Milford United player-manager Peter Doherty has said his side are not afraid to implement “Wimbledon tactics” in a bid to upset holders Pike Rovers in the last 16 of the FAI Junior Cup on Sunday.
After an epic 7-6 penalty shoot-out win after a scoreless draw last month in round six against one of the competition’s favourites, Athenry FC from Galway, the Donegal League’s sole remaining representatives can draw on home comforts once again.
Over 300 people attended that claffhanger and an even bigger attendance is expected at Moyle View Park on Sunday thanks to the league’s non-scheduling of fixtures for teams in the vicinity.
“There’s great excitement building up in the town and everyone is looking forward to the game,” Doherty said. “The lads were saying whenever they’re walking up the street there are people stopping them to talk about the game and that’s great to hear.
“There’s a lot of clubs in the area here and it’s great of the Donegal League to let them off for the weekend. We are all friendly and went to school with the likes of those from Glenree United, Rathmullan Celtic, Kerrykeel, Mulroy and Cranford United.
Milford will welcome PJ Hagan into the side, after the former Fanad United striker was not signed in time to play in the last round.
He will come straight into the team and fill to void left by Chris Bradley, who left for Australia 10 days ago.
The only other alteration from the side who performed so admirably against Athenry is caused by the suspension of Damien Casey, who was dismissed on the afternoon along with Seamie Crowe and Cathal Fahy. Pauric Curley might come into the midfield, while Doherty, who had been absent with a hamstring complaint at the turn of the year should start himself in the bench. The only other concern is Ciaran McGinley, who has bruised ribs.
Goalkeeper Coalan McGettigan spent the night of last round in Letterkenny General Hospital suffering with concussion after he was involved in a collision with Conor Cannon.
The former Letterkenny Rovers netminder couldn’t remember the incident at all and his recollection of the game itself was patchy.
Doherty told his warming-up replacement Ian Strain to make a hero of himself and the substitute duly obliged to make the save from the unlucky 13th penalty taker in an otherwise flawless series of penalties before Paddy Peoples rolled home the winning spot kick as dusk was about to fall.
“Coalan was back in goal the week afterwards,” Doherty added. “It was tough on Ian, who had only come back himself after breaking a shoulder but Caolan should start.
“We practised penalties before the last game and did so again this week. We get the players to walk from the centre circle up - with a bit of heckling - to try and replicate the situation.
“In fairness, their spot kicks were excellent the last time and Ian has been trying to put a bit of pressure on me to take him on if we go to penalties again. Who knows? Sligo Rovers have done it.”
The Moyle View Park residents are on the doorstep of a place in the quarter-finals of the competition for only the second time in their history, having lost out to Corduff four years ago, 2-1 at home with Danny Gallagher the goalscorer.
This season, before Athenry, Milford enjoyed a routine 3-0 win over Castlerea Celtic from Roscommon in the fifth round at their temporary abode of Flagpole Park in Rathmullan two weeks before Christmas.
Pike Rovers are from Limerick city took the FAI Junior Cup to Crossagalla last May after a 2-1 win over St Michael’s from Tipperary, with Alan Barry and Keith Hartnett on the mark. This season, their squad has been boosted with the acquisition of Limerick FC’s John Tierney.
Despite dominating possession, it took a late goal from Conor Kavanagh to see Declan Considine’s side get the better of Dublin outfit Wayside Celtic at the Pike Club in the last round.
“We try to keep the ball on the ground in the Donegal League but in the FAI Junior Cup we have lift the intensity level,” Doherty added. “We played Kildrum Tigers earlier in the season in the cup and tried to take them on at their own game and lost 5-0. That taught us a lesson about playing these better teams.
“Against Athnery we had to play with a lot of energy and be very direct. We’re fit enough to do that and it worked well in the last round. Even when they had two men sent off they were still holding onto the ball very well but we came through it.
“We have done a lot of research on Pike and to be honest some of it is frightening. They’re a top side as their record in this competition shows last year but we’re at home and will give it our best shot. If it means playing using Wimbledon tactics then that’s what we will do.”
The full draw is: Milford United (Donegal League) v Pike Rovers (Limerick), Tramore FC (Waterford) v Carndonagh FC (Inishowen League), O’Devaney/Dunard (Dublin AUL) v Broadford United (Limerick/Desmond), Sheriff YC (Dublin AUL) v St Michael’s FC (TSDL), Peake Villa (TSDL) v Sandyhill Celtic (Dublin AUL), Kilbarrack United (Dublin AUL) v Carrick United (Waterford), Clonmel Celtic (TSDL) v Trinity Corinthians (Dublin UCFL), Midleton FC (Cork) v Ballymun Utd (Dublin AUL).