By Ed Leahy
Shamrock Rovers and Drogheda United go head to head in the Setanta Sports Cup final at Tallaght Stadium on Saturday afternoon, kick-off 3.00pm.
The Hoops have home advantage for the clash but Trevor Croly’s side will be very aware of last season’s EA Sport Cup final when Mick Cooke’s side came to Tallaght and took the trophy home following a 3-1 victory over Rovers.
The two sides played out a 1-1 draw in the league in April when Rovers came from behind to secure the point thanks to Ronan Finn’s equaliser.
Drawing games has been Shamrock Rovers’ Achilles Heel this season and, as a result, the Hoops are well off the pace in the title race, sitting 13 points off the pace.
However, there have been a lot of positives from Croly’s side in recent weeks and Rovers will be looking to bring that recent form into this Cup final.
Ken Oman has returned to fitness and is available for selection for Rovers, although Croly is unlikely to change his central partnership of Derek Foran and Jason McGuinness who have been impressive any time they have played together.
Conor Powell is the only absentee through injury but Danny Ledwith has slotted into the left-back position in recent weeks and has proved a great signing for his new club.
Croly’s main decision will be whether or not to start Mark Quigley after the striker came off the bench on Friday night and impressed for twenty minutes, or to stick with the hard-working Karl Sheppard who has also been a major factor in Rovers good form in recent weeks.
Rovers midfield three of Stephen Rice, Ronan Finn and James Chambers appear to have developed a great understanding and are starting to dominate teams but lack of chances are costing Rovers valuable points in their league.
Drogheda, like Rovers, have not lived up to expectations in the league this year, and again like today’s opponents are drawing too many games, with just three victories from 12 starts.
Mick Cooke's side are playing a fine brand of football, however, and it might be argued that they are actually a better side this year, despite their mid-table position.
The Brennan brothers will always prove a handful in midfield alongside former Rovers man David Cassidy, while there are plenty of goals in the side with Gary O’Neill finding his form and Declan O’Brien always a threat.
The Drogheda defence has been solid all season as well, with keeper Gabriel Sava playing a valuable part as the last line of defence and manager Mick Cooke has the luxury of having a full squad to choose from for the trip to Tallaght.
Cooke said: “There is not much left to be said at this point. I think the big thing about this season was second-season syndrome. We were the surprise package last season and a lot of people didn't give us much chance for this season. But we are in a cup final and are currently mid-table in the league, so already we are probably doing better than expected and covering ourselves in glory.
“There has been no real talk of the club winning the competition three times. Fabio is the only one in the squad who was here when Drogheda last won it. But if we do win it then people can tell us about how Drogheda have won it three times.”
Like Drogheda, Rovers have already enjoyed Setanta Sports Cup success, defeating Dundalk in the final two years ago.
And while there was very little to choose between the two sides in this season’s league encounter, recent form coupled with the slight advantage of playing on their home patch, there could, once again, be green and white ribbons decorating the cup come five o’clock on Saturday afternoon.
Verdict: Shamrock Rovers