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Saturday 26 May 2018

Sky Blues in search of Holy Grail

Declan Downes of North End United slides in to win the ball during North End’s recent FAI Cup win over Cherry Orchard
Declan Downes of North End United slides in to win the ball during North End’s recent FAI Cup win over Cherry Orchard

North End United will line out for their first-ever FAI Junior Cup final on Saturday when they meet strong Limerick outfit Pike Rovers.

This is only the second time a Wexford team has reached the final in the league's history and the Sky Blues hope to be the first to capture the FAI's most prestigious and historic trophy after New Ross Celtic unfortunately lost the decider 24 years ago to Clonmel Town.

North End's manager John Godkin remembers the game and the impact that it had on that superb New Ross Celtic team very well - it was his second season in charge of his team and they beat Ross in a play-off the week after to capture the first of his eleven league titles as the manager.

North End have been very active since their dramatic semi-final victory over St. Michael's, winning nine league games to go to the top of the Premier Division, and they also recorded a good victory in the FAI Senior Cup as well, beating Cherry Orchard.

That flurry of fixtures has come at a price though, with a few players picking up injuries that will threaten their places in the squad for next Saturday.

Adam Beary is probably the biggest doubt and the other injury concern is Dale Flynn, but he is progressing well.

Both Shane Dempsey and Lee Smith will unfortunately miss out on this historic occasion for the club due to overseas duty with the Defence Forces - club officials have been working tirelessly to try to get them home but it appears their efforts are in vain.

It's a pity for North End, because the backroom team would love to have a full selection of players to pick from as Pike Rovers are one of the country's leading sides.

This will be their third final in seven years, having won the competition in 2011 and being beaten by Sheriff Y.C. in the final two years ago, which demonstrates their calibre.

The sides have met twice in the last five years in this competition, with Pike winning in 2014 and North End avenging that defeat in 2015 when they reached the last four of the competition.

Pike still have seven of the squad that won it in 2011 and boast a number of players who have lined out at international level, Gary Neville in goal, Wayne Colbert, Pa Mullins, their captain, and Stephan McGann in midfield.

North End United themselves have a lot of quality in their side, with Paul 'Spot' Murphy and his namesake, Paul from Kilmore, both having played in England in their youth and represented their countries at under-age.

Gary Delaney, Robin Dempsey and Jay Murphy, to name a few, are big game players and along with 'Spot', both Kyle Dempsey and Lee Walker are Oscar Traynor Trophy winners with the squad.

They all travelled to the Aviva Stadium last Saturday to soak up the atmosphere and get used to the surroundings as the backroom team meticulously prepare to bring that elusive title home across the River Slaney and make history.

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