The FAI Ford Cup takes centrefold in Irish football this week-end. It’s a competition that pits the heavyweights of the Premier Division against teams from all over the country. St Colman’s Park will play host to a David versus Goliath clash on Saturday as First Division outfit Cobh Ramblers host giants Derry City. Derry haven’t been firing on all cylinders this season but still have a very impressive team and Cobh will produce quite a shock if they get anything from the game. It’s also one of the longest journeys in Irish football to add to the occasion.
Cobh finally put an end to their losing streak on Bank Holiday Monday with a solid 0-0 draw against Longford. They still remain without a win but that will give them confidence to push on for the rest of the campaign. They face vastly different opposition in the second round this year compared to 2013 when they faced non-league St Pat’s CY, winning 4-3. The Rams have never won this competition, with their best showing their famous run of 1983 when it took three games to separate non-league Cobh and footballing giants Sligo Rovers in the semi-final which Rovers eventually won at the third time of asking. That fairytale story captured the hearts of the nation and was a catalyst in propelling Ramblers to League of Ireland status.
A big plus for Cobh this week is that striker Ron Stanton is eligible to play. The former College Corinthians player played for Cobh last season but for one reason or another didn’t sign back as planned for the start of this year. His arrival should add to Ramblers’ struggling attack. Ryan Goldsmith is back available for the Rams after being away with the Irish u19 squad for their European Qualifiers. Chris McCarthy is also back after missing the Longford game through suspension. Andrew Bhandarkar remains unavailable through injury while Sean O’Mahony, Cian Murphy, Rob Lynch and Jonathan Creamer all have Leaving Cert commitments. Eoin Hastings will also miss the game through injury.
The visitors haven’t had the greatest of seasons so far. Roddy Collins became manager at the start of the season and set his mark on the club but it wasn’t to be and he departed the club in early May. Club legend Peter Hutton took charge of the side and has somewhat settled the ship but they are still struggling and languish in eight place in the league.
Hutton has plenty of experience with Cobh as his Finn Harps side faced them six times last season, including a third round FAI cup replay win in St Colman’s Park. With the likes of Rory Patterson and Danny Ventre in their squad, they have an experienced team full of quality. Young striker Michael Duffy has shown excellent potential this year and will be one to watch out for on Saturday. The Northerners have an impressive pedigree in this competition winning it on five occasions, most recently in 2012 when they beat Sligo Rovers 3-2 after extra time at the Aviva Stadium. Hutton’s side would love a repeat of that this season and a good cup run would be a welcome distraction from their poor league form.
Cliff Byrne returns for the Northerners having missed the last few games through injury. However David Elebert and Cormac Burke will definitely be unavailable while Mark Tomlin is also expected to miss out as he is lacking in match fitness.
The sides last met in the final game of the 2008 season when Cobh were in the Premier Divison. Goals from Ross Gaynor and Davin O’Neill couldn’t prevent the Rams losing 4-2 that day. Interestingly, new Derry boss Peter Hutton played for Derry that day which was Cobh’s last match in the top tier.
The Candystripes won all three meetings that season and one has to go back to April 1995 when Cobh weren’t beaten by a Derry side, drawing 1-1 at St Colman’s Park in the league.
Speaking ahead of the game, Cobh manager Martin Cambridge had this to say “We’ve prepared well for the match. We’re looking forward it and we’ll give them a game on Saturday night. Derry have a professional setup and it will be difficult for us but we think we can do it. Hopefully we get a good crowd for it”
Derry boss Peter Hutton also gave his views on the tie, speaking with the Londonderry Sentinel, “As the cliché goes anything can happen in cup football. We’ll give Cobh due respect and we’ll take the game very seriously. It doesn’t have to be pretty football, it just has to be effective to get us into the next round.”
Ramblers are rank outsiders for the game which is to be expected but they showed against Longford that their defence can be very hard to beat and if they can sneak an early goal, you never know what may happen. Derry have an impressive squad on paper though and if they turn up on form they will be very strong. The attendance at the Longford tie was quite large and this bodes well for this huge cup tie. As we all know, anything can happen in the Cup so don’t write the Rams off just yet!
Injured: Andrew Bhandarkar, Eoin Hastings
Doubtful: Jonathan Creamer, Sean O’Mahony, Cian Murphy, Rob Lynch,
Injured: David Elebert, Cormac Burke
Doubtful: Mark Tomlin
Referee: Pádraig Sutton
Assistants: Trevor Cotter, Sinead Forde
Fourth Official: Pat Gleeson
Preview by Thomas Stafford