Kirby eyeing amazing treble
FEW League of Ireland players earn an FAI Cup winner's medal during their career – but Alan Kirby will be 90 minutes from an amazing treble if Sporting Fingal can overcome Premier club Bray Wanderers at Morton Stadium on Sunday (4.05pm).
This opportunity is one that Kirby thought he might never see when he swapped Longford Town and St Patrick's for the back waters of Division 1 with Sporting last year.
But Liam Buckley's men have gone from strength to strength and 32-year-old Kirby now finds himself tantalisingly close to that hat-trick, plus another shot at European football and a possible return to the top flight.
Standing in the way of an appearance in the final are the Seasiders, who reached the semis in 2005, only to be beaten by the eventual winners Drogheda United.
While showing Bray due respect, Kirby knows Sporting have a great chance of booking a date with Waterford or Sligo Rovers at Tallaght Stadium on November 22nd.
'We know if we play to our full potential we can cause anybody problems, and there's nobody we should be afraid of after beating Rovers, who are top of the Premier Division,' he pointed out this week.
'We played them [Bray] pre-season and have an idea of what they're like from playing against them in the Premier over the years. I played with Dave Mulcahy and know one or two others.
'Like us they're hard-working and honest players who are mad up for it, but as regards their strengths and weaknesses we will need to be briefed on that.
'I do think there's quite a difference in standard between the Premier and First Divisions. In the First it's a lower pace and I've noticed that you get more time on the ball. There's a big difference in the workrate off the ball as well
'But there's definitely talent in the First Division and players who are capable of stepping up to the Premier and they deserve a chance.'
While the thought of going to the likes of Mervue United and Kildare County doesn't exactly have him frothing at the mouth, Kirby agrees that the FAI Cup run has put a spring in the step of the players – perhaps more so in the case of the experienced squad members who have been lucky enough to taste success in the past.
'The Cup is a welcome distraction from the League and these one-off games where anything can happen are exciting.
'I'm lucky enough to have been in two finals and have won them both. It's a fantastic day out and I remember them like it was yesterday.
'I think if we can get to the final it will drum up people's interest locally, maybe put bums on seats and help get the club off to the start they want in their lifetime.
'I do see similarities with my old club Longford Town, and if we can get that same family environment it will definitely help. The players would go for a drink after a game and meet supporters and know them by their first name.
'Winning the Cup did a lot for Longford. It got more people out every week, it really gave the town a boost and gave people a lot of pride because they'd never won a senior trophy before. There's no reason why that can't happen for us.
'I didn't think another big Cup run would come around so soon in my career. I knew Liam [Buckley] was putting together a good team, but although you have as good a chance as anybody else going into the Cup, you need luck in the draw and we didn't have that, playing Shamrock Rovers.
'But we could have got Bohs away in the first round, so I'm delighted to be this far in the competition.'
Sunday's successful team will face the winners of the first semi-final between Sligo Rovers and Waterford United, and Kirby has more than just a passing interest in the outcome of that game as well.
'Waterford is my home town and I scored against them in one of the finals with Longford, and so it would be ironic if we played against them.
'Sligo have that bit of extra quality, but we've not been able to beat Waterford this season. We drew twice and they also beat us 4-1, so they're a bit of a bogey side. 'We will give it our best shot against Bray and, please God, it will be enough to get us through.'