No Airtricity league action this weekend so all eyes on the FAI Ford Cup.
1) Which cup heartbreak continues in the tie of the round in Inchicore?
The FAI Cup woes of St Patrick’s Athletic are well documented; 7 final defeats since they last lifted the Cup in 1961. Tonight is their 33rd FAI Cup quarter-final since that cup win (their 8th in a row) and most of them have ended in heartbreak. We already know how much beating Shamrock Rovers means to their fans, but the Cup brings that extra bit of nervous energy to proceedings (even with a league title to play for). Shamrock Rovers, on the other hand, could see their season effectively end tonight. Despite Trevor Croly’s denials, there’s no doubting that an FAI Cup win would go a long way to earning him a second year in the job. So far, Rovers stronger squad has earned them a win in the Setanta Cup and final places in the EA Sports and Leinster Senior Cups but Croly’s detractors point to Rovers lying in 5th place in the league as a better indicator of how things stand. Its 26 years since they won the last of their 24 cups and they too will feel another one is long overdue.
2) Can the Cup specialists march on?
In the last round we pointed out that Sligo Rovers haven’t been beaten in the FAI Cup by a team that still exists since 2008 and their overall cup record is even more impressive. In the 12 Cup competitions, Sligo have entered in the past 4 seasons, they have reached (at least) the semi final stage in 10 of them. They’ll be hoping that a win tomorrow evening over Derry City makes it 11/12 (the shock defeat to Monaghan in the 2012 FAI Cup is the outlier). Derry, of course, are holders and won’t give up easily. However they’ve lost their last 3 league games and have already lost 3 times to Sligo this year. A surprise win in Sligo tomorrow could see a strong finish to the season from the Candystripes
3) Can Dundalk move closer to a stunning league and cup double?
Last season Dundalk made it to the semi finals due to a combination of easy draws and hard-fought wins. They finished the league in 11th place and only stayed up thanks to a playoff win over Waterford United. This league season is completely the opposite for the Lilywhites and 5 wins on the trot for them has them level on points with the leaders St Pats. Tonight they travel to bottom club Shels expecting to win to continue their great form. Both managers could be forgiven for having one eye on next week as they have huge league games. Dundalk travel to Inchicore for that top of the table blockbuster while Shels host local rivals Bohemian in a ‘couldn't fit the cliché more’ relegation 6 pointer.
4) Can Finn Harps upset Drogheda and represent the first division in the semis?
Finn Harps will attempt to become only the 5th first division team in the last 10 years to reach the FAI Cup semi finals as they host Drogheda United tonight. (The previous 4 are Shamrock Rovers in 2006, Sporting Fingal and Waterford United in 2009 and Shelbourne in 2011). They’ll be up against it though as they lie in 6th place in the lower league, having lost their last 3 games. Up until last weekend, Drogheda had been unbeaten for 2 months as they climbed to 6th in the table. It remains to be seen if the news regarding manager Mick Cooke, and of course the awful news about Gary O'Neill, will have much impact on the team allowing a shock to happen.
5) Check out the support for Gary O'Neill
We already posted some of the reaction to Gary O'Neill's battle with cancer but we feel it's important to highlight that some good may come of it.
— PFAI (@PFAIOfficial) September 12, 2013
The club will be showing their support for @BlueSeptIreland and indeed Gary O'Neill with t-shirts before Sunday's game in Slgo.
— Derry City FC (@derrycityfc) September 13, 2013
— PFAI (@PFAIOfficial) September 13, 2013
We wish Gary well!
Whatever happens, enjoy the games!