Round-up: How the Irish sides fared in European competition this week

Round-up: How the Irish sides fared in European competition this week

THERE were mixed fortunes for the three SSE Airtricity League sides who began their campaigns in the Europa League this week.

Cork City and St Patrick's Athletic will take single goal leads in their second-leg ties next week, but Shamrock Rovers face an uphill task in turning around a two-goal deficit against Finnish side RoPS in the town of Rovanemi, 10 miles from the Arctic Circle.

Cork City made the trip up to a wet and windy Belfast to face Irish League side Linfield at Windsor Park, and after weathering a first-half storm, they emerged with a 1-0 win thanks to a second-half Sean Maguire penalty.

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Roy Carroll returned from Euro 2016 to make his debut for the home side, who also had former City midfielder Ross Gaynor in the starting line-up, and the City old boy's free-kick on 17 minutes produced the first clear cut chance of the game, with Cork keeper Mark McNulty forced into pushing his shot over the crossbar.

At the mid-way point in the first-half, Linfield's Paul Smyth spurned a great chance to give his side the lead, when he headed wide from six yards after a flick on from a Gaynor corner.

However, City produced a much better display in the second-half and the decisive goal arrived in the 63rd minute from the penalty spot, after a clumsy challenge from Linfield's Stephen Lowry on City's Stephen Dooley.

Sean Maguire stepped up to slot the resultant spot-kick low into the net for his ninth goal of the season.

City had further opportunities to extend their lead, and Kenny Browne was denied a second goal when his header from a Kevin O'Connor corner was headed off the line by Lowry.

A few minutes later Carroll made a great a save from a well-struck O'Connor shot from inside the box, and although they failed to turn their second-half dominance into more goals, the Leesiders will go into the second leg at Turners Cross as favourites to progress.

Meanwhile, St Patrick's Athletic began their fifth successive European campaign with a victory, a goal from Christy Fagan giving them a 1-0 lead over AS Jeunesse Esch of Luxembourg to take into next week's First Qualifying Round second leg game in the town of Esch-sur-Alzette near the French border.

Saints began well, and the decisive goal arrived in the tenth minute, when Fagan met a cross from defender Darren Dennehy with a diving header to take his tally to five goals in European competition for the Saints.

Liam Buckley's men spurned further chances to extend their lead in the first-half, and were almost made to pay after the break, when the visitors threatened the home goal on several occasions.

Jeunesse striker Patrick Stumpf was the main culprit, missing a tap-in from close range before he was denied by Saints' defender Darren Dennehy, who cleared a goalbound header off the line.

But Saints held out to maintain their impressive European record at Richmond Park, recording their 13th win in 15 games in Inchicore.

However, it was a bad night for Shamrock Rovers, as goals in each half from Jarkko Lahdenmaki and Janne Saksela saw Finnish side RoPS Rovanemi through to a 2-0 win at the Tallaght Stadium.

The evening started promisingly enough as Rovers' Gavin Brennan produced the first goalscoring effort of the evening after just 25 seconds, but in a first-half of few chances, the first shot on target produced the opening goal in the 26th minute.

After the Rovers defence failed to deal with a corner kick, a Robert Taylor shot took a deflection off Lahdenmaki and ended up in the back of the net to give the visitors the lead at the break.

Although Rovers enjoyed good spells of possession in the second-half, it wasn't until just before the hour mark that Rovers troubled visiting keeper Reguero, when newly introduced substitute Dean Clarke fired in a right foot shot that the keeper pushed away at his left-hand post.

Any hopes of a revival were crushed with a second goal for the visitors 15 minutes from time, with fine work from substitute Aleksankr Kokko setting up a chance for Janne Saksela to slot home from the edge of the box.

Rovers did threaten a response when Brandon Miele's shot was pushed onto the crossbar. by Reguero, and Dean Clarke tested the keeper with a well-struck shot.

But the visitors saw the game out safely, and the full-time whistle was greeted by boos from the home support after a result that will further increase the pressure on the already under-fire Hoops manager Pat Fenlon.