While the FA Cup in England is often, and probably rightly, recognised as the greatest cup competition on earth, the Irish equivalent has provided as much drama as any knock out competition around the world in years gone by and this weekend it will capture not only the imagination but the hearts and souls of Irish football fans up and down the country yet again.
As is the sad reality of our domestic game, the third round of the FAI Cup is sure to be over looked by the Irish sporting public who will once again look to our neighbours and the FA Cup Final at Wembley for their weekend’s entertainment but, as has been shown time after time since the move to the Aviva Stadium, the FAI Cup can more than hold its own.
This weekend’s stand out tie can not be argued upon, the hands down winner comes from the capital as Dublin foes St.Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers clash. Following a dismal start to the league campaign, many are calling this a season defining game for Liam Buckley’s ”Saints” but for Fenlon’s ”Hoops” the pressure is just as high, having drawn a staggering seven league matches so far in 2015.
Cup competitions are all about history and despite a fall from grace in recent years, the meeting of League of Ireland Champions Dundalk and 13 time top flight kings Shelbourne will have fans of all generations eager and ready for kick off at Oriel Park.
While Stephen Kenny’s ”Lillywhites” are red hot bookies favourites for victory, the ”Reds” are going through some what of a mini revival of late in the First Division and Kevin Doherty’s troops will be eager to show their potential come 7.45pm on Friday night.
What are great knockout tournaments without giant killings? It is after all the basis on which the English domestic cup is famed for all over the world. However, there have been plenty of pundits left red faced in recent years with junior sides such as Sherrif causing chaos for their League of Ireland superiors.
What are the chances of similar scenes in the latest round of the competition?
Firhouse Clover will be given little encouragement ahead of their trip to the spiritual home of Irish football Dalymount Park with Keith Long’s Bohemians side flying high at present.
Elsewhere, North End United of the Wexford Premier League will be hoping to catch Galway United on the hop with the ”Tribesmen” suffering through a number of injuries and missing personal at present.
Tolka Rovers hold home advantage ahead of Roddy Collins’ return to the cup he won in 2001 with Bohemians and will fancy their chances against a struggling Waterford United while Killester and Liffey Wanderers in particular hold strong opportunities to cause cup shocks against Cobh Ramblers and Athlone Town respectively.
Sunday is a day of non-league showcasing of sorts with all five FAI Cup games including at least one non League of Ireland side. Of those seven non-leaguers, it is Cobh Wanderers of County Cork who many experts will be keeping a close eye upon given the vast array of former League of Ireland personal within their squad.
All of these sub-plots and sideshows make for a roller coaster weekend of domestic cup action on these shores and all we can hope for now is the attendances to match as the FAI Cup roadshow spreads the game from Dublin to Cork to Edenderry to Wexford and to the Midlands and beyond.
With our national league often being criticised for its ‘Dublin bias’ this is the time for supporters of rural clubs to get out and make their team’s respective matches a true occasion in towns such as Longford and Sligo, just two of the clubs entering this round with great FAI Cup pedigree under their belts.
So here’s to another weekend of giant killings, local heroes and controversial decisions as the FAI Cup, our FAI Cup, continues to punch above its weight beneath the shadow of our illustrious neighbours.
Longford Town v Finn Harps – Draw (Harps to win replay)
Wexford Youths v Cork City – Big Wexford Youths upset
Bohemians v Firrhouse Clover – Bohemians cruising through
Drogheda United v Cabinteely – A heavy defeat for Cabo on their cup debut
St.Patrick’s Athletic v Shamrock Rovers – Buckley to bounce back with a big win
Galway United v North End United – Galway should have enough
Dundalk v Shelbourne – There’s no stopping Dundalk right now
Bray Wanderers v Limerick FC – Bound to be a draw
Tolka Rovers v Waterford United -Non League upset on the cards
Athlone Town v Liffey Wanderers – Alan Matthews’ cup pedigree to come through
Killester United v Cobh Ramblers – The First Division side won’t find it easy but should come out on top
Sligo Rovers v Crumlin United – Home win
Edenderry Town v Derry City – Uncertain tie but away win still favoured
UCD v Sherrif YC – Students in hot form, home win
Cockhill Celtic v St. Mochtas – Wide open tie but opting for away side
Cobh Wanderers v Avondale United – Big cup potential in this home side