Irish interest aplenty in tonight's Europa League first round qualifiers

David Jeffrey's Ballymena face a tough test against Sweden's Malmo.
Diarmuid Pepper

Irish football north and south is well-represented into tonight's UEFA Europa League fare.

There are five teams from these isles in first qualifying round action tonight, with Crusaders and Ballymena representing the northern contingent.

Crusaders welcome B36 Tórshavn to Seaview for tonight's clash.

Tórshavn came third in the Faroe Islands Premier League last season and struggled in the Europa League qualifiers last year.

Tórshavn just about edged out Montenegrin side Titograd Podgorica in the first round, before being hammered 8-0 on aggregate to Turkish giants Besiktas.

Having come fourth in the Northern Irish Football League last season, Crusaders will be hopeful that they can navigate their way past Tórshavn and set up a glamour tie against Wolves.

Meanwhile, David Jeffrey's Ballymena face a very tough trip to Sweden to take on Malmo.

Malmo comfortably advanced to the knockout rounds of the Europa League last season and will fancy their chances against the Sky Blues.

That being said, having pushed hard against Linfield in the league, Jeffrey's men may be able to spring a surprise result tonight.

South of the border, three teams feature in tonight's action.

Shamrock Rovers travel to Norway where they will come up against SK Brann.

Having missed out qualification for the Europa League first qualifying round last season, SK Brann will hope to make home advantage count as they look to progress to the second qualifying round.

However, Shamrock Rovers will also be confident of progression to the second round on the basis of last season's heroic performances.

Shamrock Rovers narrowly lost out to Swedish giants AIK in the first qualifying round last year, with extra time being needed to separate the sides. They will hope to summon the same energy in tonight's encounter.

Elsewhere, Cork City host Progrés Niederkorn, who famously beat Rangers in the first qualifying round of the 2017-18 season.

Both sides made it to the third qualifying round last year, with Cork falling foul of Rosenborg.

Cork came a comfortable second in the League of Ireland Premier Division last season and should fancy their chances against a team who came fourth in a Luxembourg league that has a lower UEFA coefficient ranking.

Rounding off Irish interest in tonight's round of fixtures is St Patrick's Athletic.

St Pat's have it all to do against Swedish side Norrköping, who came second in a competitive Swedish league last year.

St Pat's finished fifth in the League of Ireland last season and therefore missed out on qualification to the first round of the Europa League.

However, an eligibility issue with Waterford, who came fourth, meant that St Pat's were granted a UEFA License instead.

UEFA's licensing rules states that a club must be in existence for at least three years before competing in European competition.

Waterford Chairman Lee Power set up the club as a new company when they were re-branded in 2016, which meant they didn't meet these criteria.

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