Tomas Cosgrove reaping rewards for show of faith in Larne ambition
Tomas Cosgrove has highlighted how the promise of playing in big European games was one of the reasons why he made the move to Larne.
The full-back made the brave decision to switch the Danske Bank Premiership for the Championship three years ago as he was sold on the Inver Park project.
That decision has been confirmed as the right one as the club has gone from strength-to-strength and is now preparing for the biggest night in its history.
Larne are 90 minutes away from dumping Danish Superliga side AGF Aarhus out of the Europa Conference League following their superb 2-1 win at Inver Park last week.
Cosgrove knows it will be a tough encounter at Ceres Park tonight - but he is thrilled the reasons behind his move to the club are coming to fruition.
“When I first came here I was promised it all, when I look back now it is crazy,” he said. “There’s only a couple of us who are still here from the start, but this is what we came here for.
“We did believe in the process and it’s finally coming true.
“It’s mad to think we’ve played three games in Europe and won all three.
“The only other time I’ve won a game was with Cliftonville, but we kind of let ourselves down in the second leg.
“We gave away a bit of a sloppy goal, but that happens sometimes with the way we want to play.
“All that matters though is that we have given ourselves a chance for Thursday.”
With the domestic campaign not starting for another month Cosgrove is targeting an extended run in Europe so that they are raring to go come the start of the new season.
“Playing in Europe is better than playing the normal pre-season friendlies,” he said. “You’re maybe winning the games comfortably and building your fitness up, but you’re not really testing yourself.
“Tiernan (Lynch, manager) said to us to stay in this competition as long as we can, and test ourselves against the best so that when the league starts we’ll be kicking the door down, raring to go.”
And Cosgrove believes moving towards a full-time model has helped Irish League clubs taste more success in Europe.
Danske Bank Premiership clubs have really stepped up to the plate in European competition in recent seasons with several big results to boost the league’s coefficient.
“A few of the older Cliftonville boys were telling me they played Copenhagen in the past and were beaten 11 on aggregate which just shows you,” he said. “When we heard the draw we were obviously a bit apprehensive, which is only natural as you’re about to play a massive team in Europe.
“I obviously watched the Celtic-Midtjylland game to see what we were going to be up against.
“And people were saying to me about this Icelandic boy on the wing.
“But I think we’ve done ourselves and the town proud!
“The league is moving forward with more full time teams, and sides trying to get the ball down and play, it’s not just hitting long balls to get in behind.
“Teams are trying to play and I think that helps when you go into these European games.
“Being full-time helps with everything from fitness, sharpness and being comfortable on the ball.
“Usually when you’re playing you’ve players breathing down your neck and you give away the ball, but now the demands are you keep the ball, you have to do that when you’re up against the top boys.
“It’s a massive result for the league too.
“I know some people maybe watch these games hoping their rivals are beat, but you want all the teams to win because it’s great for the league.
“Look at our teams against the top sides in Europe now...you wouldn’t have seen that in the past.
“People were praising Midtjylland for their result against Celtic but now they will be talking about Larne.
“The coefficient points will go up as well so it will only get better.
“The more wins we can get from our teams the better it is for everyone.
“When Kenny (Bruce, owner) first came here he said this would happen, it seems to be happening now.
“We’ve given ourselves a fighting chance going into the second leg.
“I’m sure they will get a kick up the backside, but we’ll have another game plan and we just have to make sure we implement it.
“All we can do is go there and give our best and see what happens on the night.”
Cosgrove admitted there were mixed emotions in the dressing after last week’s win - with the players disappointed to concede a late goal.
“Yeah it was a bit crazy...we walked into the changing room after beating Aarhus 2-1 but the boys were cracking up about the goal we gave away,” he said. “That shows you what we are doing here.
“We had about five minutes discussing the goal but then the realisation of what we had done kicked in and that we have a chance for the second leg now.
“We’ll still be massive underdogs, I think no matter who we play teams from Northern Ireland always are.
“It was the same against Bala even though we got the better of them.
“But we don’t mind it, we will just keep doing what we want to do.
“There’s no point going into a football match thinking you’re not going to win.”