Up for the Cup: 2014

Wexford Youths v Finn Harps
St. Michael’s v Avondale United
Ballynanty Rovers v Drogheda United
Cork City v Bohemians
Derry City v Malahide United
St. Patrick’s Athletic v Shelbourne
Dundalk v Galway
Shamrock Rovers v Longford Town

Wexford Youths have never advanced as far as the quarter-finals of the FAI Cup while St. Patrick’s Athletic have not failed to qualify for the last eight since the 2005 season. Both times that Cork City beat Bohemians in the FAI Cup, 1998 and 2007, they went on to lift the trophy.

St. Michael’s host Avondale United of the Munster Senior League tonight. The Tipperary outfit were the only team that required a replay to get here – it was the first time since 1978 that none of the league clubs drew their games and staged a replay in the first round of the FAI Cup in which they entered.

Four non-league clubs have reached the quarters since the switch to summer football – Rockmount (2004), Killester United (2006) and Wayside Celtic (2008) – and at least one is guaranteed to make it this season. Crumlin United were the last non-league side to knock a top flight club out of the Cup. They defeated Shelbourne 1-0 in the 2009 third round replay at Tolka Park.

Brothers Daryl and Colm Horgan go head to head in the Dundalk v Galway FC game. Galway United’s last ever FAI Cup match was a 4-1 defeat to the Lilywhites in 2011. Alan Murphy gave his old Galway side the lead at Oriel Park; Paul Sinnott and Stephen Walsh also played.

The bottom three in the Premier Division have all been eliminated. Bray Wanderers (1998-99) and Dundalk (2001-02) are the only FAI Cup winners to be relegated; Longford Town are the only team to suffer the drop and lose in the final in the same season (2007).

League leaders Dundalk beat Sligo Rovers 3-0 in the second round. It’s the third time that Sligo as holders have been knocked out of the FAI Cup at the first hurdle – they lost 5-0 to UCD in 1984 and 3-1 to Monaghan United in 2012. Athlone Town, beaten at home to Longford, have lost their last ten ties in all national cup competitions.

Of the 16 clubs that have participated in every League of Ireland season from 1985-86 to 2014, only four FAI Cup ties have never taken place – Shamrock Rovers v Bray Wanderers, Limerick v Finn Harps, Limerick v Derry City and Shelbourne v UCD. Cork City beat Dundalk and Bray (as well as local rivals Cobh Ramblers) in 1989 but they haven’t drawn any of them again since.

The longest time that has passed since two teams being paired together is 45 years. Sligo Rovers and Longford Town have met just once in the 1969 first round when the non-leaguers beat the Bit O’Red 2-0 at Longford Park.

The most consecutive seasons in which two sides have entered the FAI Cup proper yet always kept apart in the draw is a run of 40 for Athlone Town and Shelbourne. They last played each other in 1975, with Shels winning 2-1 at Dalymount Park on their way to the final.

Can your pet fish see into the future? Has your broken collar bone been telling you the weather again? Some of us will fancy a flutter on this weekend’s fixtures and might try anything to beat the bookies but my advice would be to leave it to the professionals.

In February 1977 the Sunday Independent ran an interview with psychic Zak Martin. While Zak admitted that he didn’t know anything about football he was optimistic that his Tarot Cards and Astrological equations would pull off a near perfect forecast of every FAI Cup second round tie a week in advance.

Out of eight games, the Dubliner managed to get two results and no scores correct. Thankfully, Zak found a better use for his special powers as he published a calendar of world predictions every year and even sent Gardaí sketches of four men he believed were involved in the theft of Shergar.

A similar article appeared in the Irish Independent in February 1980 except this time an outright winner was chosen. The newspaper did not identify the cup clairvoyant but my Dad remembered this story and he assures me that it was none other than Edward Doe, a British mentalist who went by the stage name of Al Koran.

What prompted Koran to try his magic hand at Irish football is unclear and his team to triumph in the Blue Riband competition was especially interesting. Sligo Rovers, 25/1 outsiders and without a major trophy to their name in over forty years, were giving him strong vibes, apparently.

The westerners needed a replay to see off non-league Tramore Athletic and they went out to Athlone in the second round. “Cup games are always difficult to predict”, said club secretary Tony McGee ahead of their 2-0 defeat at St. Mel’s Park. Indeed they are. The following season Sligo finished runners-up before winning their first ever FAI Cup in 1983.

Zac Martin 1977

Al Koran 1980

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