FAI Junior Cup tops the billing this weekend

There is a big weekend of action in the FAI Junior Cup with five Limerick sides in action over two days. Four Limerick District League sides are hoping to progress to the last 16 of the competition while Carrig Celtic are the sole representatives for the Desmond League.

On Saturday afternoon, Coonagh United travel to Dublin to face Crumlin United. In the fifth round, Coonagh eventually overcame the challenge of Finglas following a thrilling penalty shoot-out victory. The game finished 4-4 but on two occasions, it looked as though the Limerick side had put the game beyond their Dublin counterparts.

This is the second time in three years that John Spillane’s side have reached the sixth round of the competition and they will face a stern test in the form of Crumlin. The majority of last season’s Leinster Senior League Oscar Traynor side featured players from Crumlin and they were unlucky to lose out to Limerick District League in a thrilling game.

On Sunday afternoon, Regional United will also make the trip to the capital to face Usher Celtic. Usher once represented Dublin in the Oscar Traynor Trophy in recent seasons. The Dooradoyle outfit reached the last four of the comepetition last year only to be eliminated due to the ineligibility of Sosuke Kimura.

The move caused a lot of controversy and set a precedent in relation to international clearance. Now, it appears that a week cannot go by without an enquiry in relation to a player’s eligibility.

Despite losing many players in the last 12 months, Regional have steadied the ship and remain safely in fifth place in the Limerick District League Premier Division table. The game will provide great experience for recent young recruits Andy Quaid and Edmond O’Dwyer, who have tasted national league football with Limerick FC in recent times. They will need the experience of the likes of Kieran O’Connell in the middle of the park during a tough encounter.

Pike Rovers make the trip to Kildare to face Suncroft FC at Ballycullen Astroturf pitch on Sunday afternoon (3pm). Every year, the FAI Junior Cup unearths another relatively unknown quantity and Suncroft fall into that bracket in the 2019/2020 season. The Kiladre District League outfit enjoyed huge success in the 1990’s but have never transferred it to a national stage.

Pike will be clear favourites for the game and it is likely that player/manager Robbie Williams will return to the starting line-up for the clash. The departure of Ian Fletcher has hit the club but both Paddy O’Malley and Eddie O’Donovan are likely to battle it out for the left-back spot.

In the fifth round, the Hoops picked up a 0-2 win over league rivals Ballynanty to advance to a stage of the competition which they were so familiar with in the last decade. Following two heartache’s in three years, this Pike group will be desperate to deliver success. The likes of Gary Neville, Conor Kavanagh and Pat Mullins have already won the trophy in 2011, all of nine years ago at this point.

Fairview Rangers are the only Limerick side to receive a home draw as they host St. John Bosco at the Fairgreen in Sunday afternoon. Jason Purcell’s side have been in scintillating form and enter this game full of confidence following a comfortable derby win over Geraldines last weekend which adds to an impressive winning run.

In the last round, Fairview hammered Cork side Castleview 9-0 at home and the club will be hoping that the glory days of the 1990’s and early noughties will return. The club began the decade with an FAI Junior Cup final victory over St. Michaels at Turners Cross.

St. John Bosco have an impressive club set-up in Dublin and will hold no fear in travelling to the Limerick league leaders. However, Fairview would fear playing nobody at this current time.

Striker Ross Mann is pivotal to their play and his pace leads to several problems for opposition defenders, as proven in Garryowen last weekend. His link-up play with James Fitzgerald was impressive on the day and Purcell will be hoping the confident youngster can step up on Sunday. With the squad available to the Fairgreen outfit, reaching the last 16 would be a stepping stone as they will be hoping to reach the latter stages.

Carrig Celtic travel to Kilkenny to face Newpark FC who are currently sixth in the Kilkenny and District League Division one, which is the second tier in the Leinster County. Carrig saw off the challenge of Limerick District League side Newport in the last round at the county Limerick venue.

There are two games down for decision in the Premier Division with Janesboro hosting Ballynanty Rovers. Janesboro are struggling at present and will be hoping to bounce back from a demoralising 6-2 defeat at the hands of Nenagh last weekend. Ballynanty will be looking to take advantage of the fact that league rivals Fairview and Ballynanty are in FAI Junior Cup action to close the gap on the leaders.

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