The FAI Junior Cup goes centre stage this weekend as the local soccer season resumes.
Limerick’s four remaining hopes are in action in the FAI Junior Cup this weekend vying for a place in the last 16 of the prestigious tournament.
Limerick have had no success in the competition since Pike’s win in 2011 although Ballynanty Rovers did reach the final but went down to St Michaels in 2014.
The 6th Round has been a mixed bag for the Limerick hopefuls with some sticky tasks although at this stage of the competition you hardly expect an easy ride.
Regional United are first into action at noon on Sunday afternoon. The Dooradoyle side face a whopping 450-mile round trip to play Rathmullen Celtic in Donegal but as has been the case for most of the season the Dooradoyle side will be well prepared and rested for the tie.
Brian O’Callaghan and Mike Aherne have instilled a steeliness to the side that may have been lacking in previous seasons. As witnessed in their last outing (an 8-0 win over Ballynanty) Regional are developing a mean streak that is needed if they are to take another step up.
Much has been made of the prowess of Garbhan Coughlan in front of goal but the Premier League leaders have a number of other players just as important to the side.
Kieran O’Connell, is back to the type of form that saw him installed as Oscar Traynor captain last season.
David Cowpar and Brian O’Callaghan have developed a strong understanding at the heart of the defence while Shane O’Doherty and Mike Lyons continue to get better by the game.
The Donegal side are lying fourth in their Premier League but have won just three of their six games played.
Their last outing in mid December ended 3-3 with St Joseph’s while in the last round of the FAI they accounted for Cavan Rovers on a 4-1 scoreline.
Regional went very close in a number of big games over the last couple of season and I feel that experience will stand to them in Sunday’s tie.
Another Limerick side on the road are current Premier League holders Janesboro who travel to Waterford side Hibernians.
Hibs are lying just behind the leaders in the Waterford Premier League and were hugely impressive beating Carrick 4-0 in a previous round of the competition.
They defeated CK United to set up Sunday’s meeting and with home advantage will go into the tie full of belief.
However they meet a ‘Boro side who have been superb in their most recent games and a side who will not worry about travelling to complete their task.
With a strike force including Shane Clarke, Arron Nunan, Shane Waters and John Tierney, they know that even if they concede they have the players to turn the game around.
Pike Rovers were favoured with home advantage where they will host leaders of the Waterford Premier League, Villa FC.
Victory over Cork outfit Ringmahon in the previous round saw Villa through and they will have no fear coming to the Pike Club.
Pike are hoping for a return to top form at the right time.
The return of Pat Mullins will help steady the ship and with Wayne Colbert, Steve McGann and Eoin Hanrahan at top form the Hoops should prove good enough to make the last 16.
Limerick’s remaining hope are Carew Park who face something of an unknown quantity in Hanover Harps.
The Carlow side share the lead in the Premier League with Crettyard, a side they defeated after extra time in a previous round of the FAI.
Harps gave indication of their threat with a 6-1 win over Rathkeale in the previous round so they will not fear the trip to Limerick.
Carew Park for their part have lost just twice in 20 games to the current league leaders and the current title holders. They won all other games. Just three clean sheets for the season will be a concern for Albert Slattery but like Janesboro they have an abundance of goal threats most notably Mark McGrath, Kieran Hanlon and Jonathan Grant.
Patience is the key for Carew as the visitors are sure to be cautious early on. Keeping their cool and doing the basics right should see them through by the final whistle.
There are two games scheduled for the Premier League when Fairview Rangers can move to within a point of the leaders if they can beat Moyross at the Fairgreen.
On the back of two successive defeats Paul O’Donnell is looking for a good response from his players.
Moyross are also on the back of two reversals and they need the points to keep the differential between them and the stragglers.