Words: Mark McKillen
Larne FC take on Bala Town in the first European tie in the club’s 132-year history. The first leg will be away from home on 8th July with the second leg taking place at Inver Park on 15th July.
Bala Town FC were founded in 1880 and play in Wales’ top division the Cymru Premier.
They finished 3rd in the league last season which secured automatic qualification for the Europa Conference League. Bala have never won the league but finished 2nd in 2015 and 2016.
This will be the club’s 7th European campaign since 2013. The Welsh side have won 4 Europa league qualifying matches, most recently defeating Maltese champions Valetta 1-0 in 2020. That win set up a marquee fixture against 10-time Belgian champions Standard Liege. Bala may have lost 2-0 to Liege but they showed they can go toe to toe with major European sides.
The first tie will not be played at Bala’s home ground Maes Tegid because it does not meet UEFA standards. Larne will be travelling to Park Hall Stadium, home of The New Saints (TNS).
TNS may be a Welsh team but their ground is in the English town of Oswestry in Shropshire. Park Hall has a capacity of 2,034 with 1,034 seats.
Bala manager Colin Caton has made some big signings so far in the transfer window. Former Wales international David Edwards could make his Bala Town debut against Larne. He represented his country 43 times and played all 3 group matches in Euro 2016. This will be the first European campaign of the midfielder’s storied career.
They have also signed right back Calum Woods from East Bengal. Woods has been a regular starter for Dunfermline, Huddersfield Town, and Preston North End throughout his career.