It’s finally here, the eagerley anticipaticed EA Sports Cup Final between two League of Ireland heavyweights is just around the corner. Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers will take on each other in Oriel park at 5:45pm this Saturday evening and the town is buzzing for it.
Dundalk are looking for the first major trophy since the 2001/02 FAI Cup. Dundalk have lost eight of their last nine cup finals in all competitions and with pressure mounting on Kenny’s men Rovers can quietly sense what most would describe as an ‘upset’ looking at this seasons form.
Quite a lot of controversy was sparked when news spread that Oriel Park will host the final with rumours circulating that Rovers fans would be awarded ‘the shed’ the home of Dundalk’s most local support but any hope of that was quickly abolished.
Oriel Park has inserted a new temporary stand holding 460 seats behind the Carrick Road goals to facilitate the large number of Hoops fans travelling down.
The two teams come into this game on the back of a FAI Cup marathon last week. The first game in Tallaght was a shocker, no other way to describe it. A half chance from Kurtis Byrne mid-way through the second half nearly snatched it for Dundalk but otherwise a draw was a fair result.
The replay in Oriel on Monday night was a completely different matter though. Dundalk took the lead before half-time when top scorer Hoban was allowed to rise highest to meet a Darren Meenan free-kick.
The second half was a completely different story though, Karl Sheppard sprang from the bench to end Dundalk’s treble hopes and keep Shamrock Rovers’ quest for a 25th FAI Cup alive with a quickfire double to send them into the Semi-Final.
En route to this final, Dundalk have managed to concede only once thus far. 3-0, 2-1 and 5-0 victories over Bray, Derry and Wexford Youths has given some fringe players a chance to impress and having done such a good job to reach the final, it will be interesting to see will the likes of Gabriel Sava starts.
On the other hand Pat Fenlon’s men couldn’t of asked for a much harder task to reach the final. Wins against mid table sides like Bohs and Drogheda away from home were impressive but also brushing away a title chasing team in Cork City was a great result, unfortunatly for Trevor Croly that was his last win in charge.
Talking about the threat Shamrock Rovers will pose in Oriel, Stephen Kenny responded in his usual bullish manner
”From our point of view, we aren’t concerned about what other clubs or teams do”. We will identify the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents but we are very single minded. We are only worried about what we do.”
TEAM NEWS: Dundalk will be without captain Stephen O’Donnell and Simon Kelly while Brian Gartland and Donal McDermott return from suspension. Rovers will have a full squad to pick from, Karl Sheppard will be expected to start after his performance off the bench on Monday.
BETTING ODDS: Dundalk(10/11) Draw(9/4) Rovers(3/1)
REFEREE: Graham Kelly