Victory in the penultimate stage of the competition permits full participation in the excitement-filled build-up to the final itself. But defeat takes away even the anticipation of a big day out. And with this year’s Ford FAI Cup final at the RDS not taking place until December 2, an exit at the semi-final stage would make for a very long anti-climax at season’s end.
Referring to last Friday’s defeat in the eircom League to champions Drogheda United, Cork boss Damien Richardson maintains league form has no bearing on a night like tonight, as Bohemians play host to the Leesiders at Dalymount Park (7.30pm).
“Whether we won last week wouldn’t have impacted on tonight,” he says. “The cup is a separate entity with different requirements. And a semi-final is the most peculiar stage of any competition, where it’s all about nerve. Semi-finals, I have found to be the most accident-prone, idiosyncratic events — anything can happen. Yet, it’s probably the most important stage because everyone wants to get to the final. Having come this far you want to go all the way and that’s the way we’ve been preparing this week.”
Having recovered from the flu bug which meant he couldn’t travel to United Park last week, Richardson will be in Dalymount. However, whether striker Denis Behan or defender Brian O’Callaghan will be able to line out remains in doubt (hamstring injuries). Despite incurring a dead leg, John O’Flynn trained yesterday but former Bohs man Gareth Farrelly was unable due to a chest infection. However, Richardson is hopeful the midfielder will be able to step out onto his old home ground this evening.
With five league wins in succession under their belt, Bohemians go into the game on something of a hot streak, whereas Cork have lost their last two games, against Drogheda and St Pats. But Bohs boss Seán Connor won’t underestimate his opponents.
“Cork? A superb footballing side,” he says. “They have got some of the best midfielders in the league outside my own, in Colin Healy, Gareth Farrelly and Joe Gamble. But I’ve (Kevin) Hunt, (Chris) Turner, (Stephen) O’Donnell and Stephen Rice!
“It’s like for like. Cork have (Dan) Murray who is as good a centre-half as you are going to get and, up front, (Denis) Behan. Behan has come into great form. Darren Mansaram for us has now come into great form. “Then you’ve got the midfield battle of Hunty and whoever I pick and then Gamble and Farrelly. For me, it’s fantastic. But it better not be a draw because I don’t want to go to Turner’s Cross.”
Burns, along with Stephen O’Donnell and Dessie Byrne, are suspended for tonight’s game, leaving Connor to bemoan the number of yellow cards his team picks up as “beyond belief”. And he also has a number of injury worries in Mark Rossiter, John Paul Kelly, Chris Turner and former Cork striker Neale Fenn.
Meanwhile, the eircom League continues tonight with an important second from bottom versus top clash at the RSC, where Waterford United host Drogheda United.
The newly-crowned champions have added another honour to their season’s haul with striker Guy Bates, the man whose sensational last minute goal won the title against Cork, named eircom/Soccer Writers Association of Ireland Player Of the Month for September.
For Waterford, two points clear of Longford at the foot of the table and with tonight’s game in hand, the glory of the season will be all in survival.
Says boss Gareth Cronin: “Every game this month has been like a cup final but the players have responded magnificently. They know what’s at stake and have proved they have the ability to get goals and defend well and I need another big performance. It won’t be easy as Drogheda have only lost once away this season but I am hoping we have enough to make it number two.”
Tonight’s Fixtures: FAI Ford Cup semi-final: Bohemians v Cork City, Dalymount Park, 7.30pm.
eircom League of Ireland Premier Division: Galway United v Derry City, Terryland Park, 7.45pm; Waterford United v Drogheda United, RSC, 7.45pm.
eircom League of Ireland First Division: Finn Harps v Kildare County, Finn Park, 8pm; Shelbourne v Cobh Ramblers, Tolka Park, 8pm.