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Dublin: 14 °C Monday 22 April, 2019
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The Dublin manager looking to lead a Limerick club to FAI Junior Cup glory over Sheriff YC

Mike Sheil plans to upset the odds with Pike Rovers at the Aviva Stadium this afternoon.

Pike boss Mike Sheil.
Pike boss Mike Sheil.
Image: YouTube

AFTER NARROWLY LOSING out to neighbours Liffey Wanderers 12 months ago, Sheriff YC will be hell-bent on putting things right in today’s FAI Junior Cup final at the Aviva Stadium (4pm).

Arguably the country’s finest junior football team, the AUL heavyweights were back-to-back winners in 2012 and 2013 but went out to eventual winners St Michael’s in the semi-finals the following year and agonisingly suffered a 2-1 after extra-time in 2015.

With several Irish amateur internationals in their squad, Alan Reilly’s men are favourites to reclaim the trophy, and the club standing in their way this afternoon are Pike Rovers of the Limerick District League — managed by Mike Sheil.

Orginally from Dublin, Sheil spent four years working on the coaching staff at Limerick FC during Pat Scully’s time in charge and won the SSE Airtricity League First Division before leaving when Scully was sacked in 2012.

Sheil then took over Pike and secured the league and cup double but stepped down after just one season. Despite the instant success, he admits finding it difficult to adapt to his new surroundings.

“The facilities are very good here but I was coming from a set-up where Limerick were like the Man City of the First Division that year,” Sheil told The42. “Pat O’Sullivan came in (as chairman) and we had the likes of Joe Gamble, Dominic Foley, Denis Behan and these types of guys.

“We also had some good young players and a few of them are with me now at Pike. When I first came here it was a real culture shock for me. Players aren’t being paid so they obviously have other commitments away from football like work.

“The way we ran Limerick, very little else mattered other than football and if you didn’t have the other sections of your life boxed off, that was your problem as you were being paid to play.

“You can’t have that attitude here as you need to have more of an understanding with people.

“This first time I thought ‘it’s my way or the highway’, but this time around I’ve been a little bit more understanding and a little bit more holistic in my approach.”

As Sheil explains, that initial spell was a massive learning curve and he took up the position for a second stint at the start of this season with some unfinished business to attend to.

Pike faced Collinstown in the FAI Junior Cup back in 2013 in what was a hugely-emotional game for the Clondalkin outfit. Club president Matt Carpenter had passed away earlier that week and it was fitting when his son Dean scored the winner during extra-time in a pulsating 5-4 victory.

Pike had the chance to send it to a shootout at the death but John Tierney struck the post with his penalty.

It was in real Roy of the Rovers style as the light dimmed over Neilstown,” Sheil recalls. “We missed a penalty in the last minute. If were still up there playing now we wouldn’t have won that game!

“It was meant to be. I didn’t enjoy it at the time but it was probably one of the most exciting games I’ve been involved in. It was just one of those occasions.”

After such a heartbreaking exit from the competition, Sheil made it one of the main priorities upon his return and victories over Newport Town, Summerville Rovers, Ballynanty Rovers, VEC, Villa, Clonmel Celtic, Glengrad United and St Peter’s have landed them a place in today’s showcase.

FAI Junior Cup final Sheriff YC's Jeff Flood (left) with Dave Ryan of Pike Rovers and the trophy. Source: Piaras Ó Mídheach/SPORTSFILE

The odds may be stacked against the men from Limerick, but their manager is planning to mastermind an upset.

“It’s a big challenge as they’re the kingpins over the past six or seven years. This is their third final from the last four and they’ve got junior internationals on the bench so we’re going up there as underdogs.

I said at the start of the season that I’d like to play Sheriff in the deeper waters of this competition so I had time to make an impression on the group. You couldn’t get any deeper than the final so I’ve got what asked for — a shot at the Aviva.

“It will be up to us to snatch it from them but it will be difficult. The soundings coming from them is that they aren’t going to let what happened last year happen again.

“I don’t they care about winning anything else as long as they win this so we’re just going to have to be better than them on the day.”

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Ben Blake

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