Fairview Rangers face a mammoth challenge on Saturday afternoon when they welcome Airtricity League Premier Division side Finn Harps to the Fairgreen in the first round of the FAI Senior Cup (4pm). The game will have an attendance of 200 as the club showcase their new seated stand and state of the art pitch in the biggest cup competition in Ireland.
Jason Purcell’s men will be acutely aware of the challenge that awaits them with the Donegal outfit currently 8th in the top tier of Irish football. Fairview reached the first round following a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Athenry in the preliminary round of the competition. The game ended in a 2-2 draw after extra-time with new signing Conor Coughlan and Eoin Duff accounting for the home side’s goals.
Coughlan has arrived to the Fairgreen in recent weeks along with former Aisling Annacotty teammate and powerful right-back Kennedy N’dip who also featured in the victory over Athenry. On any normal occasion, a junior side would be underdogs heading into a game of this manner, but it is definitely the case this time around with Finn Harps over halfway through a league season and Fairview with just one competitive game under their belt.
Club stalwarts Jeffrey Judge and Jamie Enright have also returned to the fold despite rumours of both having retired. In Aaron Savage, the club possess one of the best junior goalkeepers in the country and with the likes of Ross Mann, Eoin Duff and Conor Keane vying for a starting place at the other end, there will be plenty of pace to threaten the visiting back four. Steven Bradley continues to anchor the midfield for Purcell and it is a job that he has done superbly in Limerick for over 7 years.
In 2020, Fairview won their ninth FAI Junior Cup with victory over Usher Celtic at Eamon Deacy Park. The goalscorer on that day was Clyde O’Connell who has since departed to join Treaty United. AJ O’Connor partnered Mark Slattery at centre-back during pre-season and the Athenry game and will be expected to play there once again this weekend.
Fairview are no strangers to taking on League of Ireland opposition in the FAI Senior Cup and one of the club’s greatest days in an illustrious history was defeating Dublin City 4-1 in July 2002 to reach the second round. Purcell was instrumental in the victory on that day and scored the opening goal through a penalty while starring in central midfield next to current Treaty United head physio Barry Heffernan.
Furthermore, Paul Harman, and the aforementioned Heffernan were on the scoresheet along with Heffernan’s younger brother Colm. Many of that team including current Treaty United manager Tommy Barrett, Brian Buckley and Colm went on to feature at League of Ireland level for a number of years.
Their reward for that shock victory was a home tie with none other than this weekend’s opponents Finn Harps. The Harps proved a bridge too far to cross for the Dermot Finnan managed side and the legendary Johnathan Speak was among the goal scorers in a 0-2 victory at the Fairgreen.
The gap between junior and senior football is probably bigger than its ever been and Horgan’s side arrive to Limerick with a wealth of experience and quality. Obviously, it remains to be seen how the visitors line out and what their attitude will be like. Due to a poor run of results which includes five defeats in their last six outings, Finn Harps have dropped to just one point above Waterford who currently occupy the promotion/relegation play-off spot.
However, with the likes of David Webster, former Limerick FC man Karl O’Sullivan and striker Adam Foley among their ranks, there is plenty of quality to call upon. Horgan’s approach will be interesting to see.
Sporting Limerick soccer analyst Jason O’Connor believes that Harps will approach the game with the right attitude and see it as an opportunity to return to winning ways and improve recent performances.
“I think they will (put out a strong side). They are on a poor run with 1 point from 5 games. They have only scored 3 goals in that space of time so they will be looking to boost confidence. Adam Foley is their real goal threat with 8 goals this season. We all know about Karl O’Sullivan from his time at Limerick FC. I think Harps will be looking to put down a marker.”
Fellow analyst Noel O’Connor agrees that Harps will be looking to get back to winning ways.
“Harps are on a poor run. They started out with a couple of big wins and now they cant buy a win. I was speaking to Paul Hegarty (Finn Harps Assistant Manager) a few weeks ago and he said everything is going against them at the moment. They will have their homework done on Fairview. They had a good cup run last year and you would think they will see this game as a stepping stone to getting back to winning ways.”
We will have live updates throughout on our Sporting Limerick Twitter page and the game will be streamed live on LOITV.