The FAI Cup took centre stage this weekend in the league of Ireland with 16 clubs all fighting it out for a place in the quarter finals. 25 goals were scored across 8 games that seen non-league Bluebell United knock out Cabinteely in Stradbrook. Defending champions Cork City practically walked the ball into the Athlone Town net 7 times at Turners Cross. It was the 2nd time in a week the Athlone have conceded 7 goals after last weeks mauling by Longford Town.
Dundalk eased past Crumlin United while Shamrock Rovers scored 3 second half goals to see off Shelbourne. Longford Town beat non-league Bangor Celtic 1-0 as Neale Fenn continues to bring life to the black and red. Galway United beat St Pats at Richmond Park and Limerick advanced at the expense of Finn Harps in the 2 all premier division games.
Drogheda United got only their 2nd win in 19 games in all competitions as they scored 5 against non-league Cobh Wanderers. It was the 1st time Drogheda scored 5 times in a game since May 2013 in a league cup game against Longford but Pete Mahon would rather 6 points from the 2 cup wins as they sit rooted to the bottom of the table.
So, what have we learned this week?
Rovers proving to be cup specialists.
Despite early criticism for their league form, Stephen Bradley has steadied the ship. The Hoops sit in 4th in the league, just 2 points off 3rd and are in the final of the EA Sports League Cup. Add that to the weekends win over Shelbourne to put them into the quarter finals of the FAI Cup, its turning out to be a decent season for Bradley.
A mixture of youth and experience throughout the squad, Rovers are not exactly easy on the eye but are certainty effective. They have yet to take part in a 0-0 draw across all competitions this season and have only failed to score in 5 games. The manager will have no doubt targeted a cup run and grabbing some silverware this season, would have been a priority.
The draw has been kind to them as they 1st met non-league Glenville and were then drawn away to Shelbourne this weekend. In the draw on soccer republic on Monday night, the Hoops were again drawn to non-league opposition in Bluebell United. Shamrock Rovers wont get an easier chance to make the last 4 and it’s one that they will take with both hands.
Limerick and Galway put domestic problems behind them.
So much was expected from Limerick this season as they eased to the first division title in 2016 but it hasn’t worked out that way. Manager Martin Russell was sent on his way and was eventually replaced by Neil McDonald. The ex-Blackpool boss has now led them to the quarter finals for the 1st time since 2011. Limerick have won just 1 of their last 6 league games so their cup win over Finn Harps was huge for the confidence in the side.
They meet fellow strugglers Galway United in the next round, who had an impressive win away to St Pats in their cup game on Friday night. Shane Keegan’s men have struggled for the majority of the season and are currently sitting in 11th, 3 points from safety. The cup run is good for moral as the Tribesmen have won just 5 league games this season. 3 of those wins have come in the last 5 as they pick up some form but Keegan has a lot more work to do.
Both managers however, will be very happy to have put together a cup run as they welcome any distraction from the relegation battle. Galway have the advantage in the cup as they were drawn as the home team and will hope for a repeat of the 3-1 score line from earlier in the season.
A convenient draw…… For the FAI.
Every cup competition brings its own shocks, surprises and fairy-tale stories and this season is no different. Non-league Bluebell have made it to the quarter final stage as has first division Longford Town which is an excellent achievement from both sides. They were joined in the draw by 6 premier division sides including the big 2 of Cork City and Dundalk.
The last thing the FAI wanted was a non-league or first division side making their way on TV on semi final day. So when the draw was concluded they would have been rubbing their hands when they seen that all the big club clubs avoided each other. Bluebell got a home draw against Shamrock Rovers but will no doubt be moved from the Red Cow to Tallaght Stadium.
Longford Town were handed a home draw against defending champions and current runaway league leaders Cork City. It’s a massive task for either Longford or Bluebell to even force extra time let alone have any chance of advancing. Dundalk were handed a home tie against neighbours Drogheda United. Stephen Kenny’s men have already scored 9 times in 2 games against them this season, so you can write off any shock at Oriel Park.
From a neutral point of view, fans do not want Dundalk vs Cork in the final for a third straight year. Last years showpiece was a dour affair that was decided in extra time thanks to Sean Maguire. One thing we can expect from the quarter final draw is that we will be guaranteed goals.