The biggest cup competition in the country took centre stage in the league of Ireland this weekend, but you can be forgiven if you missed it. The headlines were given to the start of the English premier league as that got underway on Friday night; which had the fans around the country, ecstatic. None of the first-round ties from the FAI Cup, which was spread over 3 days, was on TV. There were plenty of options for RTE as the draw threw up some excellent ties, but they didn’t bat an eyelid.
Dundalk played Derry City, while Bray hosted Cork: that’s 4 of the top 5 playing each other in the 1st round of the cup and none televised, so what hope have you got?
They did however miss a cracking and exciting weekend that brought thrillers, goal fest, shocks, extra time and a penalty shootout. There were 59 goals scored across the 16 games, 3 of which forced teams into extra time, while 4 non-league teams advanced. Half of the first division were knocked out, while 4 premier division sides were also sent packing at the 1st hurdle.
Crumlin United made another cup scalp as they sent league of Ireland side Wexford crashing out of the FAI Cup in Ferrycarrig Park on Friday. It was at this stage last year that Crumlin sent Finn Harps out of the cup, also in their own back yard and on that occasion. They meet Dundalk in the next round, like they will again this year.
The gap is slightly closing between the top sides at Leinster Senior League level to the struggling league of Ireland sides; and it makes for great viewing. Killester United had nearly joined their LSL counterparts in the next round, when they forced premier division strugglers Galway United all the way to penalties. The Dublin side scored in stoppage time to make it 3-3, and forced extra time but Shane Keegan’s men just about advanced.
Longford Town sent full time Sligo Rovers out of the cup, which raises more questions of the Bit O’ Red’s appointment of Gerard Lyttle. He is yet to win any of the fans over, and his side is struggling to stay in the top flight with games running out. Longford look refreshed since the appointment of Neale Fenn as he tries to make his own stamp on the club. He is certainly getting the backing from the locals with these types of performances he puts on.
Champions elect Waterford were shocked at home by fellow first division side Shelbourne 3-0. It was a massive win for Owen Heary’s men who can now look forward to a home tie against Shamrock Rovers in the next round. Alan Reynolds side were expected to have a good cup sun giving the quality in their side, but they would have received a wakeup call on Friday night. He must re-focus his troops if they are to claim the first division title in the coming weeks.
Last year’s beaten finalists Dundalk were dealt a tough draw when they were handed Derry City. Stephen Kenny’s men however turned on the style and blitzed the Candystripes 4-0 at Oriel Park. With Cork City miles ahead in the league, Dundalk need silverware to make this a good season after losing out in Europe; and they have started in the right manner.
Cork City scraped past Bray Wanderers at the Carlisle Grounds as they set their sights on not only retaining the FAI Cup, but also the league and cup double. John Caulfield’s men are well positioned in the league so they can solely focus on another run to the Aviva Stadium for a 3rd successive year. Kieran Sadlier missed penalty didn’t prove too costly for Cork as he scored superbly to send his new side through with his 1st for the club.
It was 2nd vs 3rd at Stradbrook, as Cabinteely met UCD for the 2nd time in 2 weeks. Just like their league game, Cabinteely came out on top and advanced in the cup for their 1st time ever. They are currently on their best run since becoming a league of Ireland side and Pat Devlin is hoping he can put together a decent cup run. They have been drawn a very winnable tie against non-league Bluebell United and a win there would see them move into the quarter finals for the very 1st time.
The Dublin Derby between Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers is the pick of the round as they meet at Tolka Park. Defending champions Cork were handed a home draw against Athlone Town, who won for the 1st time under Roddy Collins on Saturday. Dundalk were drawn away to Crumlin United, while Limerick face a home tie against Finn Harps who beat the Bohemians after extra time this weekend
Another all premier division tie is St Pats hosting Galway United in what would be a relegation 6 pointer, had it been a league game. Non-league Bluebell host Cabinteely; and Longford must travel to Dublin to take on Bangor of the LSL. After Drogheda ended their winless run with an easy victory over Evergreen at the weekend, they got a home tie against Cobh Wanderers.
The draw isn’t exactly wide open and you expect the favourites to go through, but giving the 1st round results, there is always the possibility of a cup shock.