Wexford Youths host Sligo Rovers at the Ferrycarrig Park on Friday evening (KO 8.00pm), in the third round of the FAI Cup. Both clubs take a break from their contrasting league campaigns and will be attempting to get a step closer to the Aviva Stadium in November.
Shane Keegan's side suffered another heavy defeat to Shamrock Rovers on Monday night, going down 3-1 at Tallaght Stadium.
In reality the score-line could have been a lot greater, and Keegan must be relieved his team have a brief distraction from the league campaign. With only nine league games left, they're still heavily involved in a relegation battle.
Wexford Youths only played Sligo Rovers two weeks ago and it took place in the same venue. It's quite likely the players and fans have tried to erase that game from their memory, as Sligo ran out 5-0 winners on the night. Nevertheless, Keegan is still referencing the game and will hope his players can learn from that experience.
“We played Sligo two weeks ago and given the final score-line it's easy to overlook the fact that for half an hour in the first half we played some of our best football of the season.
“We were shocking in the second half and were deservedly hammered in the end but there was actually a lot in the first half that we can try to build on this time around.”
Keegan will have to plan for this evening's game without quite a number of important regulars who have been ruled out.
That may be an indication that he's prioritising the league campaign, as all the players missing have been key this season, and will surely be massively important in the relegation dogfight.
"We're down a good few bodies due to injuries but that will open the door for others to step forward and try to make their mark.”
Wexford will be without both regular strikers tonight. Paul Murphy and Danny Furlong have scored 4 league goals each and their presence will be missed and leave Wexford a lot less dangerous in attack. It does perhaps offer Aiden Keenan the chance to get another full game under his belt. Likewise, regular midfielders Chris Kenny and Eric Molloy are also ruled out. Centre half Gary Delaney is a doubt for the game too.
Sligo travel to Wexford for the second time in 15 days having lost their unbeaten record. The dramatic 3-2 defeat to Bohemians in Dalymount Park on Monday evening put an end to their run of seven matches without defeat, but they'll go to Ferrycarrig Park in search of their third win against Wexford Youths this season.
Manager Dave Robertson was quick to mention that his players' performance was impressive regardless of the result on Monday. Gavin Peers' sending off clearly influenced the outcome in the end.
Roberston wants his players to focus on their strengths and certainly he believes their recent game at Ferrycarrig Park should be at the forefront of his players' minds.
“We have to approach the game in the same way that we approached the one two weeks ago. We know that they are a strong side. The have a lot of capability in midfield and have threats up front in Murphy and Furlong. We will give them full respect. Shane Keegan has done a fantastic job with limited resources. He’s an excellent coach. We know that we will have to be 100% on it to get through.”
Even though Sligo have been experiencing a real resurgence in league form and sit fifth in the league, Robertson has indicated how important the FAI Cup competition also is for the club. Of course, it may be Sligo's only realistic chance of qualifying for Europe, but it's good to see the manager and club respecting the prestige of the competition.
“We definitely will be looking to do well in this competition. We love the FAI Cup here at our club. We really want to be successful in it and it also gives a route into Europe. They are all reasons why we will be 100% at it tomorrow. It is important to me, the fans and the players. The fans that travelled last time were in great voice and I am sure they will be again tomorrow.”
Robertson has indicated that young full-back Regan Donelon is fit once again and therefore Sligo Rovers have all players available to them for this cup tie. However, it seems as though Donelon will only be fit enough to make it onto the bench for the game.
Referee: Paul Tuite
These clubs have only met twice before. The first meeting between these clubs came in May when Sligo Rovers ran out comfortable 4-1 winners. As has already been mentioned, Sligo then travelled to Ferrycarrig Park for the first time in their history two weeks ago and absolutely demolished the Youths 5-0 in their home ground.
Wexford Youths have never progressed beyond the last sixteen of the FAI Cup. On four occasions they've made it to this stage of the competition, and on every occasion they've been beaten. Last season the Youths were defeated by eventual finalists Cork City in the second round. This season the Youths overcame non-league Firhouse Clover with a 3-0 victory in May to reach this stage.
Sligo Rovers are five times champions of the FAI Cup, winning it three times (2010, 2011 & 2013) in the past six years. The club have a good pedigree in this competition, although last season they were heavily beaten 4-0 at the quarter final stage against eventual winners Dundalk. This season the Bit O'Red overcame Cabinteely with a 3-0 victory at home to make it through to this stage.
Wexford Youths 13/2; Draw 16/5; Sligo Rovers 2/5.
Wexford Youths 0-2 Sligo Rovers
Injured: Eric Molloy, Chris Kenny, Danny Furlong, Paul Murphy.
Doubtful: Gary Delaney.