Though he has played in four FAI Cup finals with Cork City, winning two of them, Sligo Rovers’ midfielder Garry Buckley says there is no secret to success in the competition.
An integral part of John Caulfield’s triumphant managerial reign at Turner’s Cross, including a double in 2017, Cork native Buckley joined Sligo at the start of this season.
And the 27-year-old midfielder says he and his team-mates must relish going to Tallaght Stadium tomorrow (2pm) in the hope of inflicting a first domestic defeat on cup holders and new league champions Shamrock Rovers to reach the Aviva Stadium for the final on Sunday week.
Sligo rode their luck in their quarter-final win over Derry City on penalties last Wednesday.
“Derry probably had the better chances, but we stuck at it, kept a clean sheet, and got through,” said Buckley. “I’ve a bit of experience of cup finals, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a once-off game. It’s how well you play on the day.”
Hoops have beaten Sligo twice this season, the last time a 4-0 humbling in Tallaght early last month.
“We had a number of chances in Tallaght the last day and [missing them] killed us. If one or two go in, it’s a different game. If we can get a goal early, or even score first, the first goal is vital, we’d have a great chance.
“They’re the best team in the league. But it’s a free shot, one we relish. Where would you rather be than a cup semi-final in Tallaght?”
Sligo manager Liam Buckley has both midfielder Niall Morahan and winger Jesse Devers back from suspension. His opposite number Stephen Bradley is suspended following his sending off at Shelbourne in the final league game of the season. Midfielder Gary O’Neill and striker Rory Gaffney remain out injured, though winger Neil Farrugia could be fit.
It’s a David v Goliath match up in the evening kick-off as Athlone Town welcome Dundalk to Lissywollen (tomorrow, 7.05pm).
Athlone, who finished second bottom of the First Division, are massive underdogs in their first semi-final since 1998 and have not played in a month since shocking Shelbourne 4-1 in their quarter-final.
Manager Adrian Carberry is also without regulars, right-back Tumelo Tlou and midfielder Taner Dogan, due to suspension.
“We have to embrace the occasion”, said Carberry who scored when Athlone, then managed by Liam Buckley, lost to Cork City in that semi-final 22 years’ ago.
“Our semi-final is an opportunity to show the viewing public Athlone Town is a club with aspiration.”