With the league all but won again, Dundalk head into tonight's FAI cup semi-final at Oriel Park knowing close they are now to a memorable double. The bookies can barely be persuaded to take money on Stephen Kenny's men clearing this particular hurdle but the manager himself will be wary as he remembers the club's exit at Drogheda a couple of years back when his side were almost as well fancied.
Kenny put that one down at the time to some contentious refereeing decision but, as Longford boss Tony Cousins has been saying to his players, it doesn't matter how they come about, sometimes strange things happen in the cup.
“We’re missing a few lads so it’s one of those nights when we need our young players to step up to the mark and our older ones to roll back the years,” he says. “But I’ve been telling that they’ve got to believe they can win this; that sometimes these things happen. That’s what the cup is all about.”
Remarkably, the two teams haven’t met in the competition since 1972 when Dundalk won handily enough but Longford took a point rather more recently when they last visited champions in the league and a repeat of that would, one suspects, do Cousins and his players nicely enough this time around even if the manager insists he is actually aiming that bit higher.
“Look, we’ve got to go into it thinking it can be a cup shock,” he says. “We’ll need all sorts of things to go our way but last week we created a stack of chances and missed them all against St Pats; it could have been five all. This time we might just manage to create two and score them both.”
Kenny has, yet again, a full squad to choose from for the game while Cousins has a fair few problems to contend with.
Perhaps most significantly, Kevin O'Connor is suspended but Dean Kelly and Jack Doherty are also cup-tied while Pat Flynn and Don Cowan have been ruled out for the season and Ayman Ben Mohamed (foot) is a major doubt.
In the night's league game, both Galway United and Sligo Rovers will each be aiming to scramble their way towards safety at the expense of the other with Sligo possessing the greater upward momentum of the two having gone five games unbeaten.
Micky Adams has Gavin Peers back for the trip to Eamonn Deacy Park but John Russell (hip) misses out again while Jason Hughes is a doubt. Alex Byrne, Jason Molloy and Padraic Cunningham are all sidelined for United with injuries but Marc Ludden and Stephen Walsh are available again to manager Tommy Dunne. Former St Patrick's athletic and Shamrock Rovers midfielder Paul Osam has been appointed as manager of the Irish Under-16 national team. The 47 year-old, who was been working in a number of different coaching and development roles for the FAI over the last few years will take of the side for the first time at next month's Victory Shield (a quadrangular tournament with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).
Osam said yesterday that he is “honoured” to get the opportunity.