Irish journeymen looking to FA Cup for some cheer
The FA Cup may have lost some of its own sparkle but, for a number of hard working Irish professionals operating beneath the Premier League radar, it still means a lot.
Glamour ties with opposition from a higher level can be a re ward for a season's endeavours although it is striking that clubs in lower divisions are now prepared to sacrifice the competition.
Still, there are a number of Irish individuals who have a big weekend in store, and a couple of others cursing their bad luck at ill-timed injuries and loss of form. Here are a selection of the tales that could play out this weekend.
Preston (v Norwich City)
This is a name for the notebook. Browne was on the fringes of the Cork set-up when he joined Preston 12 months ago and has quickly graduated to become a first team regular with the League One promotion chasers.
The visit of a Norwich side that has struggled for consistency since relegation from the top flight offers a chance for Browne to advertise his credentials for a step up regardless of what happens Preston.
Swansea have been to watch the athletic midfielder on five occasions and Hull are also keeping tabs on his development. So, it will be interesting to see how the 19-year-old matches up.
Rochdale (v Nottingham Forest)
Unless you study lower league football closely, you could be forgiven for thinking that unglamorous Rochdale are from the bottom end of the scale.
They're actually eighth in League One and midfielder Dawson has plenty of Championship experience so there's no novelty about the opposing camp. Still, with Forest going through a ropey spell, this tie could produce an upset.
The Dubliner is a slight injury concern, although there are other members of his family worse off in that regard - which brings us to the next game.
Yeovil Town (v Manchester Utd)
Kevin Dawson, a brother of Stephen, summed up his frustrations before Christmas when he tweeted that he was fuming and wanted to smash his head off a wall. He subsequently indicated that he's finding it hard to cope with a setback that has condemned him to the sidelines for a busy time of the year. The ex-Shelbourne midfielder is close to a return but the visit of Manchester United looks set to come too soon.
Sam Foley is on course to figure, though, a big day for the 28-year-old English-born player who hails from an Irish family and wore the green jersey at underage level. Brendan Moloney, a former Nottingham Forest player, may also feature at some stage.
Dover Athletic (v Crystal Palace)
Cogan (30) has a slightly unusual claim to fame. He is the only Sligoman to ever feature in the FA Cup final. That came in his early days at Millwall where he was a young member of the squad that reached Cardiff for the 2004 decider with Manchester United.
Cogan was unable to forge a career at Millwall and didn't particularly enjoy stints at Barnet and Gillingham. His name cropped up on this weekend a few times during his Barnet stay.
He's now reverted to part-time football and joined Dover in tandem with accepting a job in an industrial flooring firm. The Conference outfit have sold out their 6,000 capacity stadium for the arrival of Palace in town.
Sheffield United (v Queens Park Rangers)
This is the period of the year where Doyle tends to come into the headlines. The former Celtic trainee has made a good living for himself just below the top tier and has an excellent cup pedigree.
Highlights include a pair of victories at Old Trafford for Coventry and Leeds respectively; the Sky Blue success came in the League Cup.
The combative engine room operator was part of the Sheffield United side that reached last season's FA Cup semi final at Wembley and he has also skippered their run to the final four of this term's League Cup.
With the two-legged tie with Spurs coming up later this month, the journey to Loftus Road provides another Premier League test.
Blackpool (v Aston Villa)
After an eventful few years consisting of spells in Canada and Ukraine, O'Dea has returned to English football in Blackpool and has played regularly since signing a short term deal which expires this month. He's landed at a club which is struggling at the bottom of the Championship table with the dressing room gallows humour summed up last week by a leaked picture sent by loanee Jacob Murphy to his pals with the caption that he was getting ready to go out and lose again.
O'Dea's future remains in the balance, but he could do with the profile of a run-out at Villa Park.
AFC Wimbledon (v Liverpool)
Spare a thought for Alan Bennett, the former Cork City defender. He lost his place in the AFC Wimbledon starting XI in November and unless management have a change of heart, he'll be watching from the dugout on Monday.
There's a number of other Irishmen elsewhere depending on a reshuffle (Watford pair Tommie Hoban & Sean Murray are in the same boat ahead of Stamford Bridge tomorrow).
Sutherland, a London born Irish U-21 panellist on loan from QPR, scored on St Stephen's Day and came off the bench last Sunday so could get a run.