The FAI Cup last 16 delivered plenty of exciting matches but was short on surprises. As the games took place and the results rolled in throughout the weekend a picture began to emerge – there were to be no giant killings, no shocks, no young David slaying the Philistine giant Goliath. Like dominoes the First Division clubs fell against Premier Division opposition, without exception, from Galway on Friday right through to Cabinteely on Monday night.
Friday saw Athlone Town edge Wexford in an eight-goal extra-time thriller. This game was always going to produce the First Division’s one guaranteed name-in-the-hat for the quarters. That night also saw Galway host Shelbourne but there was to be no fairy-tale upset for John Caulfield’s men as they lost out 2-5 in a seven-goal extravaganza.
Saturday saw the famous 1999 final re-enacted at the Carlisle Grounds. Finn Harps, who lost out in ’99 after three entertaining games at Tolka Park, gained a modicum of revenge with a fine 0-2 away win. The Premier Division were keeping the First Division in their place, and Derry City stuck to the script by also winning 2-0 away on the night, against Drogheda United.
Sunday saw Dundalk come away from Cobh with a 2-0 win; neither the long journey, the recent managerial change nor a stuttering league campaign was going to get in the way of Cup progress for the Lilywhites. UCD also went down at home to higher-tier opposition later on Sunday, losing 3-1 to Sligo Rovers having led early on. At this stage five First Division sides had all lost out at home to Premier Division opposition; all Goliath, no David.
Monday’s two games concluded proceedings. Shamrock Rovers celebrated drawing AC Milan in a Europa League glamour tie by dispatching Cork City, and Bohemians won the final tie of the round against Cabinteely. Of the six First Division sides that exited at the hands of Premier Division opposition, Cabinteely were the only side to at least have the fall-back that an away tie was extra-difficult.
For my club Bray Wanderers the Cup dream is over for another year. The Cup is always something we feel we can win. Having won it in 1990 and 1999 we know we can do it again and we know that we will do it again at some stage to achieve our hat-trick; it just won’t be in 2020.
So back to the League and this Friday sees us host Cabinteely at the Carlisle Grounds. A win for Wanderers would move them to within two points of the First Division leaders and would avenge the 4-2 defeat meted out to us on the opening day of the season at Stradbrook back in February. The game means more than that though. There’s local bragging rights up for grabs, and the chance to get one over on former Bray manager [and forever Bray legend] Pat Devlin. It’s the season’s second El DARTico – bring it on!