The Hoops play their first FAI Cup tie as reigning holders for 32 years when they welcome Cork City to Tallaght Stadium on Monday evening (kick off 7.45pm).
Rovers had to wait till last year to break FAI Cup hoodoo and finally claim their 25th cup crown. Ronan Finn become the first Shamrock Rovers captain to lift the trophy since 1987 and the Hoops want to hang onto that trophy for as long as they can.
“It’s our trophy and we don’t want to give it up,” said Stephen Bradley. “We’re going out to attack a Cup that we won last year and that starts on Monday.”
The Hoops won that cup in a penalty shootout against Dundalk and the club had even more penalty drama last Thursday night when they overcame Ilves Tampere in a 12-11 marathon shootout.
They came twice from behind – including a controversial penalty early in the game - and played all of extra-time a man down after Liam Scales was sent to the dressingroom after picking up two second half yellow cards.
“I thought we were excellent considering what went against us on the night, obviously the penalty that was never a penalty and how we reacted to that and going down to ten men. I thought we were excellent and deserved to win.
“I think every player deserves tremendous credit, as a squad and the subs that came on who were brilliant and worked extremely hard for each other. I felt as a group we were brilliant in terms of our attitude, game management and character.
“Obviously Alan (Mannus) and Joey (O’Brien) get all the plaudits and probably rightly so. Alan with the save and scoring himself and Joey steps up for the winner but they were tremendous all round.”
Graham Burke’s first half goal – his fourth in Europe - sent him to joint top of Rovers’ scorers in Europe – level with Billy Dixon and Liam Tuohy and Roberto Lopes’s goal has him just one behind that trio.
“Graham scores goals, that’s what he does. It shows that Graham is getting back into his rhythm and I think he’ll go on to be our top scorer in Europe because he’s very dangerous around the box. Pico comes alive in the opposition’s box, in set plays and in general he’s very dangerous.
“Many times we’ve trained down a man and 10 v 11. So the players knew what was expected of them and they played it out perfectly. I think they showed tremendous character and game management to get through that 30 minutes without giving them any clear cut chances really.”
By kick off on Monday the Hoops will know their opponent in the next Europa League qualifier. The Hoops, who are unseeded in draw, will be drawn against either the seven time European Cup winners AC Milan or Fehervar FC from Hungary or FK Zalgiris Vilnius from Lithuania.
The Hoops beat City 6-0 earlier in the season but Bradley is expecting a tighter affair at Tallaght on Monday. “I think they’ve got some really good attacking players. We have to make sure we’re on our game. It’s a really important game for us.”
Hoops have one in three chance of being drawn with Milan in Monday's Europa League draw https://t.co/GmlqZ8ZPG4— Macdara Ferris (@macdarabueller) August 30, 2020
While Rovers went 120 minutes and penalties on Thursday (and without the added COVID-19 substitutions allowed in the league), Cork City come into Monday’s FAI Cup match more rested having had a break of ten days. Their last game was a defeat to Derry City in the Brandywell.
“It’s probably the hardest game we could have gotten,” said Neale Fenn about the cup tie. “After our last trip to Tallaght (a 6-0 loss), a few of the boys have a point to prove after that performance.
"We want to go out and do our best. This club has got a great tradition in the cup, we’re not going to go up there and put out a team that we think is going to lose, we want to be in it.
“I think we’re a better squad now than what we were when we went up there at the start of the season. There are a few players here that weren’t here at the start of the season, so we have to treat it as a totally different game, that it’s a fresh start and not be too worried about them.”
City have had mixed results since the return from the COVID-19 break and in have won twice (3-0 at home to Sligo and the late 1-0 win in the last round of the cup against Longford Town), gained a point in scoreless draw in Waterford and lost 1-0 at home to Bohemians.
Scott Fenwick knows that task that awaits his team in Tallaght but notes that the cup adds a different element to Monday’s match. “League form goes out of football when it comes to the cup. It’s all about who wants it more.
“Everyone knows that Shamrock Rovers are one of the bigger clubs in Ireland. It’s not as if we’re going up there expecting defeat, we’ll work together, stick to our game plan and try to win the game.”
Neale Fenn will be missing a number of players. Graham Cummins is suspended. Joseph Olowu is out for at least three weeks anyway. Alec Byrne and Beineon O’Brien-Whitmarsh are back training but will not be available while Uniss Kargbo is waiting for a scan on his ankle.
Gearóid Morrissey is at least available for Fenn, who has also brought in Jake O’Brien from the club’s under-19 squad.
Referee: Neil Doyle
The Hoops won three of the league encounters between the side last season winning 2-0 and 3-0 in Tallaght while in Turner’s Cross Rovers won 3-1 in April. There was a 1-1 draw in Cork in July.
The teams last met in the FAI Cup back in May 2016 when City came to Tallaght and won 5-0 with Seani Maguire scoring a hat-trick. Aaron Bolger, who Rovers have brought in on loan from Cardiff City, made his senior debut for Rovers in that game in his first spell at the club.
Cork City have won the FAI Cup three times in the club’s history – 1993, 2005 and 2017.
Shamrock Rovers 2/1; Draw 2/1; Cork City 5/4.
2-0 to the Hoops
Injured: Greg Bolger, Sean Kavanagh, Rory Gaffney.
Unavailable: Neil Farrugia, Liam Scales (both at Ireland under-21 training camp).
Injured: Beineon O’Brien-Whitmarsh, Alec Byrne, Joseph Olowu, Uniss Kargbo.
Suspended: Graham Cummins.