In-form Lilywhites targeting Saints scalp

THE TIE of the FAI Ford Cup third round is at Oriel Park tonight when league leaders Dundalk host St Patrick’s Athletic in an all-Premier Division clash.

Lilywhites captain Liam Burns could miss the game with an abdominal muscle tear, although JJ Melligan (hip), Shaun Kelly (groin) and Neale Fenn (rested) should all return having missed the win in Waterford. Michael Synnott (knee) is a certain absentee.

Pete Mahon’s men go into the clash on the back of two successive defeats – a narrow loss to Drogheda before Sligo Rovers put four past them on Tuesday in the last eight of the EA Sports Cup.

“We’re disappointed with recent results especially with the defeat to Sligo,” says assistant coach John Gill. “We had a few injuries going into that game and we made some changes with the cup game in mind. While we were poor in the first half I thought we were the better team in the second half and the final score was probably not a true reflection. We’ve played 23 games now and only lost six but when you win expectations rise not just for supporters but also for the players and that is something we need to manage.”

Brian Cash returns for the Richmond Park side but Dave McAllister is suspended and Derek Pender remains out with a knee injury.

FAI Ford Cup holders Sporting Fingal begin the defence of their trophy against First Division opposition when they welcome Mervue United to Morton Stadium.

But Fingal will have to go into action without last year’s cup hero Gary O’Neill, since the man whose late goal saw off Sligo Rovers 2-1 in the final last November, is ruled out this evening with a hamstring problem. John Frost (hamstring) and Stephen Paisley (chest) are also missing while Shane McFaul is doubtful having sat out last week’s league win against Galway United due to a calf problem.

If Fingal, with just the one final victory to their credit are still relative newcomers, then Shamrock Rovers, with 24 cup final wins, remain the untouchable competition specialists, even if their last victory came as long ago as 1987. Tonight, they kick off their campaign with a home game against Wexford Youths at Tallaght Stadium and manager Michael O’Neill is anxious that they don’t take their First Division opponents lightly.

“We will need to be patient in this game,” he says. “Wexford are a very well organised side, and we are not expecting it to be easy. We should have a lot of possession, but we will need to be more cutting going forward, than maybe we have been. We will also need the fans to be patient. But having Gary Twigg and Dessie Baker back gives us an edge.”

Cork City Foras Co-op have had to adjust to a more modest profile since being reinvented as a First Division club but this evening they will be cast as giants against the minnows of Bluebell United in a classic cup match-up at Turner’s Cross.

“We’re looking forward to the game,” says City boss Tommy Dunne, who will be without the injured Cathal Lordan this evening.. “The cup always brings a little bit of spice to it and we’re hoping to get a good, positive result. Bluebell are second in the Leinster Senior League so they will be a really tough team to play against.

“They have some big, strong players and a few players that are experienced at that level so it will be a difficult game for us. For them coming to Cork and playing Cork City at Turner’s Cross is a nice game. They will be well up for it, so we’ll have to match their enthusiasm from the very start.

“Hopefully, we’ll be just that bit stronger in the game itself and if we have one or two better players on the pitch, it can make a difference for us. There’s no real pressure so we can just get out and enjoy ourselves.”

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