Sligo Rovers and Derry City fly the flag for Ireland in European action on Thursday night.

The Bit O' Red are in Wales to take on Bala Town in the first round of the Europa Conference League, while the Candystripes host Riga FC.

Fortune may favour Sligo – Can they take advantage?

All Irish sides in the Europa Conference League were unseeded this season, which usually makes them the underdog.

Sligo Rovers had some luck on their side as they've been paired with seeded Bala Town when much stronger opposition were in the draw.

Runners-up in the Welsh top flight last year behind runaway leaders TNS, the Lakesiders are part-time and have yet to begin their new season.

Dundalk played Welsh opposition last year as they saw off Newtown 5-0 over two legs.

While Bala are a stronger outfit, John Russell’s side will feel they have a big opportunity in front of them.

David Edwards, a former Welsh international with over 40 caps, will be in the Bala side

The winner of this tie will play Scottish outfit Motherwell in the next round, an appealing tie in terms of revenue, limited travel and most important a chance of progression against another out-of-season team.

Sligo have disappointed in Europe for much of their history.

They have recorded just one victory away from home, a famous 2-1 outcome against Rosenborg in 2014, but they still went out on aggregate over the two legs.

Floriana of Malta (1994) and Banga from Lithuania two decades later are the only ties they’ve ever progressed through.

Last year brought heartache when FH from Iceland used their experience and nous to see off Rovers when it seemed like the tie was there to be won.

The 3-1 loss on aggregate left scars on the Bit O’ Red and their season derailed during that summer.

The Park Hall stadium in the market town of Oswestry in Shropshire will host 450 visiting Sligo fans

They eventually got back on track to win the final three matches of the season to return to Europe this summer.

Russell took over from Liam Buckley last month with the former assistant now permanently in the top job in The Showgrounds.

Despite history not being on their side, recent domestic form has been excellent with three wins in an unbeaten five-game spell since taking over.

Aidan Keena has also moved to the top of the Premier Division scoring charts with 11 goals. Saturday’s team goal against Shelbourne was particularly impressive.

The game will be played in Shropshire in England at Park Hall, the home on TNS, due to Bala’s ground not meeting UEFA requirements.

The Lakesiders average around 330 at their home games. The 1,000-capacity venue will host a travelling support of 450 from the north-west who are likely to outnumber the Welsh contingent.

Bala’s most well-known player is former Welsh international David Edwards. A member of his country’s squad at Euro 2016, the now 36-year-old is seeing out his playing days a long way from the Premier League and major tournament heights earlier in his career.

He will pose a big threat to Sligo, scoring 10 goals from 26 matches in midfield last season.

Town captain Chris Venables is another 36-year-old who can cause the Premier Division outfit problems. The striker has bagged 210 goals in his long career and also found the net in their sole victory in Europe, a 1-0 success over Malta three years ago.

Northern Irish outfit Larne recorded two 1-0 wins over Bala at this stage last year.

The draw could have been a lot harder on the five-time FAI Cup winners, it remains to be seen if they profit from it.

Derry City face experienced Latvian side Riga

Derry City have been given a tonic in the build-up to their European tie with two wins in Dublin after an alarming collapse in performances and form.

Four points from seven matches has taken them largely out of the title race, unless they can be ultra consistent for the remaining months of the season.

Wins over UCD and Bohemians were not faultless, but certainly showed mettle and the quality in the Candystripes squad.

Joe Thomson's clever finish started proceedings in the game in Dalymount Park. Patrick McEleney has been able to come through the two matches and new signing Ryan Graydon has also joined from Longford Town.

Ruaidhri Higgins has seen his side return to winning ways

Injuries have been a big factor in Derry’s struggles. Ronan Boyce, Cameron Dummigan, Michael Duffy and Ciaron Harkin have been huge losses over the course of the season.

With the ship steadied in the league, thoughts can now turn to Europa Conference action.

Riga FC have had a mixed history in Europe in recent seasons. They’re known on these shores for a penalty shootout defeat to Dundalk in 2019 in the Champions League, while they had a 1-0 loss to Celtic the following year.

Last season they were eliminated from the Champions League by the odd goal by Malmo, dropping into the Conference League where they knocked out Hibernians of Malta in a tie which hit the headlines.

The Maltese side, who played Shamrock Rovers earlier this week, received multiple suspensions and a heavy fine from UEFA for their behaviour towards Irish referee Rob Hennessy.

Raivis Jurkovskis was part of the Dundalk side which took Vitesse all the way in round three last year

Riga went on to progress 4-2 on aggregate, and were expected to advance to the group stage, before being dumped out by Lincoln Red Imps from Gibraltar.

One familiar face is Latvian international Raivis Jurkovskis who was part of the Dundalk squad last year.

Riga have used their financial clout to recruit players from Brazil, Ghana, Belarus, Ukraine, Netherlands and Greece.

Their season is run on the summer calendar so they are at the same stage as the League of Ireland

Currently in third place, nine points off the top, Antonijs Černomordijs and Vladimirs Kamešs also joined Jurkovskis in being part of their country’s squad for the Nations League.

Černomordijs captained the side against Andorra while they also had a Bulgarian international in Georgi Minchev.

Thorsten Fink was in charge of Riga up until last May before departing, with 36-year-old coach Sandro Perkovic took over.

He was joined during a seven-match winning run which was brought to an end by the leaders Valmiera.

It’s going to be tough for Ruadhri Higgins men as they aim to progress through the first round having lost their opener on the last three occasions.

MFK Ruzomberok of Slovakia or FK Kauno Zalagiris of Lithuania await the winners of the tie.

The Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium will be sold out and nearly entire made up of home fans for the first European tie in the venue in four years.