WITH THREE ALL-Premier Division affairs among the four FAI Ford Senior Cup quarter-finals scheduled for this weekend, there is a danger that the meeting of Avondale United and Finn Harps could fly slightly under the radar.
A match featuring Munster Senior League outfit Avondale and Harps, currently mid-table in the second tier of the SSE Airtricity League may not be the glamour tie of the round but speak to goalkeeper Daniel O’Leary and it becomes immediately clear that the Cork club are not in the last eight of the country’s premier cup competition to make up the numbers.
Having won an unprecedented four consecutive FAI Intermediate Cups, the Blackrock-based side are regarded as one of the top teams outside the League of Ireland.
They have already sent the likes of Carrigaline, Collinstown and current FAI Junior Cup champions St Michael’s packing and John Ryan’s men have serious aspirations about going all the way to the final at the Aviva Stadium on 2 November.
It’s brilliant to be here,” O’Leary told TheScore.ie this week. “We might be winning the FAI Intermediate Cup but we would still be a small club down in Cork compared to others. So it’s a great achievement for us to get this far and hopefully we can go one or two steps more.”
While the other three quarter-finals take place this evening, Finn Harps make the lengthy journey from one end of the country to the other for a Sunday afternoon kick-off in Cork.
It is less than a week since Ollie Horgan’s side were in the Rebel County when Rob Waters’ first half header was enough to hand them a 1-0 defeat. Horgan will well aware of the threat Avondale pose from this time with Fanad United, while O’Leary insists he is happy enough to avoid the bigger clubs.
People were saying ‘would you not prefer the glamour tie?’ but we just wanted a home draw to bring them down to our own place,” he expains.
“We will give it our all and if we’re good enough we’ll go through. You want the best draw for your team and once you get through to the next round that’s what matters.”
Prior to taking over Cork City and leading them to their current position of second in the Premier Division table, John Caulfield was in charge at Avondale and won two Munster Senior League Premier Division titles as well as two FAI Intermediate Cups.
He may have moved on, but the groundwork put in by Caulfield and his team still stands to the club today according to O’Leary.
“All the lads love the gym and looking after themselves,” he adds. “They strive on being the fittest team in the league. We’ve shown before against the likes of Cherry Orchard in the FAI Intermediate Cup with a 95th-minute equaliser and still being able to do those runs.
“It has been instilled in the club since John Caulfield took over back in the early 2000s that fitness wins games.
“I wasn’t there at the time but his impact was huge. They were in the First Division and didn’t look like they were challenging and he brought them all the way up to the Intermediate Cup and laid the foundations for where the club is now.
“John Cotter, who is his assistant now, took over and has brought it to another level in regard to fitness. He brought in the Cork City fitness trainer who is now with us and he set the standard to where they need to be.”
FAI Ford Cup quarter-finals:
- Shamrock Rovers v Dundalk (7.05pm)
- St Patrick’s Athletic v Bohemian
- Drogheda United v Derry City
- Avondale United v Finn Harps (2pm)
Ford are calling on all Irish football fans to vote for their “New Focus Man of the Round” at facebook.com/FordIreland after each round of this year’s FAI Cup. Every person who votes will be entered into a draw for some fantastic prizes including fuel vouchers and a HD 3DTV.