Hoops boss Pat Scully, angered by the €5,000 fine imposed on him for recent comments he made about the eircom League on TV3, has declined to take part in media duties this week and his players have followed suit.
Scully will doubtless have plenty to say behind closed doors, however, as he wrestles with the problem of facing Pats without no less than nine members of his squad.
Six of Rovers’ summer signings — strikers Andy Myler and Chris Breen, midfielders Mark O’ Brien, David McGill and Paul Shiels and defender Derek Pender — are all cup-tied.
On top of that, Vinny Perth and Ian Ryan are both suspended, as is Ray Kenny who misses out on tonight’s game after Saturday’s league fixture away to Kilkenny City was postponed.
Pats also have players missing, with John Frost suspended and both Keith Fahey and Mark Rooney cup-tied. However, manager Johnny McDonnell can go into the game heartened by his side’s current run of form; their 5-1 hammering of Bray Wanderers making it three wins on the trot. The Inchicore club, who have ex-Rovers favourite Trevor Molloy in their ranks, last won the FAI Cup in 1961.
For Rovers, currently challenging for supremacy in the First Division, a quick return to the top flight has always been their main goal, but such is the club’s historic relationship with the FAI Cup — no other club has won it more times than them — that tonight’s penultimate stage of the competition is set to bring a large crowd to Tolka Park for what should be an extra-special Dublin derby. The game will also be screened live on RTE 2.
The second semi-final is a northwest derby, as Sligo Rovers host Derry City at the Showgrounds on Sunday afternoon (kick-off 3.15pm).
Derry go into the game boosted by the 2-0 win over Shels at the Brandywell that has blown the league race wide open. And with the League Cup already in the trophy cabinet this season, Sunday’s visit to Sligo marks another stage in the Candystripes’ bid for a remarkable treble.
But Derry will come up against a Sligo Rovers side which is chasing its own historic treble, having won the Cup on two previous occasions in 1983 and 1994.
Manager Sean Connor has described Sunday’s game as his biggest since taking over Rovers two years ago and, last year, steering them to promotion to the Premier Division as champions.
Said Connor: “Myself and the players have long-term plans and to win the FAI Cup is obviously part of that. We want to qualify for the Setanta Cup and to do that we will have to win the FAI Cup. So the game against Derry City is a big, big part of our season.” RTE 2 will screen the match live on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, there are two games in the eircom League Premier Division tonight, with Bohs taking on UCD at Dalymount and Drogheda playing host to Longford Town at United Park.