Sunday 18 February 2018

Twigg on course to make final showdown

Hoping to play: Gary Twigg
Hoping to play: Gary Twigg
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

GARY TWIGG has returned to training with Shamrock Rovers, with manager Michael O'Neill confident that his star man will be available for Sunday's highly anticipated FAI Cup showdown with Sligo Rovers.

The Scotsman has been troubled by a hamstring injury that forced him off after he scored one goal and created another in the Hoops' 2-2 draw with Bray, which delivered the league title.

With the Dubliners desperate for a 25th cup win -- and a double to match the achievements of the last team to land the Blue Riband back in 1987 -- the well-being of the prolific 26-year-old will be pivotal to their chances.

Centre-half Aidan Price is another doubt with a groin problem, although he was set to participate in yesterday's session after a week with the physios.

"They're both doing everything they can and we expect them to be alright," said O'Neill. "In Bray, Gary felt the hamstring tighten and we didn't take him off as a precaution -- we took him off because he didn't look like he could function properly."

Rovers officials have requested a further 2,000 tickets from the FAI after selling out their initial 10,000, and, with Sligo selling 8,000 and general sales coming along nicely at the customer friendly €10 admission price, the powers-that-be anticipate a crowd in excess of 25,000 for the Ford-sponsored encounter.

Indeed, league director Fran Gavin joked that bets have been struck within the offices of Abbotstown on whether the domestic showpiece will draw a bigger crowd than the friendly visit of Norway to the Aviva Stadium this day week.

The suspensions of Richie Ryan and Matthew Blinkhorn have left a shadow hanging over Sligo's preparations, and Gavin had a long chat with manager Paul Cook at last Saturday's PFAI awards. The disciplinary rules will be reviewed before the start of next season and O'Neill expressed his sympathy for the opposition players who were ruled out by hitting yellow-card limits before the semi-finals.

"I can understand why people are angry and disappointed, but the league has to set down rules," said the Northern Irishman, who anticipates that the Bit O'Red will retain the same team shape despite the loss of two key players.

O'Neill, 41, will resume discussions about a new contract with the Hoops hierarchy once Sunday's game is out of the way.

Irish Independent

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