After suffering heartbreak in their FAI Cup semi-final replay on Monday last week in Cork, Bohemians finished the week on a high in Dalymount Park. By getting past Sutton United of the English National League they are now in the hat for the quarter-final draw of the Irn Bru Scottish Challenge Cup, one of only 2 of the 8 invited teams from England, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales still in the competition [the other being Connah’sQuay Nomads from Wales who beat Coleraine at the weekend in their Round 3 tie].
The manner in which Bohemians won was heroic. With the sides locked at 0-0 a penalty shootout was needed to prise them apart. The shootout was real Roy Of The Rovers stuff, with Bohemians’ keeper Shane Supple the star of the show as he scored a penalty and saved 2 in a shootout that went to sudden death [Robert Cornwall scored the decisive strike]. It was a Roy Of The Rovers kind of week for Bohemians, with Ian Morris’ strike against Cork the kind of effort that is often seen in fiction but rarely hits the net in reality.
Jokes about the Irish team playing the English team in a Scottish competition in Dublin aside, this is a tremendous achievement for Keith Long’s men and by extension for the SSE Airtricity League. It was a privilege to be invited to play in this competition, and their lengthy run in it provides Bohemians with an opportunity to go as far or further than any invited team has gone before [last year 2 invited teams made the semi-finals]. Their continued involvement also presents the club with a headache in that most of the players will be out of contract by the time the quarters are played, but I’m sure a work-around can be arrived at.
Sligo Rovers bowed out against Motherwell’s U21 side, 2-0 away, a respectable exit for Rovers. Motherwell are the only Premier League team still to have their academy side in the competition, as St Mirren’s U21’s went out at home to Queen’s Park.
The attendance at Dalymount on Saturday for the Sutton tie was a healthy 1,130. This was in fact the second-highest of all the 8 Round 3 games, and one of only 2 ties to be watched by a 4-figure crowd [Alloa’s 5-4 penalty shootout win over Dunfermline Athletic was watched by 1,469].
The draw for the quarter-finals has been made and Bohemians have been paired with East Fife, at Dalymount Park. This is a winnable tie – East Fife are in the Scottish League One, which is their third tier. The tie is pencilled in provisionally for Saturday 17 November but I imagine Bohemians will request to play the match earlier, possibly closer to the end of our season. If they made the semi-final that that would not be due until the spring, by which time Bohemians would be up and running again anyway.The other quarters see Edinburgh City host AlloaAthletic, Queen’s Park host Connah’s Quay Nomads and Motherwell’s U21 home to Ross County.
So what exactly is the Scottish Challenge Cup? It’s a bit like the Football League Trophy in England, which sees League One and League Two sides play against academy sides of teams higher up the pyramid. After the Scottish FA Cup and League Cup, the Challenge Cup is the next most important domestic cup competition in Scotland.
The competition was initiated in 1990-91 to mark the centenary of the Scottish Football League. Initially it was known as the Centenary Cup and before IrnBru’s current sponsorship it had previously been sponsored by B&Q, Bell’s Whiskey, MG Alba, Ramsdens and Petrofac.
Falkirk, with 4 titles, have won the competition more than anybody. The current holders are Inverness Caledonian Thistle and the only non-Scots manager to lift the trophy was Mark Warburton in 2015-16 with Rangers [the same season they won promotion back to the Scottish Premier League]. Could Keith Long emulate Warburton this year?!
Good luck to Bohemians in the next round. Bohemians 5 East Fife 4 would be a new twist on that well-worn tongue-twister Forfar 5 East Five 4!