Mathews plays it cool as Shels look to stun Saints in cup semi-final derby

AS IF to illustrate just how long they’ve been out of the big time of Irish domestic football, Alan Mathews was yesterday reminded the last time Shelbourne featured live on television was when they were winning the league back in 2006.

Tonight they’re back in the limelight, hosting St Patrick’s Athletic in the FAI Cup semi-final (7.35pm, live on RTÉ2).

It’s been a long five years since the financial crisis saw the club crash and burn. But, like a Phoenix from the flames, promotion coupled to a cup final appearance, would be a very welcome renaissance in 2011.

It’s a big few days for Mathews’ side. They’re at home to Finn Harps on Monday night where victory would see them leapfrog Cork to go top of the table.

“There is a great opportunity for us here,” said manager Mathews.

“The club has been through a very rough time over the last five years. So this is a good opportunity for us to just show where we could be. For the club and the people who put in the hard work in keeping it alive, it’s a good reward for them.”

And far from the case a few years back, Shelbourne, with promotion their main priority, are happy to be the underdogs at home.

“There is no pressure on us. We’re here,” said Mathews. “There is talk everywhere about Pats and it being 50 years since they last won it. That expectation is going to sit on their shoulders. There is no expectation in our dressing room. Expectation comes from the pressure we put on ourselves to produce a performance.”

Mathews is without experienced left-back Lorcan Fitzgerald due to a knee ligament injury while right-back Gareth Matthews is suspended.

Winger Conan Byrne, like Fitzgerald a cup winner with Sporting Fingal two years ago, and striker Karl Bermingham hope to pass fitness tests.

St Patrick’s boss Pete Mahon will give midfielder Dave Mulcahy a fitness test today. Defender Shane Guthrie and the O’Connors Sean and John are cup-tied. “There is a bit of pressure on us to win due to the time since the club’s last cup success. This is something which everyone is well aware of,” said Mahon.

“We’ve been told how much of a great experience it is to play at Aviva Stadium, and we want to cap off a very good season by reaching the final, but we face very tricky opposition in Shelbourne.”

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