of the Champions League twice in the last six years.

Captain O'Donnell admits the win will take time to digest.

"It was intense first and foremost," he added. "It was tough because Maribor are a great side and they move the ball really well between the lines.

"For us it was just fantastic, and it is one of those things that will probably take a while to sink in. It is something you will look back on with a lot of pride and for us out there it was about sticking to the game plan.

"I thought the boys to a man were outstanding, they followed the game plan right down to a tee.

"It was about staying in the game and taking our chances when they came, and I thought James McLaughlin did that fantastically well."

The Irish League is currently ranked the best league in Europe on performance in Uefa competition this summer, and clubs and supporters poured praise on Coleraine following the stunning success in Slovenia.

Linfield chairman Roy McGivern added his tribute on Twitter, commenting: "Incredible result from @ColeraineFC in the @EuropaLeague. Great to see Irish League clubs pushing the boundaries again this season and what a season we have in prospect."

Meanwhile, Stephen Martin has promised to champion football at all levels in Northern Ireland after being appointed chairman of the Irish Football Association.

Martin was made an independent non-executive director of the Association in June and has now been unanimously appointed to the position of chairman of the Irish FA board.

"I am delighted to be appointed to lead this ambitious and forward-looking board," said Martin, who recently retired as Deputy Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. "I'll be championing football at all levels for the advancement of the game right across Northern Ireland. As with all good teams, I look forward to playing my part in the Irish FA's continued success."

Martin, who succeeds Gerry Mallon as chairman, attended the home qualifiers in the World Cup campaigns for Spain '82 and Mexico '86 and added: "That was a fabulous period for Northern Ireland and I'll never forget it.

"However, we are in a great place again and building on our success at Euro 2016. We all wish our new manager Ian (Baraclough) and the team good luck."

Belfast Telegraph