Arsenal face Dundalk F.C. in their second Europa League Group B game tonight, having beaten Rapid Vienna in last week’s group stage opener.
Dundalk isn’t a household name for most football fans, and for some this might be the first time they’ve heard of the club.
Here’s all you need to know.
Where is Dundalk?
Dundalk F.C. are based in Dundalk, a coastal town in Louth, in the north-east of the Republic of Ireland, close to the Northern Ireland border.
It’s the setting of the ancient myth of the Gaelic hero Cú Chulainn, a demigod who gained his name by killing the ferocious guard dog of Culann the smith, and single-handedly defended Ulster from the army of Connacht.
Dundalk qualified for the Europa League group stage by beating Faroese club KI Klaksvík at the beginning of October, but their European adventure hasn’t got off to the perfect start they’d have been hoping for.
The Lilywhites were defeated by Norwegian side Molde FK in their first match. They went ahead thanks to Sean Murray’s first-half header, but were sunk by two second-half goals, the first a deflected strike, the second a penalty.
Have Dundalk played in Europe before?
Arsenal represent a much bigger challenge, but Dundalk have been here before. They last played in the Europa League group stage in the 2016/17 season, where they faced Zenit Saint Petersburg, AZ Alkmaar and Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Dundalk ultimately finished bottom of that group, but they beat Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-0 at a packed Tallaght Stadium, becoming the first Irish side to win a European group stage match.
That triumph marked Dundalk’s biggest European success since the turn of the millennium.
Before that, European campaigns were a frequent occurrence for the club, especially throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s, a golden era during which they faced off with some of Europe’s biggest clubs on a regular basis, including Celtic, Ajax, Liverpool, Porto and Tottenham, and reached the last 16 of the European Cup in the 1979/80 season.
With the 90s came serious financial difficulties, relegation from the Premier Division and a period of decline that they only really recovered from within the last decade.
Under new coach Filippo Giovagnoli, who was appointed to the surprise of many in August, Dundalk have been performing well, winning seven of the 12 games they’ve played under the Italian’s stewardship, and losing just three times.
Giovagnoli was plucked out of relative obscurity for the role of head coach. This is the 49-year-old’s first managerial position, though he has held other coaching roles after hanging up his boots in 2003.
The only real downside of Dundalk’s European adventure is the fact that their famously eccentric fanbase, who have adopted Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds as their anthem and live by the motto ‘Dundalk Will Never Die But You Will’, won’t be able to attend games in the flesh.
Arsenal vs Dundalk kicks off at 8pm GMT, and is available to watch on BT Sport 2 and BT Sport Ultimate.