Runaway league leaders Dundalk will be hot favourites to keep their double dream alive when they host Longford Town at Oriel Park in the first of this year’s FAI Cup semi-finals this evening (kick off 7.25pm, live on RTÉ 2).
While last week’s comeback victory in Limerick pushed the Lilywhites to within one more win of successive league titles for the first time in the club’s history, Longford’s relegation fears were being deepened by a 0-3 loss to St Pat’s at Flancare Park.
As a result, Tony Cousins’ side are now just six points off the bottom with two of the teams behind them holding a game in hand.
But Longford wouldn’t be the first team to buck league form in the cup, and Dundalk are also acutely conscious that in three previous meetings between the sides this season they haven’t had it easy against Cousins’ men, winning 1-0 on the league’s opening night and 2-0 at the City Calling Stadium in May before, in a surprise result, having to settle for a share of the spoils at home when they sides drew 0-0 in August.
Centre-half Andy Boyle says: “It’d be massive to go and play in an Aviva final with this team. It’s always a good week leading up to the final but we have to get there first and Longford Town will give us a difficult test. We haven’t won easy the three times we’ve played them this year so we are expecting the same tonight.”
Manager Stephen Kenny amplifies the point about their opponents this evening.
“All the games with Longford have been tight affairs and we know that there’s a lot of experience in their team,” he says.
“From our point of view, we have real pace throughout the team at the moment and the fact that we can score goals in different areas of the park has been an important characteristic of the team. The motivation is high for the player to win the semi-final.”
For the match itself Kenny has the luxury of choosing from a full squad with no injury or suspensions in the panel, but Tony Cousins will be without cup-tied former Waterford United winger Jack Doherty and the suspended Kevin O’Connor, along with Pat Flynn, Dan Cowan and Dean Kelly.
In the league tonight, there’s a potential relegation six-pointer in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division as Galway United face Sligo Rovers at Eamonn Deacy Park, while arch-rivals Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers contest a Dublin derby when they meet in a Leinster Senior Cup semi-final at Dalymount Park. Both games kick off at 7.45pm.
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