Travelling under no pressure, non-league St Peter’s are relishing their visit to Turner’s Cross to take on Cork City in tonight’s FAI Cup second round tie.
Beaten by Pike Rovers in the semi-final of this year’s FAI Junior Cup, it’s the Athlone side’s first time to meet League of Ireland opposition in the senior trophy and boss Philip Coffey says his players must enjoy the experience, come what may.
“It is what it is. We’re delighted. We wanted a big club,” said Coffey, who was previously assistant to Tony Cousins at Longford Town.
“Cork are a very good team who are obviously doing really well in the Premier Division and it’s a great stadium for us to go and play in.
“We’re relishing going down to enjoy ourselves. There is no pressure on us.
“Hopefully, there will be a big crowd and the club can make a few bob. We’ll just enjoy the day, that’s what it will be about for us. It’s a big occasion.”
Noel McGee, Niall Scullion, Neil Harney, Mark Sherlock, and Ethan Nkololo provide some senior knowledge for St Peter’s.
“We have a bit of League of Ireland experience, but we then have lads who have never played at that level and they are obviously not in full-time training,” said Coffey.
St Peter’s preparations were scarcely helped by the fact they played a league game against Mountmellick on Wednesday night.
And though they won 5-0 to go five points clear in the top division of the Combined Counties League with three games to play, it came at a cost as McGee (groin) and fellow striker Gary Stevens (knee) are out injured while Coffey waits on keeper Keith Hynes who has a hamstring strain.
“The reality is we’re playing a Premier Division club who are second in the table, who I think will push Dundalk all the way this season,” said Coffey.
“A lot of their players are full time. We’re just a small club with a good group of lads who did really well to get to the semi-final of the FAI Junior Cup.
“This is a bit of a reward for them. It’s going to be tough, but it will be a great experience that will stand to them.”
Beaten finalists last year, Cork won’t risk midfielder Gearóid Morrissey despite his return to training after a hamstring injury. Garry Buckley will also sit the game out after picking up a knock.
“It’s a David versus Goliath clash, but we have to treat them with the respect they deserve,” said Cork manager John Caulfield.
“It’s a fantastic game for St Peter’s. I know a lot about their club and I know some of their players and backroom staff. They are a fantastic club and have worked really hard over the years.
“It is a massive opportunity for us to get to the next round. Everyone knows how crucial it is for our club to be up challenging at the top of the table, trying to win trophies.”
Meanwhile, struggling Bohemians, without a goal in seven games, received a major boost ahead of the all-Premier Division clash with Galway United at Dalymount Park with the news yesterday that Ayman Ben Mohamed has been called up to the Tunisia national team.
The Bohemians winger has been included in the Tunisia squad who travel to face Djibouti in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on June 3.
“I’m delighted. Nobody saw it coming,” said the 21-year-old Trinity College student.
“It’s one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced in football. I’ll be training and competing with players from the Premier League, La Liga, and the Bundesliga. That’s an incredible opportunity for me and it’s good for the profile of the club and league too.”
Central defender Derek Pendergast (hamstring) is Bohemians’ chief injury concern while Anto Murphy has left the club due to family and work commitments.
Galway continue without captain Ryan Connolly (calf), defenders Stephen Walsh (knee) and Stephen Folan (back), as well as striker Padraic Cunningham (knee).
Holders Dundalk have captain Stephen O’Donnell back fit as they begin the defence of the trophy against First Division promotion hopefuls Shelbourne at Oriel Park.
Tonight’s fixtures (7.45 unless stated):
Bohemians v Galway United; Cork City v St Peter’s; Derry City v Drogheda United; Dundalk v Shelbourne; Firehouse Clover v Wexford Youths (Ferrycarrig Park, 8pm); Shamrock Rovers v Midleton (8pm); UCD v Bray Wanderers; Waterford United v Longford Town
Here’s a little extra sport: Ahead of Euro 2016 BallTalk TV ask which Irish players in the Premier League had the best season:
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