Avondale go long route in search of history

Avondale United’s players wake up in Sligo today, having broken the back of one of the longest journeys in Irish football as they head for Ballybofey and an FAI Ford Cup quarter-final replay against Finn Harps.

Avondale go  long route  in search of history

The travelling party left Cork at 6pm yesterday and, by the time they reach Finn Park this evening, will have put over 400km behind them. And once the final whistle blows tonight, the long road will promptly beckon again.

“We’re heading back to Cork straight after the game and that’ll take about five to six hours, with a break for the driver,” says club secretary Tom Mullane. But he readily agrees that the miles will feel like they’re flying by if Avondale manage to achieve a club milestone tonight, by qualifying for the FAI Cup semi-finals for the first time in their history. They’ve been as far as the quarters once before, losing 4-0 to Shelbourne in 1995, but, after holding First Division Harps 1-1 in Carrigaline on Sunday, there is confidence in the Cork camp that the long journey will not be a wasted one.

An indication of the importance of Sunday’s fixture was that former Cork City and Cobh Ramblers man Eoghan Lougheed broke his holidays abroad to return for the game, while Roy Long – whose brother Danny scored Avondale’s equaliser – made a flying visit from London where he works to also make the starting line-up.

Unfortunately, Lougheed and Roy Long are unavailable tonight, although Dave O’Keefe’s side will be boosted by the return from suspension of Michael Mulconry and Graham McCarthy.

“We’d certainly have quite a good chance because there wouldn’t be an awful difference in the standard and a few of our lads would have League of Ireland experience,” says Tom Mullane. “Our fellas wouldn’t be fazed at all by having to go up there because, even though Harps dominated for a bit on Sunday, overall we more than held our own.”

Avondale go into the game with some serious cup pedigree of their own, the team formerly managed by Cork City boss John Caulfield having lifted the FAI Intermediate Cup in May for a record-equalling fourth year in a row.

Certainly, Harps manager Ollie Horgan is under no illusion about the challenge of trying to see off their Munster Senior League opponents at the second time of asking. “While Avondale aren’t a league club, they would compete comfortably in the First Division and accumulate a substantial amount of points. They have loads of experience and play good football so we know it will be very difficult to try to get through.”

Harps, looking to reach their first FAI cup semi-final in 15 years, will have Damien McNulty and Sean McCarron available after missing Sunday’s game in Cork through suspension, but Tommy McMonagle is ruled out with injury while Caoimhe Bonner is a doubt. And, whatever the outcome in Finn Park (8pm), the matter will be decided tonight, with extra-time and penalties if required.

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