Dundalk were first of the 32 teams out of the drum when the draw was made in Dublin last night and, by an extraordinary twist of fate, they were guaranteed the match of the round when drawn against cup specialists Shamrock Rovers.
Said Shamrock Rovers’ new manager Liam Buckley: “We are already looking forward to it. It is absolutely a special match, all the more so because we have signed two members of that winning Dundalk team, Stephen McGuinness and James Keddy.”
The loss of two such experienced players will not help Dundalk, of course, but Murray was philosophical. “The only reason we lost those two was because we were relegated.
We tried our damnedest to keep them but the fact that we were not in the premier division swung it for them.
“I just hope we have everybody else available because we’ve got a decent squad here. We don’t want to have anybody missing because of injury. Martin Reilly is back training now so he should be okay and we have a couple of weeks more to try and get Gary Haylock right.”
Haylock and Reilly played in the cup final despite suffering similar knee injuries. Happily both injuries were not diagnosed as serious, and Reilly’s progress suggests that Haylock should be ready to resume training within a week. Haylock’s goals in the final were critical to Dundalk’s success and their chances will stand or fall on his fitness.
Their league situation is inevitably of more importance to Dundalk, and to Shamrock Rovers as well for that matter, and, as Murray said, “Being involved in the cup last season actually helped us. It kept the players focused to the end of the season and because they were, we were very close to saving our place in the premier division.
“It all came down to a match against St Pats, which we lost. We played quite well that night and had we not lost we would have been safe in the league. Our cup run helped to keep our players on their toes to the very end of the season.”
Dundalk have made two signings, goalkeeper Michael Dempsey from Bohemians and Robbie Brunton, a defender from Kilkenny City. One of their strengths in their cup run was the spirit generated by the strong local representation they had in the team and the public support that attracted.
The draw provided a wide spread of interest, and quite a few intriguing ties, not least the Munster derby between Limerick and Waterford United. It also threw up its quota of potential upsets, with the FAI Junior Cup-holders Fairview Rangers of Limerick looking forward to an opportunity against Dublin City.
Fairview were drawn against Bray Wanderers in 1999, losing 2-0, but with a mature and experienced team they were again in optimistic mood after last night’s draw.
Club president Eamonn Heffernan said: “We are delighted with a home draw and a visit from Dublin City to Fair Green will excite a lot of interest amongst our supporters. It is a very attractive match for us and we will be looking for a positive result there.”
Rockmount will also be on the giant-killing trail. Five teams from Cork went into the drum and were all drawn away from home in an unusual run of bad luck. Rockmount, of the Munster Senior League, have figured in the senior cup on 12 different occasions, and have been drawn at home only once.
Now they have to travel to Tolka Park to play Shelbourne but manager Billy Cronin remained upbeat. “When you go into the senior cup you are always hoping to draw a glamour team and Shelbourne are one of the best in the country.
“Of course, we would have preferred to have drawn them at home, especially as the other four Cork teams were drawn away and we would have had a free date at Turner’s Cross but I’m still delighted to be given a big team. This will create a big buzz in our club.”
One of the complications for the non-league teams is that their season will not start until mid-August so they cannot hope to be as prepared as the national league clubs. They will, of course, have players in training but nothing compensates for not having competitive matches.
FAI Carlsberg Cup second round draw (matches to be played on weekend July 28):
Dundalk v Shamrock Rovers; Greystones v Sligo Rovers; Shelbourne v Rockmount; Fairview Rangers v Dublin City; Monaghan United v Midleton; UCD v Kildare County; St. Patrick’s Athletic v Galway United; Drogheda United v Derry City; Limerick v Waterford United; Malahide United v Cobh Ramblers; Finn Harps v Leeds; Glenmore/Dundrum v Cork City; Bohemians v Garda; Athlone Town v Kilkenny City; Bray Wanderers v Glebe North; CIE Ranch v Longford Town.