Last season's First Division champions take on the current First Division league leaders in this second round FAI Cup clash, with Longford Town playing host to Finn Harps at the City Calling Stadium.
Since winning promotion back to the top flight last season as champions, Longford have established themselves as the best of the rest at present – sitting in sixth place in the Premier Division table, six points off St. Patrick's Athletic above them and five points above Bray Wanderers in 11th place.
Last week's 1-0 win over Limerick was important in the context of the relegation scrap developing just below Longford in the table and was a good response to back-to-back defeats from champions Dundalk and their title rivals Shamrock Rovers – the latter of whom eliminated Longford from the FAI Cup in the third round of last season's competition.
Though the Midlanders haven't lost to Harps in six games and came out victorious the last time the two teams clashed in the FAI Cup back in 2011, Longford haven't made much headway in this competition since losing the 2007 final to Cork City in the RDS – they have only reached the quarter-final stage once in that period, in 2009 where they were beaten 2-1 by Bray Wanderers.
Ollie Horgan's side enjoyed a run to the semi-finals of this competition last season, the first time Harps reached the last four in 15 years. They managed to avoid Premier Division opposition until meeting a rampant St. Patrick's Athletic side who were on their way to ending a 53 year FAI Cup hoodoo.
The Saints ran out 6-1 winners at Richmond Park to crush Harps' hopes of claiming a first FAI Cup triumph since 1974 – when, ironically, the Ballybofey side defeated Pat's 3-1 in Dalymount Park to claim the only FAI Cup success in the club's history to date.
Harps head into this second round cup tie unbeaten after their first 12 league games of the season, a club record which sees them lead the First Division by seven points. However, unlike last year, the Finn Park outfit will face Premier Division opposition from the get-go in the form of Longford Town.
Harps didn't score a single goal against the eventual First Division champions last season and Horgan believes they have become a stronger side since being promoted.
“Longford have done well this season in the top division,” Horgan told finnharps.com. “Tony Cousins has a great mix of youth with the likes of Jamie Mulhall, Kaleem Simon and Ben Mohammed added to the class and experience of Stephen Rice, Mark Salmon, Pat Sullivan and Kevin O'Connor. [David] O'Sullivan and [Gary] Shaw are a handful for the top teams, let alone us.
“We played Longford four times last year and failed to score in any of those games. They have improved again from that, so it will be very difficult to go there and get anything out of the game, let alone score.”
Keith Cowan and Brian McGroary miss out for Harps, but there is positive news regarding Packie Mailey. The centre-back has yet to make a first-team appearance this season due to injury, but was an unused substitute for last week's 2-2 draw with UCD and is available for selection against Longford.
Referee: Robert Rogers.
Though Harps are yet to taste defeat in the First Division so far this season, they have been beaten in competitive action in 2015 – Galway United knocked Harps out of the EA Sports Cup in the first round thanks to a 3-2 win at Eamonn Deacy Park.
Harps failed to score against Longford in four league meetings last season, a run which yielded just one point for the Donegal side against the Midlanders. Harps last breached the Town defence in September 2013 when Sean McCarron netted an 80th minute consolation goal in a 3-1 defeat at the City Calling Stadium.
Harps haven't beaten Longford in six games, their last victory coming in May 2013 at City Calling when they shaded an eventful First Division clash 3-2.
2011 was the last time these two teams faced each other in the FAI Cup. After drawing the original tie 0-0 in City Calling, Longford won the replay in Finn Park 1-0 courtesy of an 82nd minute Mark Salmon goal.
Longford Town 6/11; Draw 3/1 ; Finn Harps 11/2.
Injured: Keith Cowan, Brian McGroary.