CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUALIFYING FIRST ROUND
Shamrock Rovers v Hibernians, Tallaght Stadium, 7.30pm.
Peter Collins presents all the action from the opening leg of the first qualifying-round tie at Tallaght Stadium on RTÉ2 from 7pm. Streaming live online on RTÉ Player.
Mostly cloudy at first with patchy light rain or drizzle. Some sunny spells will develop in the afternoon along with isolated showers. Highest temperatures of 18 to 21 degrees in a moderate westerly breeze.
HUGE FINANCIAL REWARDS ON OFFER
Ten points clear at the top of the SSE Airtricity Premier Division table, Shamrock Rovers turn their attentions to Europe with the visit of Maltese champions Hibernians to Tallaght Stadium.
Stephen Bradley's side were seeded for the first round of the qualifying draw and managed to sidestep the trickier sides in the draw, avoiding Polish champions Lech Poznan and tough tips to Bosnia, Georgia or North Macedonia.
Conversely, Hibernians will also be happy with their lot as Rovers are probably the one side they would have hoped to face from the seeded teams, apart from Lincoln Red Imps.
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The Hoops are favourites to progress to the second qualifying round where they will face the winner of the tie between Bulgaria’s Ludogorets and Montenegro outfit Sutjeska Niksic. The loser of the tie between Rovers and Hibernians will drop down to European Conference qualifying.
The financial rewards on offer are what makes the European competition so crucial to Rovers and, indeed, all League of Ireland teams.
The Hoops have already guaranteed themselves over €800,000 by just qualifying for the Champions League qualifiers and progression to the second round would increase that to €1.4m.
Two Champions League wins would guarantee Europa Conference League group stage, a pot of close to €2.9m and the added income that comes from guaranteed group games.
The fact that the entire prize fund for the Premier Division last season was €600,000 just illustrates how important this tie and progression in the competition is for Rovers and their balance sheet.
HOOPS IN FINE FETTLE
Rovers come into the tie in solid form, having responded well to defeat against Dundalk last month with three wins on the bounce – two of them coming in Dublin derbies against Bohemians and St Patrick’s Athletic.
Ten points clear at the top of table domestically, Bradley has the squad strength and depth to compete on both European and domestic fronts although he does come into this tie shorn of several attacking and creative options.
Graham Burke, Jack Byrne and Neil Farrugia are all side-lined through injury, while Danny Mandriou appears to have played his last game for the club, having completed a medical at Lincoln City ahead of an expected move there.
Sean Gannon will undergo a late fitness test, while Richie Towell looks set to feature, having returned from injury against Finn Harps at the weekend.
Whoever starts for Rovers against Hibernians, Bradley believes that his squad have the mentality and experience to deliver in Europe and to get the result they need in Tallaght.
"I think they've shown in the last three years that when the pressure is on, they step up," he said. "They've shown that a number of times.
"We have a lot of experience in Europe as a group, some good, some bad but we've learned from them. Hopefully we can show that it's made us better and stronger this year.
"There are no easy games in Europe, we've seen that in the past few years so we're going to need the crowd.
"The fans have been unbelievable for us this year, like they have been the past few years but this year we've had some brilliant numbers come through the gate. Hopefully we can have that again tomorrow night. The players and the staff feed off that energy and that passion and we'll definitely need that tomorrow night."
DISCIPLINARY WOES HAMPER HIBERNIANS
Hibernians will be without their manager Stefano Sanderra and a number of players in Tallaght, following from a controversial Europa Conference League qualifier defeat to Riga last season.
Irish referee Rob Hennessy was in charge of the tie when Hibernians, leading 1-0 from the first leg, saw a penalty awarded against them early on before they had a goal ruled out for offside and eventually had two players and their manager sent-off.
Such was the nature of the game that Malta’s government saw fit to intervene afterwards with Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri described the refereeing decisions as "dubious".
The club issued a letter of protest against the result which yielded little satisfaction and instead their manager and players Bjorn Kristensen, Andrei Agiu and Ferdinando Apap were all handed suspensions.
Kristensen and Apap managed to have their bans reduced from five games to two but will still be absent for both legs against Rovers.
Elsewhere, with the Maltese league still on a summer break, there have been plenty of comings and goings at the club as they build towards the start of a new domestic campaign.
Striker Jurgen Degabriele is among those who will have signed on for another season with the club and while he remains their most potent goal threat, Rovers manger Bradley admits that he’s stepping into the unknown against Hibernians, given all their changes in personal.
The Rovers boss said: "They're bringing in players at the last minute and the team you're watching from last year is going to have a lot of changes in it because of the suspensions, and players that have left and the players that have come in.
"So it does make it more difficult to have a real feel for them. We probably won't have that until half-time tomorrow night."
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Watch Shamrock Rovers v Hibernians in the Champions League first qualifying round live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player on Tuesday, kick-off 7.30pm. Follow live blog on RTÉ News app and on rte.ie/sport.