Cork City will be hoping for some much-needed cheer in the cup when they visit Stradbrook for a first-ever meeting with Cabinteely this evening.
The FAI Cup first-round game pits a struggling Premier Division side against an in-form First Division team, with City having fallen to third from bottom in the top tier, while Cabo currently hold down fourth place in the second.
And while John Cotter’s team go into the game on the back of a deflating late home defeat to St Pat’s, Cabinteely are on a record-breaking run of nine games undefeated in the league, including recent victories over Limerick, Longford, and Bray Wanderers.
For Cotter, the FAI Cup has now assumed huge significance for embattled City, who have set a deadline of 5pm today for applications for the manager’s position.
“A good cup run is the most important thing for the club and for the players,” he says. “We’ve done well in the cup in the last few years, we’ve gotten to four finals in a row and we want to continue that.
“We need to be ready for a tough game against Cabinteely. We’ve seen them play over the last few weeks and they’re going very well in the First Division. I went up to watch them against Drogheda, and I watched them last week against Limerick. They’re well organised, they’re fit, they have a threat in the lad (Rob) Manley up front who has scored a few goals for them.
We need to be ready and we need to be at it. The attitude needs to be right and we’ll go up there and take the game to them to try and get through.
City might be wounded giants but that doesn’t mean veteran, Cabinteely manager Pat Devlin thinks it will be any easier for his side to engineer a giant-killing result.
“It would be very foolish of us to underestimate Cork in any shape or form,” he says. “But do we have a chance? Yes, we do. We’re in Stradbrook, a foreign venue to them. The pitch is in excellent order. As a team, we’re playing well. The club have a lot of young players who are eager to impress.
“And if the players are not confident going into this game after our recent run, then they’ll never be confident. As a club, Cabinteely hope to get a good crowd at the game. Hopefully, it will be a great occasion too.”
While Conor Keeley and Jack Hudson return from bans for the White and Greens, Kieran Marty Waters and Jack Watson are both out injured.
For City, striker Mark O’Sullivan is rated 50-50 after being forced off early in the 1-0 defeat to St. Patrick’s Athletic. Cian Murphy and Cian Bargary are both still sidelined, but Cotter hopes to have everyone else available.
Elsewhere tonight, non-league sides Cobh Wanderers (v Limerick), Avondale United (v Drogheda United) and Glebe North (v Sligo Rovers), will also be hoping for upsets, while Dalymount Park will host a renewal of the old Dublin rivalry between Premier Division Bohemians and First Division leaders Shelbourne.
“The pressure is on Bohs,” says Shels boss Ian Morris. “They’ll expect to win and we’ll set ourselves up to cause an upset. We’ve got a really good squad with everyone reaching peak fitness, which is giving me a bit of a selection headache. As soon as the draw was made, you felt as if it was bound to be the one we’d get, with a lot of players having played for either side, along with myself and Jason McGuiness. It’s a huge game with a lot of excitement there.”
The night’s only all-Premier Division clash sees Shamrock Rovers at home against a resurgent Finn Harps.