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Thrills and spills in the FAI Cup but no surprises

 

FAI Cup round-of-32 weekend passed off with plenty of thrills and spills but ultimately no shocks or surprises. Of the 15 games played over the weekend [the Midlands Derby between Athlone and Longford is being played this week] there were 46 goals, for an average of 3.1 goals-per-game.

While the ties provided good entertainment and good value, there were ultimately no giant-killings. Nine of the 10 Premier League clubs made it through; the only one not to be in the hat for the draw for the last 16 was Finn Harps, and they only missed out because they were narrowly beaten by Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght.  

Three non-league sides progressed, and all from ties against other non-league teams. Four sides from the First Division made it through, all progressing from ties against non-league sides or another First Division side.

Sligo Rovers produced a brilliant display in Balbriggan to beat Glebe North 8-0. Cabinteely ran Cork City close in Stradbrook, taking them to a penalty shootout before going out. Another penalty shootout saw Inishowen Football League side Glengad United gain revenge on St Michaels for defeat in the FAI Junior Cup earlier this year.

How about the magnificent tie in Dalymount Park. Shelbourne led Bohemians 2-0 with the finish line in sight before conceding three late goals. That would have been a major upset; as would Bray Wanderers beating St Patricks Athletic in Inchicore, but despite going a goal up Wanderers were ultimately edged out 2-1.

Unless you were at one of the games or saw some brief highlights, you wouldn’t even know the Cup had been on. RTE in their wisdom [or lack of it] decided not to screen any of the games live.

If I had my way I’d have screened a game on the Friday, the Saturday and the Sunday. I’d have screened one of the all non-league ties, given these deserving players a moment in the spotlight. I’d have screened Cabinteely against Cork, it had exciting tie and potential upset written all over it. Bohemians against Shelbourne would have been a runner too.

I’m not one to champion the English FA, but if you look across the water the weekend just gone, as well as seeing the return of the Premier League, saw the 2019/20 FA Cup commence. It was the extra preliminary round, a mere 13 steps away from Wembley next May, and eight steps away from Round Three in January, where the ‘big boys’ come in.

Clubs playing at the weekend were from the ninth and tenth tiers and all clubs who won [there were nearly 200 ties] got £2,250 from the FA. BBC Sport even screened one of the ties [Broadbridge Heath’s 1-0 victory over Punjab United].

Good luck in the next round of the FAI Cup to all the sides who progressed at the weekend. The draw for the round-of-16 has just been made at the time of writing and there will be at least one non-league team in the quarter-finals, thanks to the last 16 pairing of Crumlin United and Lucan United. Glengad United will host Waterford United. The standout tie of the round looks to be Derry City hosting Dundalk.

Brian Quigley 

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