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Jon Daly outlines dream Dundee United European scenario as ex-Tannadice favourite makes Hearts prediction

St Pat's No.2 and ex-Dundee United striker Jon Daly
A stunning reunion with Jon Daly is a genuine possibility

“I wouldn’t mind coming back to Tannadice — especially if we catch them in pre-season while they’re cold,” laughs Jon Daly.

“That would be ideal!”

The ex-Dundee United striker is pondering the prospect of a reunion with his former club in the refined air of continental competition.

Stranger things have happened.

Daly, now assistant manager of St Patrick’s Athletic, will enter the Europa Conference League qualifiers at the first round stage following their domestic exploits last term.

Fourth and fifth place in the Scottish Premiership will secure a berth in the same competition, albeit at the third and second qualifying rounds, respectively.

While it would take an almighty act of serendipity to bring Daly back to Dundee, he is buoyed by the upcoming continental adventure.

Daly, left, and St Pat's boss Tim Clancy
Daly, left, and St Pat’s boss Tim Clancy

“One of the attractions of coming to St Pat’s was the carrot of European football,” Daly tells Courier Sport.

“It will be a different experience, there will be different challenges and it’s a step up from where I’ve been.

“It will be another stage in my own development as a coach, too, which is something I relish.”

What could have been

Daly, of course, is no stranger to European football.

United’s Scottish Cup hero lined up against AEK Athens, Slask Wroclaw and Dinamo Moscow during his six years with United.

Reflecting on those experiences, that sweltering night at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis in 2010 still stings.

Trailing AEK 1-0 from the first leg at Tannadice, United drew 1-1 in Greece — but Daly still laments a late Danny Swanson miss which would have sent them through.

“That was the one. That was heartbreaking,” says Daly.

“You work hard all season to qualify for Europe and you want to go as far as you possibly can.

“None of use were naïve enough to think we’d win it — but there’s no reason, with the luck of the draw, you can’t get into the groups stages.

“I remember Danny Swanson’s late chance over in Athens that would have put us through on away goals. If it could have fallen to anyone, we’d have wanted it to fall to Danny.

“We felt very close [to challenging for a group stage place] at Dundee United during those years.

“We had a strong squad and believed we could match anyone on our day. So, you have a wee bit of disappointment, looking back.”

Daly slides home the leveller against AEK Athens in Greece
Daly slides home the leveller against AEK Athens in Greece

Indeed, Daly played in United’s last European tie — a 5-0 hammering against Dinamo Moscow in Russia — a decade ago.

It has been a lengthy absence.

“When I think about Dundee United, I think about a team that should be playing in European football and competing for cups,” Daly continued. “They are a massive football club.

“Top four is where United should be and, all credit due, they’ve given themselves a great opportunity to get that fourth spot.”

Distracted Hearts

United can take a huge stride towards that achievement with a win over Hearts on Sunday and Daly — two-time caretaker boss of the Jambos during four years on their coaching staff — reckons their focus may be on Hampden.

“You have to assume they’ll be managing the league games, in terms of personnel and making sure they are ready for their biggest game of the season,” continued Daly.

“They’ve probably already got third spot tied down, so there will maybe be one eye on the Scottish Cup final.”

Daly’s priority, meanwhile, is on keeping pace with Derry City and Shamrock Rovers at the summit of the League of Ireland.

He was appointed as assistant to Tim Clancy in December, linking up with the former Hibernian, Kilmarnock and Motherwell defender following a season as Jonatan Johansson’s No.2 at Finnish side TPS Turku.

Jon Daly coaching at TPS Turku in Finland
Jon Daly coaching at TPS Turku in Finland

“When myself and Tim [Clancy] arrived, I think there was one player signed up for this season, so it was a proper rebuilding job,” added Daly.

“The start to the season has been solid enough, although we feel like we’ve left a few points behind.

“We want to be fighting towards the top of the table, battling for the top spots and looking to qualify for Europe again.

“But we’re not about to start shouting from the rooftops about what we’re going to achieve. We’re determined to be competitive and provide a platform for young, hungry talents.

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