Two powerhouses of Limerick junior football face off once again in the opening round of the Tuohy Cup at Jackman Park tonight (7PM). Fairview Rangers and Ballynanty Rovers will renew rivalries once more in a repeat of last year’s final which Ballynanty Rovers won.
Fairview come into the game off the back of 6 wins in 7 games and are currently top of the Limerick District League Premier Division. Ballynanty have had a more inconsistent start but were convincing 0-3 winners over Carew Park in the FAI Cup last week with James Fitzgerald accounting for two goals along with Habideen Gbedebo. Fitzgerald has made a big impression since arriving to the northside club from Fairview.
Fairview manager Paul Danaher certainly won’t want a repeat of the score line and performance during the league meeting between the sides just a fortnight ago at Limerick Institute of Technology. It was Ballynanty’s first game on the grass pitch since the end of last season due to repair work and it was the perfect start with a thumping 4-1 win against their rivals. There was a great deal of pressure on Dave Dunphy’s side as a loss would have seen them go 10 points behind.
However, set-piece dominance and an unmatched hunger on the evening gave Balla the win with Josh Adams x2, Adrian Power and Eddie Byrnes scoring. The current Munster Junior Cup champions will have to improve significantly at set-piece time for tonight’s game. Fairview captain AJ O’Connor was in action for Ireland last night during their 0-1 win and will feature in tonight’s game also.
The dangerous front three of Connor Ellis, Daragh Rainsford and Conor Coughlan will be hoping to have a greater impact on proceedings this evening while Jason Cross and Jake Dillon will be hoping to provide a tougher evening for Gbedebo who caused the back four issues. One of the dilemmas for Fairview will be whether to play AJ O’Connor in defence of midfield. If the captain plays in midfield, it is likely that Jeffrey Judge will continue in the unfamiliar role of left-back.
A lot has been made about Dillon and Ellis leaving Ballynanty for Fairview, but the two Fitzgerald brothers Cian and James have moved the other way and on the last occasion we spoke to Dave Dunphy, he was full of praise for the brothers upon their arrival but stressed that all new arrivals have had a big impact.
“The Fitzgerald’s have come in and done very well. They are characters and sometimes people may think this might be tough to handle but they are sitting in the dressing room as if they have been at this club for the last ten years. We are getting the most of out of them and they are giving us good performances but they are not the only ones. Habideen Gbedebo has been outstanding along with Josh Adams, Cian Power, Conor Keane, Rhian O’Connell and Aaron Power.”
Limerick Junior Soccer Focus analyst Aidan Ryan reckons both teams will play close to their full strength tonight.
“Fairview will be hurting after the defeat in LIT and Ballynanty were full value for the win. There are only so many trophies you can win as a premier team. You have the Tuohy, Lawson, league, FAI and Munster Junior trophies. I expect Fairview to put out a strong team. They have a great record in the Tuohy Cup. Ballynanty have a decent squad with a couple of young players, and they may give them a chance tomorrow evening (Thursday) but I expect them to go strong as well. They are on a good run at the moment, and they have the Indian sign over Fairview.”