Monday 19 March 2018

Evergreen a banana skin tie for Drogs warns Gill

Marcus Cavaroli

Pete Mahon and his assistant John Gill know all about non-league teams and what they're capable of in the FAI Cup and they'll no doubt be warning against complacency ahead of Drogheda United's tie away to Evergreen next Sunday (2pm).

This year's FAI Junior Cup runners-up will fancy their chances of toppling the Premier Division strugglers on their own patch in Kilkenny, while for Drogheda the tie represents an opportunity to rescue their season after a 15-match win-less league run left them facing almost certain relegation.

Mahon famously steered non-league St Francis all the way to the FAI Cup Final in 1990, beating four League of Ireland teams before eventually going down to Bray Wanderers at Lansdowne Road.

One particular cup match also sticks out in Gill's memory, for all the wrong reasons.

'I was at Shelbourne for a month when Dermot Keely needed a bit of a hand and I remember Crumlin turned us over in a replay and that's something you don't want - to be knocked out by a so-called junior team,' said Mahon's assistant (pictured right), speaking this week.

'You have to earn the right to go through and we certainly won't be taking them lightly on Sunday. We're not good enough to go down there thinking we only have to turn up.

'But if we show the determination and quality we showed against Cork last week, and maybe a bit more quality in the final third we can get through this round, and then with a good draw you could be in the quarter-final before you know it.

'I think it's imperative that we do that. We have to give something back to the club and supporters and it's incumbent on us to try and have a good cup run.

'From the club's point of view, if we get through this round it's important. It's sticky [finances], but we have lived within our means within budget - in fact we've been under budget most of the season.

'We would love to bring in players, but have to nurture and develop young players.'

The importance of progress in the FAI Cup certainly isn't lost on the Drogheda board, as last Fri-

day's game against Cork City was the club's last at United Park until September 15th - a period of 42 days during which club income will be limited to a couple of fundraisers.

A home draw in the second round, which takes place in the final week of August, would relieve the pressure financially, but first the Boynesiders must account for Evergreen in a tie which will be decided by extra time and penalties if it finishes level after 90 minutes.

'I worked at Kilkenny in 2001 and they still have Brian Jordan and Neil Andrews who were there then, and they will be awkward customers,' Gill warned.

'It's a banana skin, but there were a few positive signs against Cork. We defended really well and if Thomas Byrne takes that chance in the first half it puts a different complexion on things.

'It's been a very disappointing second half of the season. The first series of games was okay, but for whatever reason the second half we haven't done as well. We've under-performed and it's not good enough, but we're trying to rebuild and sometimes you have to take two steps back to go one forward.'

There's decidedly mixed news on the team front, with Richie Purdy pushing for a start after coming off the bench the other night for his first appearance in a number of weeks, while Luke Gallagher, Kevin Farragher and Ciaran McGuigan are all likely to train this week.

However, left-sided midfielder Gavin Brennan has now been ruled out for the remainder of the season with damaged ankle ligaments, while the cup tie comes a week too soon for former international Stephen Elliott who has a foot injury.

Lloyd Buckley and Sean Brennan suffered knocks last Friday and will be assessed during the week along with Colm Deasy (ankle ligaments).

On the plus side, Drogheda will have the vastly experienced Dave Mulcahy available after the much-travelled 39-year-old defender signed on a short-term contract, having been released from First Division leaders Waterford last month.

The Drogheda squad were given the weekend off before reassembling for a friendly against Leinster Senior League club Malahide United yesterday (Monday). Players who haven't had much game time were due to feature in that match, with the remaining squad members using the impressive facilities at Gannon Park for a training session.

Meanwhile, number two goalkeeper Ryan Coulter was released last week and immediately joined Bray Wanderers where he is acting as understudy to Peter Cherrie, while fringe players Jamie Hollywood and Eoghan Dempsey are unavailable for the next fortnight as they join the Irish squad at the World University Games in Taiwain.

•The FAI have announced fixtures for the inaugural National Under-15 League and Drogheda United will begin their campaign away to Cabinteely on the week ending August 20th.

The competition, which is regionalised for the group stages, sees the Drogs placed in section 4 where their other opponents will be Dundalk, St Patrick's Athletic, Bohemians and Shelbourne.

Drogheda Independent