Revenge will be on the cards for Rovers on Friday night when Drogheda United travel to Tallaght for this FAI Cup second round tie.
The Drogs inflicted a painful cup defeat on the Hoops in the first round of last year’s competition in a tie played in United Park.
Rovers won’t want to be dumped out of the cup by the same First Division opposition two years running, particularly as the FAI Cup works out as being Rovers’ most realistic chance for silverware.
Only the most optimistic Hoops fan reckons they can overhaul Dundalk in the league title chase – Rovers trail last year’s double winners by four points having played two extra games - and end the club’s cup famine.
There is a certain fatalistic attitude amongst fans as the clock has ticked to 32 years since they last lifted the trophy but if they can win this home match against First Division opposition the quarter-final awaits.
“I think last year should be on everyone's minds because we got beaten and it showed that if you're not at your levels you can get beaten,” said Hoops Head Coach Stephen Bradley reflecting on his side’s elimination at the hands of Drogheda last season.
“It's important that we remember that. Drogheda will be a difficult game. They are a better team than what they were last year. They're scoring more goals. They'll enjoy coming to Tallaght and we've got to make sure we're ready for that and respect them. But if we perform to our levels the result will look after itself.”
The Hoops come into Friday’s game in Tallaght on the back of back-to-back away wins in the league. Following a 2-0 victory at the Brandywell last Friday, Rovers conprehensivly won away to Waterford 5-1 on Monday night.
“I thought we were excellent. We played some really good football, we defended really well and we're disappointed with the goal we gave away, even though it was a great strike. But all round we were very good considering we'd played Derry away on Friday.”
Aaron Greene and Jack Byrne both scored twice at the RSC, along with 18-year-old Thomas Oluwa scoring his first goal for the Rovers first team.
For all the talk of not having a number nine to lead the line, after this week’s win in Waterford looking at the top scorer table, Rovers players are positioned second (Aaron Greene – 10), fifth (Aaron McEneff – 9) and eighth (Jack Byrne – 7). Pat Hoban, with 12 goals, is the only other player across the league who has scored more than Greene in the league this season.
“Aaron Greene's performances have been really good all year,” said Bradley. “It's just been a matter of time for the goals to come for him. August has been a good month and hopefully that continues tomorrow night.
“Jack Byrne has been outstanding for four or five months. He's obviously been providing a lot of assists but maybe the only thing that was missing was that goal for himself. On Monday he scored two great goals. He fully deserves the Ireland call up. The pleasing thing is how hard he's working for the team and his teammates. His ability is there for everyone to see.
“I'm delighted for Thomas Oluwa to get his goal because he's been a really good player for us in the academy in the last couple of years, he's been working away really hard. He's had to be patient and he's been involved a few times so it's been good to get him on the pitch the last month or two.”
Having beaten non-league opposition in the first round of the FAI Cup, Drogheda United, second in the First Division, will travel to Tallaght in cup action to take on Shamrock Rovers who sit second in the Premier Division table.
The Drogs dispatched Munster Senior League side Avondale United 2-1 in the last round, thanks to goals from Mark Doyle and Ryan O’Shea and United will take some cup confidence to Dublin 24 having dismissed the Hoops in the cup last year.
That game was in United Park whereas now they must go to Tallaght where the Hoops have only lost once in all competition since the end of April. Drogs face a Hoops team that have added to their riches in the recent past including bringing back Ireland international Graham Burke on loan from Preston North End.
“It’s a completely different scenario,” said Drogs boss Tim Clancy about facing the Hoops once again in the cup. “It’s a different surface, different pitch, different squad Rovers have, different squad we have.
“They are certainly far better than they were last year and I think we’ve improved as well. I think it will be geared into them this year, tomorrow night, that if they aren’t at it, they could possibly lose the game. But you can’t draw too many comparisons from last year.”
United come into the cup tie six points behind Shelbourne in the race for promotion having won their last league game 6-0 over Wexford, with goals coming through a Chris Lyons hattrick, a brace from Stephen Meaney aong with an own goal.
However, during the week United were eliminated from the Leinster Senior Cup by non-league Sherrif YC on penalties.
“We are up against something you certainly won’t face in the First Division but we are looking forward to it,” said Clancy about taking on the Hoops in Tallaght. “It’s going to be a huge ask for us. We’ll go out, enjoy the game, it’s a nice distraction from the league games, it’s a different type of pressure but we’ll go and enjoy it.”
From their 24 league games, Drogheda have scored 55 goals with 32 of them coming from the attacking trio of Mark Doyle (11), Chris Lyons (both 11) and Stephen Meaney (10). Clancy was dismissive of the criticism that his team faced at the beginning of the season about their attacking threat.
“We weren’t wondering where the goals were going to come from. We scored a lot of goals last year as well. We’d no reservations about where we were going to get goals this season, although a lot of other people did.
“The goals return that we’ve got this season from our players puts all that sort of talk to bed, from the so called experts at the start of the season saying we’d no one who’d get the goals to have us up near the top of the league. Here we are, three games left, sitting second, scoring the most goals in the country.
“We’re delighted with the three lads up front. It’s not just them, it’s the midfielders, the defenders, everyone has been chipping in with goals.”
Clancy will be able to call on all his assets for the game bar midfielder Mark Hughes. “Mark is back, not in full training but he’s sprinting and kicking a ball and there’s been no issues with him. Tomorrow is probably too soon for him but we’ll certainly be hoping to get him into full training next week and hopefully he’s available for Athlone. Otherwise it’s a full bill of health.”
Referee: Paul McLaughlin
Shamrock Rovers have won a record 24 FAI Cups but their last win came back in 1987 in their final season in Milltown. 2005 was the one and only time that the Drogs have won the cup.
Drogheda’s 55 goals has them top of the goalscoring charts in the First Division and outscoring all the Premier Division teams too.
Chris Lyons converted a first half penalty to get the only goal in the cup game between the sides last season in United Park. Lyons spent a year at Tallaght Stadium playing with the Rovers B team in the 2014 First Division.
2-0 home win for the Hoops
Injured: Neil Farrugia, Joey O’Brien
Doubtful: Graham Cummins
Injured: Mark Hughes