Following a full programme of matches last Friday, the mindset of players from Derry City, Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers had to quickly focus on a huge opportunity to take steps towards the final of the Setanta Cup.

Last night’s action certainly made headlines as Crusaders bucked the trend of Carling Premiership sides struggling in the competition by beating Sligo 2-0 in Seaview, while Derry defeated the Hoops 3-0 in Tallaght Stadium.

Many people wonder why there seems to be such a gulf in class between the two leagues.

It is down to a number of reasons. The timing of the competition has a big impact. Players in the north are obviously more fatigued as they are approaching the end of the season and injuries to key players affect their team.

There is less recovery between league games and the Setanta Cup because they play Saturday afternoon.

Also the Carling Premiership sides have to make their domestic league an overwhelming priority at this time of year.

If maangers of clubs like Linfield, Glentoran or Portadown see their sides sitting at the top of the Irish League, they will do all they can to avoid jeopardising their league chances for the sake of another competition with just weeks to go.

Who could blame them? A league title is far more valuable to them than a Setanta Cup will ever be.

I played in the Setanta Cup with Portadown and Shelbourne so I saw how both sets of players approached the competition.

While there are disadvantages for the northern teams, the most outstanding difference and where they let themselves down is mentality.

The Premiership sides seem to think that because they only train twice a week and play a game on a Saturday, that they are unable to compete with the full-time teams in the Republic.

I totally disagreed with this at the time and I still do. Of course you can compete if you are correct in your approach and have belief in your ability. For all that is going against them in the competition, it should in no way change attitude on any game.

The Northern representative in this year’s semi-finals are Crusaders and you could see in the build-up to the first leg match with Sligo Rovers that they were fancying their chances.

Monday night’s result certainly proved it and people may have viewed Sligo's game as an easy passage to the final. I never saw it like that as Crues are well-drilled, organised, physically strong and play every week on the very tricky artificial surface.

It is great to see the Premiership teams putting more into it to ensure they gave it their all, and it was enough to down Ian Baraclough's men.

Crues now have one foot in the final and I think Sligo have it all to do to overturn this defeat. One thing for certain though is there will be a massive crowd in the Showgrounds next Monday and they may see a cracker of a game if Sligo start well.

The other semi-final also brought a big surprise with Derry City claiming a 3-0 advantage against Shamrock Rovers.

The fact that it was Stephen Kenny's former team inflicting this defeat will not sit well with all in Tallaght.

I think Kenny made a huge mistake with his team selection by making a number of changes from the side that defeated Dundalk so convincingly on Friday.

It represented a wonderful opportunity for Kenny to win a first piece of silverware with the club and prove himself to the Rovers faithful early on.

The game changed massively with the dismissal of goalkeeper Reyaad Pieterse, but if Kenny had not made so many alterations and instead chosen a side that were used to playing with each other, particularly in defence, maybe they wouldn't be in the position they are now faced with.

One question though I'd like to put to people is, do you think Stephen Kenny knows his best team? In my opinion, he does not.

Finally, my former team-mate Jason Byrne became the second highest goalscorer in the League of Ireland recently as he over Pat Morley's 182 goals.

It is an unbelievable achievement and not only has he been a fantastic player, but he has also been a wonderful servant to the league.

Who would bet against him adding to his tally on Friday night during the game against Shamrock Rovers? There are definitely a few goals left in Byrne and it could be crucial to Bray’s season.

Until next week,