The changing of the managerial guard is the dominant theme going into tomorrow tonight’s FAI Cup second sound action.
John Cotter takes his last game in charge of Cork City away to Galway United, with Neale Fenn — for the last two years the manager of Longford Town, who travel to Dublin to play Bohemians — poised to take over at Turner’s Cross, and Maciej Tarnogrodzki replacing Collie O’Neill at UCD, who are at home to St Patrick’s Athletic.
After a period of unprecedented success for the club, a slump in form at Cork City this season saw John Caulfield depart as manager at the beginning of May after a run of eight games without a league win, his long-time assistant John Cotter taking over as interim manager.
Cespite Cotter’s tenure getting off to a positive start with an away win against Bohemians, City continued to struggle for goals and wins under the caretaker boss although, ironically, news of the imminent change at the top — yet to be confirmed by the club — comes on the back of both progression in the FAI Cup and a much-needed 2-1 victory away to Waterford last Friday, which took City up to seventh place in the Premier Division and seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Cotter had been among those interviewed in recent days for the permanent position as manager, but, with the players having been informed in training yesterday that tonight would be his last game in charge, that job now looks like it’s set to go to Neale Fenn, a title-winner as a striker with City in 2005, although official confirmation of his departure from Longford is still awaited.
In what can only be imagined as difficult circumstances, both for the manager and the players, Cotter’s last stand with City will involve trying to guide them through to the FAI Cup quarter-finals, after a penalty shoot-out win in the first round saw off Cabinteely and set up tonight’s last-16 game against another First Division side, Galway United, at Eamonn Deacy Park.
Previewing the tie earlier this week, Cotter said: “Going up there, you need to prepare right and give them the respect that they deserve. A lot of Premier Division teams had tough games in the last round against First Division sides.
They’ll cause us a few problems, but it’s how you approach the game too. It’ll be a tough game no doubt, but hopefully the attitude will be right and we’ll perform well and get to the quarter finals.
Like City in the top tier, Galway have been struggling this season in the First Division where they currently lie eighth, but, having seen off non-league Collinstown in the First Round of the Cup, the Tribesmen enjoyed a morale-boosting 1-0 away win over Cabinteely in the league last Friday, boosting hopes of an upset in Eamonn Deacy Park tonight.
“It is a lose-lose for Cork,” Murphy says. “Nobody will expect us to put it up to them, I wouldn’t think. They are a Premier Division side with quality players, but we will take confidence from the last two weeks.”
Also against a backdrop of managerial upheaval, Longford Town travel to Dublin to take on Bohemians at Dalymount Park. The latter’s 10-1 demolition of UCD in the Premier Division last Friday proved to be the end game for Students boss Collie O’Neill, and his replacement, Maciej Tarnogrodzki, who has moved up from the U19s, goes straight into the hot seat for tonight’s visit to the Bowl by St Patrick’s Athletic.
In the pick of this evening’s second round games, Derry City host FAI Cup holders Dundalk at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium. In a blow to the Candystripes, leading scorer David Parkhouse misses out through suspension, but manager Declan Devine is still hoping to create some cup magic.
“We’d love to go deep in this competition and that is absolutely our aim heading into Friday night,” he says. “In all honesty we’re really looking forward to the game. It’s eleven v eleven and although Dundalk are obviously red-hot favourites, we’ll have a huge crowd behind us. Hopefully it will be another memorable night at Brandywell.”
Despite still being way out in front for all-time FAI Cup final wins with 24, it is now 32 years since Shamrock Rovers last lifted the trophy. Standing in their way at Tallaght Stadium tonight will be First Division Drogheda United, the team who ended the Hoops’ dreams in the first round of the competition last season.
“They are certainly far better than they were last year but I think we’ve improved as well,” says Drogs boss Tim Clancy. “I think it will be geared into them this year that if they aren’t at it, they could possibly lose the game. But you can’t draw too many comparisons from last year. It’s a completely different scenario for us. We are up against something you certainly won’t face in the First Division but we are looking forward to it.”
The full FAI Cup second round fixture list for tonight is as follows: Bohemians v Longford Town, Dalymount Park, 7.45pm; Derry City v Dundalk, Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium, 7.45pm; Galway United v Cork City, Eamonn Deacy Park, 7.45pm; UCD v St. Patrick’s Athletic, The UCD Bowl, 7.45pm; Shamrock Rovers v Drogheda United, Tallaght Stadium, 8pm.