Pike dream of defying the odds
LAST SEASON'S FAI Ford Cup ended with one battle of the Rovers and this season's third round gets under way with another.
Limerick's Pike Rovers may be as different an opponent from Shamrock Rovers as one can find, but the FAI Junior Cup holders make their way to Sligo this evening to take on the defending FAI Cup champions.
Both sides will be dreaming of the final, but it's fair to say that it's Paul Cook's men who have the more realistic opportunity to make those dreams come true.
It's just one of a number of fascinating subplots in this year's third round, after the draw was kind to the big guns and pitted just two Premier Division clubs against each other.
All 32 teams will harbour hopes of a run that could take them to the Aviva Stadium, where 36,000 people watched Ciaran Kelly's heroics seal the trophy for the Bit O'Red in last year's memorable final.
It was a day that helped revive the competition, and ahead of a new campaign, we take a look at Round Three.
Sligo have a proud recent cup record and after tasting the glory of that penalty shoot-out win, they will want another run at the title this season.
Standing in their way are Pike Rovers, FAI Junior Cup winners from Limerick, who are at the end of a 50-game season that has seen them lift their league and cup.
They have two games left before they can take a summer holiday, tonight's match and their local cup final.
Their manager, Declan Considine, played at the Showgrounds for Limerick during his five-year spell in the league and faced the might of Ian Gilzean et al in the Cup during the 1990s.
This time they will need to shackle the goalscoring Eoin Doyle and mark Richie Ryan while trying to find a way past the stingy defence that has conceded only nine goals in 16 league games this season.
"It's our cup final," Considine said. "There's definitely no pressure on us, Sligo are the holders while we won the junior final. I haven't heard of that happening before. The game itself is a big day for the club, we'll have 300 to 400 travelling and it will be fantastic."
Shamrock Rovers like to remind all of their guests to Tallaght of their trophy haul by announcing their record as the teams come out on to the pitch.
However, the fact that it is now 24 years since they lifted the trophy means that the club are hungry to add to their record haul of 24 FAI Cups, especially having come so close last year.
The club's revival means the league champions look set to end that run in the near future and tonight the favourites' job is to make sure they don't drop their guard against Athlone Town.
the MAN WHO KNOWS
wHAT IT TAKES
St Patrick's Athletic boss Pete Mahon is wary of Crumlin United this evening, and with good reason.
It may be 21 years since he led non-league St Francis to the FAI Cup final, but that achievement helped make his name and is still mentioned in dispatches at this time of year when the non-league clubs eye big scalps.
"I remember being a non-league manager and we used to target the League of Ireland teams, so it's a tough tie for us," he admitted.
"Crumlin are a very good side. They won five trophies last season and it won't be easy for us. We certainly won't underestimate them, I know from my Leinster Senior League days what this will mean to them."
Despite ceding home advantage for the game, United's former Shamrock Rovers player Stephen Gough reckons his side have a good chance of causing an upset.
"I think we have a great chance against Pat's because of the style the manager has us playing," he said.
"Pat's will allow us to play and give us more room on the ball. Breaking them down will be harder, though. We've got to be brave."
Galway United manager Sean Connor has a long memory, it seems, and the Belfast man has cast his mind back 20 years for inspiration ahead of Sunday's clash with Dundalk.
Last time out, the Tribesmen endured an entirely miserable evening as Eamon Zayed inspired Derry City to a 6-0 rout at the Brandywell that leaves the westerners at the bottom of the Airtricity League Premier Division after 10 defeats on the trot.
But he has delved into the archives for a worse result, one which just happened to coincide with the club's last cup success in 1991.
"It was six, six was bad enough," Connor said.
"But coming home on the bus, (coach) Gareth Gorman told me the team in '91 got beaten 9-1 at the Brandywell and if people say last Friday was the worst performance, then they have short memories."