David McMillan fears Conference League demotion will only widen the chasm for European giants


After tasting the delicacies of two Europa League group stages in five years, David McMillan feels “made bad” by Dundalk’s new plight in the Conference League.

UEFA’s decision to introduce a third club competition for this season increases the chances of progression for participants in smaller leagues, but McMillan laments the dilution of quality.

The Lilywhites face Levadia Tallinn in tonight’s second round, first leg at Tallaght Stadium (8pm), with the aim of setting up a meeting with Vitesse of the Netherlands. After meeting Arsenal last season and Zenit St Petersburg during their previous Europa League group stage experience in 2016, McMillan believes the Irish League participants are being harmed by the UEFA restructuring.

“People keep asking me why we are not in the Europa League; what is this conference? said the forward, who last week became the league’s top scorer in Europe.

“I feel a little harsh. They even brought an extra round to qualify for the Champions League a few years ago.

“Now the Shamrock Rovers immediately entered the Conference League after losing the Champions League last week.

We have the impression that every year there are more and more for the best teams and less and less for the less good.

“I know money is always attractive but I am sure television viewing figures will be lower in the Conference group.

“There are positives and negatives. There is a better chance of reaching this Conference League group stage, as the Rovers will be happy with their draw in the third round, but there are fewer opportunities to play against the bigger teams.

McMillan is disillusioned with what he sees as UEFA creating a wider chasm across Europe.

“It only plays in the hands of the big clubs,” he said. “They are continually looking for more money. We saw it with the European Super League proposal.

“I don’t know how we can continue to survive at this level if the goal of football is just to feed the top 10 clubs in Europe.”

McMillan and the club’s American owners, Peak6, have to deal with their fate for now, at least consoled by the extra € 300,000 offered to beat the Estonians. Dundalk and Bohemians are guaranteed € 550,000 to reach this stage of the second round.

“I think we are tied with Levadia,” said the forward. “Levadia is doing very well in her league and we are starting to show some form. For neutrals, it should be an open game with two attacking teams.

Fourteen points behind co-leaders Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic, reclaiming their title and, with it, a path to the Champions League is beyond their expectations at this point.

“We weren’t up to it at the start of the season and we’re now catching up,” said McMillan. “But between the fights for European places, the FAI Cup and these matches in Europe, there is still plenty to play.

“It’s about offering more performance. The key is to get through these towers in Europe.

Meanwhile, the Bohemians are in Luxembourg for their first leg against F91 Dudelange, who reached the group stage of the Europa League in the past two seasons. Kick-off is at the Jos Nosbaum Stadium at 5.30 p.m. Irish time.

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