WATERFORD UNITED have a marvellous opportunity of lifting the first silverware of the season when they play host to a weakened Bohemians side in this evening’s EA Sports Cup final at the RSC (5.30 pm).
Originally Bohemians boss Pat Fenlon had threatened to deliberately field a below-strength team in the game given the proximity of his side’s two vital away Premier Division games against Derry City at the Brandywell on Tuesday and Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium on Friday.
Now a series of injuries to Mark Rossiter, Jason McGuinness and Jason Byrne rule them out while midfielders Paul Keegan and Glenn Cronin are doubtful after picking up knocks in last Friday’s 3-2 league victory over Dundalk at Dalymount Park.
To add to Fenlon’s selection problems midfielder Gary Deeegan is suspended while striker Paddy Madden is cup-tied having played for Shelbourne earlier in the competition.
“Some of our U-20 squad played in earlier rounds of the competition and that was a good experience for them. I would be quite happy to use them again,” said Fenlon.
Bohemian’s Waterford-born ‘keeper Brian Murphy is looking forward to what he thinks will be a tough game for the Premier Division leaders.
“Waterford have been flying in the First Division this season and are through to the FAI Cup semi-finals and it will be a tough game no matter what team we field,” said Murphy.
Minus long-term injury absentees Paul McCarthy and David Grincell, the Blues are still able to call on striker Graham Cummins and defender Kenny Browne who both received red cards in the first half of last week’s amazing 2-1 league victory over Athlone Town at Lissywoolen.
“I think the EA Sports Cup is more important to Bohemians after being knocked out of the FAI Cup by Sligo Rovers,” said Waterford boss Stephen Henderson.
“We do not fear them one bit as we are well able to compete with the top Premier Division sides. It will be a great day and a great occasion for everyone in Waterford.
“Having beaten St Patrick’s Athletic in the FAI Cup quarter-final replay, the players have the taste for success and now they want more. We know how good Bohemians are – they are a hard side to beat, but I have faith in my players, ” added Henderson.
Shamrock Rovers can take advantage of Bohemians’ involvement in the EA Sports Cup with victory over Sligo Rovers in the Premier Division game at the Showgrounds (7.45 pm).
A win would put Michael O’Neill’s Hoops two points clear of Bohemians and in the right mood for what could be a title show-down against their bitter Dublin rivals at an already sold-out 6,000 Tallaght Stadium on Friday.
Having won the three previous league encounters this season, the Hoops will start slight favourites even with defender Pat Sullivan suspended and late fitness tests for Ian Bermingham, Sean O’Connor, Paddy Kavanagh and Darragh Maguire. Craig Sives seems set to return after a one match ban.
Sligo boss Paul Cook has stressed that Premier Divisional survival is the priority even though his side have now been installed as favourites to win the FAI Cup. Winger Eoin Doyle misses out due to suspension but otherwise Cook keeps an unchanged side.
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