Pike Rovers travel to Dublin today to take on Sheriff YC in the sixth round of the FAI Junior Cup. Pike overcame the challenge of a stubborn St. Kevin’s Boys outfit in the last round of the competition with Johnathan Grant grabbing the winner in a 2-1 win. There are four Limerick District League sides remaining in the competition with Aisling Annacotty and Newport facing off in Annacotty and Limerick Desmond League side Glin Rovers also travelling to Dublin to take on VEC FC.
Pike manager Mick Sheil admits that it is the toughest draw his side could have asked for in the last 32 of the competition. “Yeah away to Pike or away to Sheriff is probably the toughest draw a team could ask for. Neither team probably want that at this stage of the competition but you will have to play them at some stage eventually if you want to go on and win it. It’s come sooner than we thought it would but we have to deal with it now.”
Pike lost to today’s opponents in the 2016 final at the Aviva Stadium by a goal to nil. Sheil says there are still a lot of experienced players among the Sheriff ranks. “Yeah they still have five or 6 lads starting from that squad. From our own point of view, we are different from 2016. There has been two years of conditioning gone in as well with Keith Higgins. That will help us and it’s mainly the same people we have had in that period. They have been doing things properly and been more disciplined and we probably weren’t at that level the last time we played them. We have Granty, Kav (Conor Kavanagh), Daragh Rainsford and Johnathan Hannafin who weren’t playing back then.”
Pike emerged unscathed despite being embroiled in a tough battle against St. Kevin’s in the last round. Sheil feels they were taken by surprise by the Dublin outfit but that wont be an issue this time. “Yeah I think we were taken by surprise a little bit by St. Kevin’s the last day and the formation they played. When we watched them before they played a more expansive game and when we played them they played a narrow diamond which is a reflection of what we are doing as teams are showing us respect and know they cannot open up too much against us. The lads coming up through the academies up there have great knowledge and can play different systems and you will have to ramp it up another 30/40% against Sheriff compared to Kevin’s.”
Sheil is missing a couple of key players but is still confident that his team can gain the victory in the capital. “Borris (Eoin Hanrahan) is out as he got injured up in Kevin’s and young Evan Patterson is out. Everyone else is fit and we are ready to go. We have Pat Mullins and Wayne Colbert back. We have been unbeaten all season bar the UCD game and those players haven’t really played at all. That’s a testament to the way we performed.”
Popular winger Daragh Rainsford will be making his final appearance for Pike today as he prepares to join up with his new team mates at Cork City in the Airtricity League on Monday. While he is disappointed to lose a player of his quality, Sheil feels its a great opportunity for the player. “I spoke to Daragh in the summer and I said that this was the start for him to get back to the level he was at four years ago. I wasn’t going to go back on saying that. He has scored lots of goals and people have obviously sat up and taken notice. I have a lot of time for Daragh, In the past people may have criticised him for being over confident. He’s backed it up with us and I’ve never had any issues with him. For him to go down to a professional club and train well from a junior set up just shows you what can be done.”
The game between Sheriff and Pike will kick off at 2pm at Clontarf Road all weather pitch.