A TURBULENT WEEK for Shamrock Rovers ends as it began: with a must-win game against old Ringsend rivals Shelbourne.
The opposition may be the same when the Hoops travel to Tolka Park for tonight’s FAI Cup quarter-final but that’s about the sum of it. Everything else has changed, changed utterly.
Monday night’s 1-0 defeat against Bohemians closed the book on whatever lingering hopes Rovers had of bringing the Airtricity League title back to Tallaght for a third successive season. Thirteen points behind champions-elect Sligo with six games to play, the defeat also signalled the end of Stephen Kenny’s short and dismal reign as manager, less than nine months after the Rovers board had opened the wallet to headhunt him from Derry City.
Kenny’s assistant Stephen Glass shuffles across one seat in the dugout for the trip to Drumcondra, knowing that a cup win is fast becoming the club’s only route to European football next season. The injured Graham Gartland aside, he has a full panel to pick from as Rovers continue to plod towards their 25th cup title with no great certainty.
If Glass could desperately do with a win, so too could Shelbourne boss Alan Mathews who comes into the game with a run of nine winless games in the league still hanging over his head; the 3-2 cup win against Cherry Orchard last month is Shels’ only competitive victory since 13 July. Mathews too has a full squad to choose from, with Glenn Cronin and Paddy Kavanagh both returning from injury.
“We’re going to have to step up to it,” he told the club’s official website following Monday’s 2-0 loss against St Patrick’s Athletic. “We’re going to have to play better than we did tonight and last Friday to make sure we get the right result.”
Arguably the tie of the round comes in Richmond Park where third-placed St Pat’s host second-placed Drogheda United. Both teams come into the game with three wins from their last three in the league, a run which has strengthened their respective claims for European football next season.
Still the safety net of a place in the cup semis appeals, not least for Pat’s who are desperate to end their 51-year drought in the competition after falling short in the final four against Shelbourne last season. Manager Liam Buckley will have to do without Dean Kelly and Mark Rossiter while John Russell and new Brazilian recruit Hernany Macedo face late fitness tests. Jake Kelly, who picked up a knock against Bohemians last week, continues to make progress.
At Dalymount Park, Bohs host struggling Dundalk with a chance to build on Monday’s historic league win against Shamrock Rovers, the Gypsies’ first in Tallaght Stadium. Manager Aaron Callaghan’s attempt to blood some new young faces was again rewarded as 19-year-old goalkeeper Greg Murray kept a clean sheet while new signing Kevin Devaney got the game’s only goal.
Captain Owen Heary is still sidelined by a back injury but midfielder Ryan McEvoy could yet recover from an ankle injury in time to feature.
Dundalk beat Malahide United 4-0 in the last 16, and though it was the Lilywhites’ sole competitive win since the end of May, Callaghan insists he won’t be taking them lightly.
“Form goes out the window in the cup, anyone can tell you that. Darius [Kierans, manager] has turned Dundalk around, making them hard to beat, but we’re on our own patch and the onus is on us to go out and try and win the game.”
The only First Division side remaining in the competition, Mervue United make the long trip north to the Brandywell where they face an out-of-sorts Derry City.
Declan Devine’s men are looking to break a three-game losing streak in the league but they will have to do so without defensive rock Stewart Greacen who is still recovering from a medial ligament injury.
FAI Cup quarter-finals (7.45pm unless stated)
- Bohemian FC v Dundalk
- St Patrick’s Athletic v Drogheda United
- Derry City v Mervue United
- Shelbourne v Shamrock Rovers (8pm)