Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton relishing Mourneview Park club’s return to Euro limelight

Glenavon won the Irish Cup last season
Glenavon won the Irish Cup last season

Gary Hamilton admits Glenavon’s return to Europe after a 12-year hiatus has generated a “major buzz” around Mourneview Park.

The Lurgan Blues’ last foray into continental football came back in 2002 when they lost out against Kilmarnock in the old UEFA Cup.

On Monday morning Glenavon will discover who they will meet this summer in the Europa League qualifiers.

Clubs including Hafnarfjordur, IFK Gothenburg, FC Honka, Sligo Rovers, FK Haugesund and Daugava Daugavpils are potential opponents for Hamilton’s men.

Hamilton insists he “doesn’t mind” who Glenavon are paired with in the draw in Nyon, as long as it is financially beneficial to his Irish League representatives.

“It is going to be an exciting draw, and there are some attractive clubs in there. But the main thing is that it works out for the club,” he said.

“It is great for Glenavon to be back in Europe, and everyone is excited about the challenge that awaits us.

“It is fantastic for me, as a manager, and for all of the coaching staff. And for the players it is something to look forward to.

“I have a lot of young players in there who have not played in Europe, and a few older ones too.

“Eoin Bradley also can’t wait to play in Europe. He has played in some massive GAA matches in front of some big crowds, but he is still excited about playing European football.

“That highlights what it means to the lads and they are all relishing the prospect of taking on a quality European side.

“Europe is the pinnacle for any Irish League player. Everyone wants to play against the best players in Europe, and this gives us a chance to do that.

“So we don’t mind who we are drawn against. As long as it is kind to the club then we will face up to the challenge.”

Hamilton hopes the taste of Europe will act as a catalyst ahead of the new Irish League season.

“The hope is that the players will get a taste for it and want more,” he added.

“It will give them something to aim for over the course of the season, and it will be another target for us.

“There are different ways of reaching Europe – either through the league or through the Irish Cup.

“We won the Irish Cup last season, and it will be very difficult to defend it, but we will give it our best shot.

“We also want to finish in the top six of the Premiership, and possibly higher.

“But we will just get this European campaign out of the way first and then take things from there.”

Glenavon’s Irish League rivals Crusaders are also unseeded for the first qualifying round draw in the Europa League.

The Crues finished third in the Danske Bank Premiership last season and have become accustomed to summer European adventures in recent years.

The Seaview club will meet one of Aberdeen, AS Jeunesse Esch, Tromsø IL, FK Ekranas, Myllykosken Pallo-47 or Bangor City.

In the seeded side are Linfield and new manager Warren Feeney who will have a close eye on Monday’s draw in Nyon.

Potential opponents include FK Jelgava, Fram Reykjavík, B36 Tórshavn, VPS Vaasa, Aberystwyth Town and FK Atlantas.

The first legs of the Europa League first qualifying round will take place on July 3, with the return legs being played on July 10.

The second qualifying round will be played on July 17 and 24.

Monday’s Europa League draw will take place from 12noon in Nyon.