Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk do battle in Tallaght this weekend looking to take home the first major silverware of the season in the form of the EA Sports Cup.
The two sides come into this clash very much in form – both with seven wins in a row behind them – and with the league definitely beyond one and just about out of reach of the other, the cups present their biggest chance of success this year.
On paper, the Hoops and the Lilywhites have two of the best sides in the division – but how do they stack up when compared side-by-side?
Gary Rogers (Dundalk). Rogers had a pretty shaky start to the season, and at one point saw place under threat from Gabriel Sava, but the veteran has recovered as the campaign has gone on – and his recent clean sheet record is nothing to be sniffed at.
Sean Gannon (Dundalk). Gannon started very brightly this season – one of the few to pick up exactly where he left off last year, in fact – as has maintained that level of consistency throughout the campaign.
Lee Grace (Shamrock Rovers). One of the best defenders in the league this season, Grace has slotted seamlessly into the Rovers backline as a midseason signing from Galway United. Will, unfortunately, miss out on Saturday du to being cup-tied, but his early performances in a Hoops shirt have nonetheless been very encouraging.
Niclas Vemmelund (Dundalk). In a central defence that has been unstable at times, Vemmelund has been a rock for most of the season. The Danish defender can, in particular, look back on two outstanding performances against Rosenborg in the Champions League as personal highlights, even if the results were not favourable.
Dane Massey (Dundalk). Dundalk’s hero the last time these two sides met in the final of the competition with two goals, Masey has been on the left what Gannon has on the right. Attacking full-backs are vital in the modern game, and the 29-year-old carries out that role perfectly.
Robbie Benson (Dundalk). Already a star performer in midfield, Benson has taken his game to new heights recently by chipping in with some vital goals. The biggest compliment that can probably be paid to the tenacious midfielder is that people have fully realised that he shouldn’t be defined by that stunner against Legia Warsaw last season.
Ronan Finn (Shamrock Rovers). Rejoined Shamrock Rovers from Dundalk and was made captain almost instantly. Although he seemed to take a bit of time to adjust to having the new responsibility, it is second nature to him now. At 29 he is actually one of the older members of that squad, but his drive and experience in midfield are vital for his younger teammates.
Patrick McEleney (Dundalk). On his day, arguably the best player in the Premier Divison. McEleney is capable of absolute magic on the pitch, and his penchant for scoring screamers is proof of that. Slight inconsistency is still blighting his game somewhat, but the good performances outweigh the bad significantly.
Trevor Clarke (Shamrock Rovers). Clarke has cemented his status as one of the best young talents in the country this season, leading to reported interest from the Premier League in England. A ridiculously versatile player, Clarke seems to be just as comfortable bombing forward from a left-back role as rifling one into the net as a right-winger. A star of the future, no question.
Brandon Miele (Shamrock Rovers). A tremendously gifted player. Like most of his Rovers teammates Miele took time to settle this season, but over the last few weeks especially he has been instrumental, playing a key role in his side’s winning rum. Wonderful goals against Cork City and Bluebell United recently only tell some of the story.
David McMillan (Dundalk). With Sean Maguire in England now, there are few (if any) challengers to McMillan’s claim to being called the best striker in the Premier Division. He is the focal point of Dundalk’s attack, the finisher-in-chief, and is deadly anywhere near the box. McMillan has 15 goals this season, and still has time to overtake Maguire’s 20 and finish the campaign with the golden boot.
On this week’s episode of the Mixer Irish football podcast, we’re joined by Cork City captain Johnny Dunleavy to discuss the FAI Cup semi-final draw, and look ahead to this weekend’s EA Sports Cup final between Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk.
Read More About: Brandon Miele, dane massey, david mcmillan, Dundalk, ea sports cup, gary rogers, league of ireland cup, lee grace, LOI Premier Division, loi premier divison, Niclas Vemmelund, patrick mceleney, robbie benson, ronan finn, sean gannon, Shamrock Rovers, Stephen Bradley, stephen kenny, trevor clarke