Finn Harps make the longest trip of the weekend cup pairings, with over 400 km separating the two sides heading into their crunch Ford FAI Cup Quarter Final game in Avondale Park, Cork on Sunday afternoon.
Harps are believed to be travelling on Saturday afternoon to prepare for the tie, which has a 2pm kick-off time, and they’ve been dealt a blow with the news that veteran striker Kevin McHugh will miss the game through injury.
Adding to the already suspended striker Sean McCarron, this means Harps will travel without a senior striker in the ranks, with youngster Jordan Loftus expected to lead the line for Ollie Horgan’s side.
Also missing for Harps is key defender Damien McNulty, and the experienced Packie Mailey is a doubt for the match, having struggled for fitness in recent weeks due to a niggling leg problem.
Uncertainty surrounding the venue and date for the match was put to bed on Saturday last, when Avondale Park was confirmed as venue for the match by the FAI, despite strong rumours Turners Cross was due to host the match due to the unsuitability of Avondale Park. with dressing rooms and dugouts believed to be the focus of attention. However, with upgrade work complete and talks with the FAI held, Avondale Park has been given the go-ahead and will host an FAI cup quarter final for the first time ever, the Cork outfit only appearing once at this stage before in the early 90’s. On that occasion however, Shelbourne handed out a heavy defeat to end any hopes of progression.
Avondale will head into the game full of confidence and hoping to cause an upset, with the historic four in a row Intermediate champions being tipped to cause a bit of a minor shock against First Division Harps. They will have to plan without two key players however, influential midfielder Michael Mulconroy misses out having been sent off against St Michael’s in the previous round, as well as Graham McCarthy after picking up a maximum number of yellow cards.
Harps enter the Quarter Final stage for the second season in a row. Despite mixed fortunes in the league this season, Ollie Horgan’s side made light work of their opponents in the cup so far, disposing of non-league Belgrove/Home Farm in Dublin before beating Wexford Youths in Ferrycarrig Park last month 3-1. Last season, Harps came within a whisker of reaching the semi-finals for the first time since 1999, only for a late last gasp Drogheda United equaliser in Finn Park taking the game to a replay in Hunky Dory Park where Drogheda disposed of the Donegal side.
Ollie Horgan’s men will look to go one step further this season and reach the semi finals for the first time in 15 years, where in 99, victory over Galway United in Terryland Park set Harps on their way to an epic three-game final against Bray Wanderers, eventually losing out in Tolka Park on the third game.
Should the match finish in a draw, the replay date has been set for Wednesday 17th in Finn Park with an 8pm kick off time. Cork based referee Graham Kelly will take charge of the game in Avondale.
Suspended: Michael Mulconry, Graham McCarthy
Suspended: Damien McNulty, Sean McCarron
Injured: Darragh Black, Kevin McHugh
Doubtful: Packie Mailey
Graham Kelly (Cork)
Finn Harps: 4 /5