NEIL LENNON says Hibs will use the feats of Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers as inspiration in their bid to reach the Europa League group stages.
The League of Ireland outfits became the talk of the Continent for their respective efforts – Rovers in 2011 and Dundalk five years later.
Former Dunfermline boss Stephen Kenny was the common factor.
He led the Dublin-based Shams to qualifying success against Partizan Belgrade before doing even better with Dundalk, who recorded a historic group stage win over Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“We are targeting the group stages of the Europa League, absolutely,” said Lennon.
“When you see some of the clubs who are in it, it is tough – but it is not insurmountable.
“Remember, a couple of Irish teams have done it, so there is no reason why we can’t.
“I have been through the qualifiers before with Celtic, a couple of times successfully and another one not. So I know all about them.
“You have to hit the ground running. But if you can get it right, the incentives are great.”
Hibs will have to do it the hard way, as their European campaign will start in the first qualifying round on July 12.
That means they will have to battle their way through four rounds to reach the league stage of the competition.
It’s a daunting schedule for a team who will not long be back from their close-season break.
“The timing does make it hard,” admitted Lennon, who will start the campaign in the stands due to the hangover of a UEFA ban picked up in the tie against Brondby two years ago.
“The reason for that is a lot of teams are already well up to speed.
“The Irish clubs, for example, did it on the back of a summer season.
“They caught a few teams cold, and there is no doubt it is an advantage.
“If it was September, we’d be rubbing our hands because, five or six games into the league season, you are bang at it.
“Because it’s early, it is difficult, and you’re going to all corners of Europe in different weather and time zones.
“You have to acclimatise very quickly.
“But it means so much to supporters, and the rewards are great.
“My team surprised me against Brondby two years ago when we beat them. I knew I had a right good group then.
“With hopefully a couple of bits of transfer business getting done over the next few weeks, that will be the case again.”
Lennon, meanwhile, voiced his delight about Lewis Stevenson’s involvement with Scotland in the end-of-season tour of Peru and Mexico.
“He’s been really consistent and it’s a great honour for him. It means a lot to Lewis,” said Lennon.
“It’s great that he’ll get a cap. It’s an opportunity for him.
“These trips can be difficult at times, but it’s important for the Hibs boys who are there to make a mark.
“It will be tough because they are up against quality sides, who will be hungry.
“So it will be an eye-opener for a lot of them. But a good one.
“Lewis will get time off after he comes back with Scotland, and pre-season won’t be a problem for him. We’ll drip feed him back in.
“He really is a model pro. He trains hard every day and never gets injured.
“He’s a constant 7 out of 10 every week.
“I’m delighted for him on a personal level and it’s good for the profile of the club.
“He can still improve on things like his delivery.
“When I first came in, he was hitting the first man too often. But it has got better this season.
“I spoke to him recently, and reminded him he’s only 29.
“I didn’t go to Celtic until I was 29 and people thought I was there for a lifetime.
“So if he looks after himself, Lewis still has a lot of football ahead of him at the top level in this country.”