We continue our dip into the history books and a summer that saw the faithful embark on the 2007 tour of Europe that started in San Marino…
Drogheda finished the 2006 season with a third place finish in the Eircom League, enough to guarantee them another crack at European football and a chance to exorcise the disappointment of that most cruel exit. When the summer of 2007 rolled around they found themselves drawn against the minnows of SP Libertas, a side from the tiny Republic of San Marino.
Eamon Zayed scored a minute before half time to put Drogheda ahead at San Marino’s premier football venue, the Stadio Olimpico in Serravalle. A comfortable victory was expected to follow but with 13 minutes left on the clock, substitute Claudio Pari broke through and planted a low shot past Dan Connor to equalise.
It was not Drogheda’s finest moment on European soil but with the second leg still to come in Dublin (Dalymount Park was again the venue of choice) and with an away goal in the bank against the competition’s lowest ranked side, Paul Doolin and his team were confident of progressing.
It took just eleven minutes for Drogheda to take the lead in Phibsboro, Paul Keegan scoring with a 25 yard belter. Keegan then doubled Drogheda’s lead shortly after the second half had kicked off and captain Stuart Byrne added a decisive third on 57 minutes. The win was Drogheda’s third in European competition and provided them with a route to the second qualifying round where they were drawn against Swedish side Helsingborgs, led at the time by former Celtic and Barcelona legend Henrik Larsson.
The sides met at Dalymount Park on the 16th of August 2007 and it was Larsson who struck the first blow, putting the Swedes ahead on 34 minutes when he took advantage of a slip by Brian Shelley to fire home from 12 yards. But Drogheda were far from finished and a second half strike by Eamon Zayed gave the home side a deserved draw.
It was Drogheda’s most impressive European result up to that point and provided a timely confidence boost ahead of a daunting trip to Sweden. But within minutes of the kick-off Drogheda had survived a goalkeeping error by Dan Connor and seen an effort by Jakobsson crash back off their crossbar. But the Drogs settled and made it to half-time with their goal intact. Sadly, the second period would prove a bridge too far for Paul Doolin’s men and a goal from Jakobsson seven minutes after the restart spelled the beginning of the end for the Boynesiders. It was followed up by strikes from Razak Omoyoyossi and Olivier Karekesi as another European campaign came to an end.