Brendan Shiels previews the clash between Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers as they head into their FAI Cup quarter-final replay tonight. Oriel Park is the venue as the Lilywhites and the Hoops both aim to book a place in the semi-finals.
It will be the second of four occasions the two sides will meet in the months of September and October with the EA Sports Cup final on Saturday evening and a crucial league tie; both at Oriel Park in the coming weeks. Unbelievably that will mean it will be eight times the teams have met each other this year, possibly a record?
With such a congestion of fixtures, we can be sure both managers would have been looking to avoid this on Friday night but what more could they have expected after such a drab affair in Tallaght. The Hoops had the better of the first half exchanges but the visitors had the upper hand in the second period as neither side could make the breakthrough.
Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk will count themselves fortunate to still be in with a chance of making a third domestic cup final, as his title chasers largely disappointed against the Hoops. A decent chance from Kurtis Byrne midway through the second half could have won it for the Lilywhites but a 0-0 result certainly reflected the story of the game.
After a disappointing league campaign, Rovers’ fans will be hoping to win both remaining cups, The Hoops are now 16 points behind Dundalk but do have two games in hand on the Lilywhites, while Dundalk are six points clear of nearest challengers Cork City at the top of the SSE Airtricity League, however they have now played a game more than Cork City. Champions St. Patrick’s Athletic are eleven points adrift and also have a game in hand.
Pat Fenlon is still in the early days of putting his own mark on the Rovers team he has taken on, but he will be pleased by some of what he has seen so far. The aim remains the same as the day he arrived
“to try to win the cup and finish as high up the league as possible.”
At this stage, it’s not hard to guess which route the Hoops’ fans would prefer to take back to Europe. Speaking to the clubs official website, Dundalk’s Daryl Horgan reflected on a hard fought draw on Friday night and what lays ahead of them this week.
“I thought it was a hard fought game. The two teams were very even I thought. Not much between the sides. I thought we edged it on the chances really.” “It is a big week now for the club with the two games in two competitions but we just have to keep working hard and showing what we can do. We are still in the Cup and if we are at our best and playing well then I think we will go through to the next round.”
Dundalk injury/suspension news
Stephen O’Donnell (knee) and Simon Kelly (calf) are ruled out while Brian Gartland and Donal McDermott are suspended for the home side.
Shamrock Rovers injury news
David O’Connor is likely to miss out through injury, but Ryan Brennan is back in contention after a cameo appearance on Friday.
Dundalk (Evens) Draw (23/10) Rovers (5/2)
After such a tight encounter on Friday and Dundalk’s form slipping over the last number of weeks we could see another drawn game. A penalty shootout isn’t out of the question.
Brendan Shiels, Pundit Arena
Featured image source: Ciaran Culligan Photography