By Alan Cawley
The final curtain will come down on this year's domestic league season after Sunday's showpiece game, the FAI Cup final (live on RTÉ Two).
As is the case every year at this time, all eyes will be on the Aviva stadium where 2012 league champions Sligo Rovers face off against cup specialists Drogheda United. It promises to be a fascinating game and a tough one to call.
On paper you would have to say Sligo Rovers should have enough but I've yet to see a cup final won on paper. Drogheda have already featured in two cup finals this season - losing both - but I'm sure they will feel Sunday could be their day.
The game is being slightly overshadowed by the uncertainty over the future of both managers. Mick Cooke is currently involved in an ongoing dispute with club officials because he hasn't been offered a new deal and Ian Baraclough is yet to commit his future to the Bit O'Red.
I'm sure it's an unwanted distraction for both managers but they will be as professional as can be and not let it interfere with the teams preparation. It's hard to believe there is this uncertainty considering how successful both managers have been the past two seasons.
"The introduction of Alan Byrne into midfield gives you a clear indication of the type of game the Boynesiders will be looking to play"
As we all know, Baraclough guided Sligo Rovers to their first Premier Division title success in 35 years and whilst this season may have been a less than impressive defence of that title they still finished third and are now in with a great chance of finishing the season with cup glory.
Cooke, on the other hand, has done a remarkable job considering where the club was when he arrived and where he has taken them in such a short space of time. Finishing second last year against all expectations and winning the League Cup.
Similarly to their cup final opponents, this year's league form hasn't matched last year's feat. However, they have reached three cup finals - okay they've been defeated in two so far, but they too could also finish the season on a massive high with a win on Sunday.
I'm sure Drogheda will look to make the game as scrappy and as stop/start as possible, not allowing Sligo to get into their rhythm as they have plenty of players who can hurt you if given time and space on the ball.
The introduction of Alan Byrne into the centre of midfield gives you a clear indication of the type of game the Boynesiders will be looking to play. He's not the most cultured player, but what he lacks in creativity and guile he more than makes up for in hard work and strength.
The energy levels and footballing ability of Ryan Brennan and Paul O'Conor alongside him will be vital and this is where Mick Cooke will be hoping they can create a few chances from.
The other Brennan brother, Gavin, has had a strong finish to the season and can be a very dangerous customer on his day. If Drogheda are to be successful they will be looking to get him involved in the game as much as possible as he will be the main supplier of ammunition to the wily old fox that is Fabio O'Brien.
Without doubt one of the top marksmen in the game for years now - and he will have to be watched very closely as he normally tends to pop up with important goals on the big day like all top players.
"I'm sure Drogheda will look to make the game as scrappy and as stop/start as possible"
Sligo Rovers will be hot favourites on the day so will look to impose their passing style on Drogheda from the get go on Sunday.
If they approach the game in a really positive attacking frame of mind it will prove very fruitful for them. If they don't and get dragged into a scrap - like Drogheda will want - it could turn out to be a very long day for Baraclough's troops.
A lot will depend on his team selection and he does have a couple of big decisions to make. At centre half three into two doesn't go so unfortunately for Evan McMillan I think he could be the man to miss out as Peers and Henderson have played the majority of football this season and been very good together too.
The experience of Danny Ventre could see him get the nod alongside the influential Joe N'do. Ventre has missed a lot of football but since returning to the fold in recent weeks has played very well.
Himself and Alan Byrne are similar in styles so could be one of the key battles on the day. Here is where I believe Sligo have the edge, the attacking four.
Raff Cretaro on the right, Aaron Greene on the left, Djilali in the hole and North up front. In fairness to Elding he may be unfortunate to miss out but I'd go with North because of his clever movement especially in the wide open spaces of the Aviva.
The key man will be Djilali, if he impacts the game in the same fashion as he has impacted so many this season Rovers will win but they have to get him the ball. He will love the Aviva and with his dribbling prowess and eye for a pass he could prove to be the difference.
Like all cup finals it promises to be a fascinating match up and one I'm really looking forward to. The brain of Sligo Rovers versus the brawn of Drogheda United. Who will have the edge?
FAI Cup final live on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie/sport from 2.35pm on Sunday 3 November (worldwide - excluding Britain & NI)