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All roads leave to Cobh

 

Brian Quigley

The draw for the FAI Cup entry-stage round for League of Ireland clubs was made last week and there were a few interesting encounters thrown up. A big Dublin derby between near-neighbours Bohemians and Shelbourne. A midlands derby between Longford and Athlone. A long trip south for Letterkenny Wanderers to face UCD and a long trip in the opposite direction for Wexford who face Derry.

Cobh will be a busy place on the second weekend in August on foot of the draw. Well, certainly busier than it normally is for that time of year, given that it will host not one but two games in the Round of 32 of this season’s FAI Cup. The only thing bigger would have been if the town’s two sides had been drawn against each other.

Cobh Ramblers, currently in the bottom half of the League of Ireland First Division, will host the mighty Dundalk, current holders and 11-time winners of the Cup. David versus Goliath for sure. A big crowd will no doubt flock to St Colman’s Park for the occasion.

Ramblers have hosted some big FAI Cup games in the past, none bigger than the 1983 semi-finals against Sligo Rovers. That titanic contest went to three replays, and put Ramblers on the national footballing map in the days before they became a League of Ireland club. Such was the demand in Cork to see the games that the home matches were played in Flower Lodge in front of crowds of 20,000. To put that into perspective, that’s an attendance bigger than Cobh’s population, and when Sligo went on to defeat Bohemians in the final, the crowd at Dalymount Park was only 8,500.

In the same round and on the same weekend [but presumably not the same night] Cobh Wanderers will face Limerick FC, who are still in the mix for a play-off spot in the First Division. From Wanderers’ point of view, this is an ideal opportunity to pull off a ‘giant killing’.

Wanderers play in the Beamish Stout Munster Senior League Senior Premier Division, effectively one of the provincial parallel top tiers that sits directly below the League of Ireland First Division in our football pyramid. They finished the 2018-19 season a respectable third [behind UCC and Rockmount], only losing four games all season.

August will see Wanderers – who got to the FAI Intermediate Cup final in 2017, losing on penalties to Liffey Wanderers – still preparing for the new season but I’d expect them to be ready for Limerick and to fancy their chances of taking a League scalp.

 

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