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Thursday 30 Jun 2016
Local clubs in Europa League action tonight

Northern Ireland's interest in the European Championships might have ended but for three Danske Bank Premiership clubs the new season begins tonight when they take the field in the first qualifying round of the 2016/17 Europa League.

Of the trio - Linfield, Cliftonville and Glenavon - only the Blues are at home on Wednesday evening when they entertain Cork City in what is sure to be a fascinating clash (kick-off 7:45pm).

David Healy's side come up against a City side that are challenging for League of Ireland honours, currently second in the table three points adrift of top spot.

Indeed, the Leesiders have only lost twice all season (once in the League and once in the League Cup), both times to Derry City.

The game will evoke memories of the last meeting between the sides when, in 2007, an Aidan O'Kane goal five minutes from time handed Linfield victory in a Setanta Sports Cup semi-final before they went on to lose to Drogheda United on penalties in the decider.

Irish Cup holders Glenavon are in Iceland to take on KR Reykjavik, their second visit to the island in three years.

With football in the Land of Fire and Ice currently on the crest of a wave following the national team's famous victory over England this could prove to be a formidable task for the Lurgan Blues.

That said, KR are currently languishing in ninth place (out of 12) domestically having won only once in their last six outings but have recently appointed former title winning boss Willum Thor Thorsson into the managerial hotseat in an attempt to halt the slide.

Gary Hamilton's side have added to their panel over the close season with the arrivals of Andrew Doyle, James Taylor and Greg Moorhouse and limbered up for their European campaign with games against Rivervalley Rangers, Derry City and Welsh opponents Llandudno.

But kicking off first are Cliftonville who travel to Luxembourg to face FC Differdange O3 in the Stade Municipal de la Ville (6pm).

The Reds, who booked their place via a play-off defeat of Glentoran, prepared for the trip with friendly wins over Finn Harps and Connah's Quay Nomads but will be wary of their hosts who have defeated Welsh and Lithuanian opponents in the last two seasons.

Europa League - First Qualifying Round, First Leg
FC Differdange 03 v. Cliftonville (6pm)
KR Reykjavik v. Glenavon (7:15pm)
Linfield v. Cork City (7:45pm)