The Reds are relishing the chance to take on their old Ringsend rivals Shamrock Rovers in the second round of the FAI Cup on Friday night at Tolka Park (kick off 7.45pm).
It is five years since the sides last met in the Cup, with Shels coming out on top in Tolka with a 2-1 win at the quarter final stage.
“It’s great to have a Dublin derby,” noted Shels boss Eoin Heary in his club’s press release ahead of the game. “It’s not the best draw for us. We would probably preferred to have one of the weaker teams in the competition but the lads will be up for it because it’s a derby.
“It’s a good while since we had a good Dublin derby here [Tolka Park] in such a competition. It’s one that we’re looking forward to. We know that Rovers are a very good side, with good players. For us, playing a Premier team, we will need to be at our best to beat them. “
The Cup hasn’t given much joy to the First Division club in the last few seasons having been eliminated at the first hurdle by Dundalk in the last two competitions and at the quarter-final stage in the 2013 edition by the Lilywhites.
When they were drawn in this season’s first round to First Division leaders Waterford, Shels fans might have thought it would be another short campaign.
However, Owen Heary’s men dispatched the Blues 3-0 at the RSC. The last time Shels played under the Tolka Park Friday night lights was in 2014. They beat Waterford at home in the second round, only to be eliminated in the next round by Dublin opposition.
St. Pat’s knocked them out but only after a replay in Tolka. However this year’s Third Round ties must be decided on the night at the first time of asking so extra time and penalties will be used to get a team into the quarter-final draw – a draw that will take place next Monday.
Three second half goals in Waterford earned Shels a shot at making the quarter-finals of the cup for the first time since 2013. Chris Lyons (who played with Rovers’ B team in 2014), Jamie Doyle and James English scored against the Blues, belying the 22 points that separate in the lastest table.
The win came at a cost though as Reece McEnteer broke his leg in that match and will miss the rest of the season. Meanwhile Niall Lanigan was sent off in Wateford after earning two yellow cards and so he is suspended for this Dublin derby clash in the Irish Daily Mail FAI Senior Cup.
When the sides last met in the FAI Cup back in 2012, the Hoops were in some turmoil. Stephen Glass was in temporary charge of Rovers after Stephen Kenny had departed the club after only nine months in charge.
Shels were then a Premier Division club but would be relegated the following season to the First Division where they have remained since. Kenny of course subsequently went on to cement his place in the rankings of best League of Ireland manager’s earning three league titles in a row in Dundalk. Stephen Bradley meanwhile in 2012 was playing in the First Division with Limerick.
All change then in the last five years. Well not quite, as in between Rovers have continued their special cup run, failing to win a fabled 25th Cup. The FAI Cup famine for the Hoops now stretches to 30 years during which time Shels have lifted the trophy four times. But could this be Rovers’ year? Avoiding Cork City and Dundalk will certainly help their chances but the Hoops won’t be taking Shelbourne for granted.
“We know Shelbourne are going to be really up for it and we will be as well,” said Hoops head coach Stephen Bradley to the club's official website the eve of the tie.
“So it has all the makings of a good game. They won well in Waterford. We had them watched down there and in the last few weeks as well. They've been doing well and getting results so we know it's going to be a tough game.
“Owen Heary will have Shelbourne ready to go tomorrow. It's two big clubs, two great clubs but for me it's all about what we can do tomorrow and the history doesn't come into this group of players. It's about them trying to create their own bit of history.”
The Hoops come into the game on the back of four consecutive wins. At Tallaght they beat Cork City in the EA Sports Cup semi-final and defeated non-league Glenville 1-0 in the first round of the FAI Cup. They have also won won twice on the road last week in the league (2-0 in Limerick and 2-1 in Galway).
Against United last Friday, they were made work hard for the win. Having trailed 1-0 at the break, Bradley was happy with the response he got from his team in the second half in Eamon Deacy Park. His team had lost all 11 matches they had gone behind in this season up until that point.
“I just felt at half-time if we upped our game and play at a better tempo we could win it. We had to respond and go and win the game and it meant coming from behind (for the first time this season) and getting two goals. I thought the lads were excellent in the second half and deserved it. I think we've improved away from home.”
Gary Shaw was the hero on the night as he moved into double digits for the season. “Two good goals by Gary Shaw. A great header for the first one and the second one was a great reaction because I think the ball came into him initially, he chested it down for Mikey (O’Connor) who touched it and Shaw turned and hit it.”
Rovers have virtually a full squad to choose from. Dan Devine did leave the club during the week (see here), while Luke Byrne is back in contention according to Bradley.
“If we wanted to, Luke Byrne can come back in. He's done a good bit in the last day or two. It was a hamstring strain so we need to be careful that we don't rush him back too early either.”
Referee: Rob Rogers
The teams have met each other 18 times in the FAI Cup, playing 25 games in total including replays and two-leg ties. Rovers have 11 wins to Shelbourne’s seven.
Top scorer for Shels so far this season is James English. He has 13 in total including six scored in the cups - one in the FAI Cup and five in the Leinster Senior Cup (Shels take on Pat’s in Tolka Park on Monday in the semi-final of that competition). Gary Shaw leads the goalscoring charts for Rovers. He has ten goals in all competitions – nine in the league and one in the Europa League qualifiers.
In the FAI Cup only two men have captained the winning club on three occasions. Mick Neville had that honour with Shelbourne (1993, 1996 and 1997), while with Rovers Pat Byrne lifted the cup three years in a row (1985, 1986 and 1987). Johnny Fullam is the only man to captain four FAI Cup winning teams. He did it twice with Rovers (1968 and 1978) and with Bohs (1970 and
Shels 7/1; Draw 7/2; Shamrock Rovers 2/5.
Shelbourne 0 – 2 Shamrock Rovers
Injured: Reece McEnteer, Aaron Ashe.
Suspended: Niall Lanigan.
Injured: Paul Corry.
Doubtful: Luke Byrne.
Suspended: Simon Madden.