Vinny Perth is adamant that Dundalk will soar to the next level in Europe but warned players to get onboard – or miss out.
The Lilywhites are reeling after their Champions League and Europa League run hit the skids at the hands of Slovan Bratislava on Tuesday.
They went down fighting and dominated the second-half in Tallaght but once again lacked a killer instinct.
That was a recurring theme throughout a summer run that took them to Latvia, Azerbaijan and Slovakia.
But as game as Dundalk were, there was a spark missing and they failed to register a single victory in regular time over the six games.
Majority owners Peak6 are eager to take the club to new heights in Europe but the Americans will have to splash the cash to do so.
Head coach Perth said: “We have to get this club to the next stage.
“We spoke to the players this week about the club going to the next level, so it’s up to the players to go to the next level with us.
“That’s our goal, that’s our plan – to be in and around the playoffs and the Europa League group stages and I believe we can get there.
“But if we’re going to draw a PAOK or Ajax in the Europa League playoff this time next year, it’s going to be difficult for an Irish team no matter what anyone says.
“We don’t rely on luck at this club but there were ties in there that were winnable for Irish sides.
“But drawing either PAOK or Ajax for ourselves and Slovan was difficult, so you do need some luck in the draw.
“The standard has got higher and it’s harder now with four qualifying rounds rather than three. Time will tell but I believe we have what it takes as a club to get there.”
Focus switches to tomorrow’s league game at home to in-form Finn Harps and Dundalk striker Pat Hoban has stressed the importance of retaining the league title.
“We have to win it to get back into the same position in Europe next year,” said the Galway man.
“Hopefully the draws are a bit easier for us the next time but that’s just the way the luck of it goes.
“But as long as we keep playing well from now until the end of the season and put ourselves into position for next year, that’s the main thing.”
Hoban missed Dundalk’s groundbreaking group stage run in 2016 as he had left the club for a spell in England.
But back at Oriel, he’s desperate for a taste of the action himself but feels the extra qualifying round makes it a tougher task.
“Everyone is disappointed after Tuesday night,” he said. “We felt we could and should have won.
“So we’re not going out with some sort of moral victory, we’re going out very, very disappointed.”
And Hoban acknowledged: “We competed at the highest level and were the better side on Tuesday, but it was mistakes that cost us.”
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