FAI Junior Cup final preview: Liffey Wanderers and Sheriff YC ready for battle
Liffey Wanderers v Sheriff YC, Aviva Stadium, kick-off Sunday at 4.0
Europe’s largest amateur football competition, the FAI Junior Cup, began last September with over 650 sides, and now just two remain, Liffey Wanderers and Sheriff YC.
The odds of two sides, within a stones throw across the Liffey of each other, meeting in the Final would have been quite long 9 months ago. However the sense of community fostered between the two in the run up to this Final will be put to one side for 90 minutes on Sunday afternoon in the Aviva.
In 2013 the Pearse Street side watched on as Sheriff YC walked back over the Samuel Beckett Bridge with the FAI Junior Cup, after completing back to back wins in the competition. This Sunday, Liffey Wanderers are determined to keep the trophy on the South side.
Sheriff YC are the bookmakers odds on favourites for this title and the list of reasons why they should win it is long. They possess an array of footballing talent, many of whom have played at the highest level in Ireland. They have the current FAI Junior Footballer of the Year, Darren Dunne. They have Alan Reilly and Chris Giles at the helm, who have already won this trophy twice in the past three years. Finally, they have experienced an FAI Junior Cup Final at the Aviva and won.
However, familiarity breeds contempt and Liffey Wanderers will be hoping that Sheriff believe they already have one hand on the Cup. Under the experienced care of John Young, this Liffey Wanderers side have progressed quickly since they reformed two years ago. Last year it was the Quarter Finals but this year they firmly believe they can go all the way.
They have the players to do it too. The Roche brothers, Aidan and Lee, are the focal point of the Liffey attack. They are tricky and quick and know excatly where the goal is, with Aidan scoring decisive goals in the last three rounds, including a brace against North End United in the Semi Final.
However the Sheriff back line won’t give much away with Anto Kavanagh and Dave Browne due to marshal the defence on Sunday. Kavanagh was Man of the Match in the 1-0 semi final win against Clonmel Celtic, while the ever stylish and composed Browne is adept at reading any possible threats to the Sheriff defence.
Behind the Roche brothers is the double threat of Carl O’Brien and Anto O’Connor. Winger O’Connor will likely go head to head with Sheriff captain Paul Murphy on Sunday and this could provide fireworks. O’Connor is sharp, strong and is also dangerous from set pieces. Murphy is an old school full back who will ensure O’Connor knows he is there from the first minute.
Carl O’Brien is the engine in Liffey’s midfield and the former Leeds United player will drive this Liffey team on. O’Brien has a great eye for pass but can mix it in the middle too. In there he will come up against Darren Dunne, the best Junior footballer in the country at the moment. Dunne performs a similar role for Sheriff, controlling the midfield and starting attacks so their duel on Sunday will be intriguing.
Most of the Sheriff attack will focus around John Rock. “Rocker” is a hugely experienced striker and while he may not be as prolific as he once was, the front man can often occupy several defenders and his hold up play is second to none. This was evident in the semi final win where Rock regularly came deep to link play, creating space and several opportunities for strike partner Keith Dunne.
No doubt Liffey’s David Andrews will be tasked with dealing with one or both of them during Sunday’s contest. Andrews is a teak tough centre back and the captain is well able to turn defence to attack with his distribution out of defence.
Sheriff will feel they have an upper hand going into the game, having beaten Liffey 4-1 in a Leinster Junior Cup game earlier this season. However that match was on a knife-edge until just after half time when Liffey conceded two quick fire Sheriff goals to effectively kill the game off.
With it being a Cup Final and a Dublin derby it will be very much which side can keep their focus on the day. The big Aviva pitch will be unforgiving on the legs of these Junior players so substitutions could prove crucial to who lifts the FAI Junior Cup on Sunday afternoon.