By Gerard Mulreaney (@gerardmulreaney)
With the league now done and dusted, and the championship trophy nicely tucked away, Shamrock Rovers will look to achieve the double as they take on Finn Harps in the second FAI Cup quarter final on Friday.
The cup holders will hope to join Athlone Town in the semi-finals after their shock win over Shelbourne.
Stephen Bradley’s men face the long slog back up to Ballybofey for yet another ding-dong battle with Ollie Horgan’s side, themselves cock-a-hoop following their successful survival in the Premier Division.
The two sides faced each other just three weeks ago, when Rovers came away with a 2-0 win.
There’s no point in sugar coating it, Finn Harps are massive underdogs. In their last eleven meetings in over four years, Rovers have won them all, so Ollie Horgan knows it’s a tough ask. He told the clubs website: “Listen, they’re champions for a reason and it’s going to be a huge ask for us to get anything from the game. But the lads have done well to close the season out so we’ll give it our best and see how we go.”
If there was to be a sliver of hope for Harps it would be the fact that Rovers had players away on International duty this week, with both Jack Byrne and Graham Burke with Ireland, while Pico Lopes was away with Cape Verde, so tiredness could be a factor for them. However, they possess such a huge amount of quality in their squad that it shouldn’t really be a problem.
Bradley, who turned 36 on Thursday, says his side will be ready for whatever Harps throw at them; “It’s going to be a really difficult game, like we got up there in the league. Ollie has done a fantastic job. We know it’s going to be a really difficult game but it’s one that we’re ready for.”
Harps are under no pressure coming into this game, after Premier Division survival was attained in their last league game against Waterford, and they can just play with freedom.
Bradley said: “They’ll play the same way and approach it the same way each and every game so I don’t think that will have any effect. They’ll go all out to win the game like they did a few weeks ago and so will we. There’ll be no excuses and we’ll go and play the game.”
As cup holders Shamrock Rovers will want to go and repeat that triumph next month: “We have ambitions for a double this season, it’s something that’s achievable, but to do that we’ve got to make sure that we’re 100% focused on Friday first. If we can go and get the result then it’s something we can talk about. Our main focus in Finn Harps on Friday because we definitely can’t look past that.”
Goalscoring hero for Harps in their victory over Waterford on the final day, Adam Foley said; “We’ve nothing to lose and confidence is high in the squad. We’ll prepare accordingly and hopefully things go our way.”
Could the unthinkable happen and Harps make it into the FAI Cup semi-finals? Now that would be so 2020!