Even for the ultimate competitor Joe Gamble, Sunday’s FAI Cup tie between his College Corinthians side and Bohemians is beyond giant-killing territory.
Not that the former Cork City schemer will make it easy for Keith Long’s Europa Conference League heroes coming to Turner’s Cross.
“We’ve got to manage the game, apply the dark arts by slowing things down and bending the rules,” suggested the 39-year-old manager about the Munster Senior League side’s game-plan.
“The water breaks are important. Maybe we’ll add in a few water breaks.”
How Corinthians could do with the midfield dynamo out on the pitch, disrupting the favourites’ flow.
Knee problems prevented him extending his career but management, after assistant spells at Limerick, Waterford and Cork, is the football fix he devours nowadays.
“Realistically, this game is more about celebrating the club’s 50th anniversary,” he said.
“Our philosophy is to just enjoy it. We want to showcase how good we are as a team, and while big teams lose against smaller teams, we hope to just compete and keep the scoreline down.
“We’re up against a fully professional outfit, one of the best three League of Ireland teams in the country.
“Last week, while we were training in Corinthians Park, Bohemians had a Europa Conference League tie in Aviva Stadium. That’s the reality of it.”
Originally, the plan was to stage the fixture in their Douglas base, only for time to run out.
The short turnaround from last week’s draw, allied to the renovation work underway, meant switching to the Cross was the viable solution.
Among the 500 in attendance will be a raft of volunteers, who have turned Corinthians into one of the most progressive clubs in the country.
From the top of the tree, where the MSL squad sit, they have over 30 teams, accompanied by a thriving junior academy.
Graduates, both male and female, have represented the club on the international stage.
David Meyler and, more recently, Adam Idah have worn the green in qualifiers, as has Megan Connolly for the women.
Aidan O’Mahony has proven the ultimate product. Starting out as a 12-year-old, he’s come full circle to the first team, admitting he’s not far behind his manager in reaching the departures lounge.
“We’re feeling fit and well,” the midfielder declared. “Previously, by this stage of the FAI Cup, we’d only played a couple of matches but we’re back a while now and taking a few positive results into this big tie.
“It doesn’t matter if Bohemians put out most of their U21s on Sunday after playing in Europe on Thursday, they’ll still be a quality side. The difference between the levels is that bit of fitness and first touch.
“Most of our squad progressed through the Corinthians system and Sunday will be a great occasion.”
Bohs will recognise a few familiar faces in the opposition ranks. The Galvin brothers, Cory and Evan, have been around the league, as has captain Craig Donnellan and Shane Daly-Butz.
However, by far the most high-profile figure will be man barking out the instructions. Gamble is content in his habitat, not reliant on using this job as a springboard back onto the League of Ireland circuit.
His view of that sector was soured by the last venture, his Cork City comeback as Neale Fenn’s assistant in 2019.
“Coming towards the end of my playing career, all I was focussed on was management. Then I got into it and to be honest, it turned my head by feeling this is what I don’t want.
“I’m 39, have a young family and to be a League of Ireland manager is a big commitment.
“The hours you put in doesn’t reflect what you get out of it. You’ve to get in with the mindset of the love of it, more than the rewards.
“There’s a lot more down days than up days. There’s a lot of things to deal with outside of football; I could probably name 101 things.
“Things go on at League of Ireland clubs that have nothing to do with managers that you’re responsible for. That’s not right.
“At Cork with Neale Fenn, seeing what he had to do, I didn’t envy him. I asked myself do I want this? And my answer was no.
“I now work for An Post, which allows me to work in the morning and train in the afternoon.For me, that’s a great balance. I’ve the best of both worlds, getting a lot of time at home with the kids.
“I’m a much happier person now.”
- FAI Cup first round: College Corinthians v Bohemians, tomorrow 3pm, Turner’s Cross