The Ulster Senior League might be in the close season but its two remaining entrants in the FAI Intermediate Cup have had to put in the extra hours on the training pitch at a time when their colleagues still have their feet up.
Both Drumkeen United and Kildrum Tigers have already assured their place in the FAI Senior Cup for the year ahead and will take on Dublin and Cork opposition respectively in a bid to make the last eight of the Intermediate Cup.
However, whilst Drumkeen, essentially novices at this stage of the competition have the comforts of a home tie, the more experienced Kildrum take to the road.
Drumkeen United v Verona AFC – St Patrick’s Park – Sunday, 2pm
Following the round three victory over Carrigaline United at St Patrick’s Park in early December, Drumkeen United’s player-manager Benny Bonner praised the willingness of this squad to continue training after their regulation season had been completed.
Perhaps that’s what gave them the edge in the fine 3-1 win over a Carrigaline side that are currently in second place in the Beamish Stout League, which is the top division in the province. A Darren Kelly own goal preceded strikes from Sean Ferry and Peter McNamee.
“We’re grand and should have a full squad to choose from with the only worry being Peter McNamee after he pulled up in training last week with a hamstring injury,” Bonner said. “We’ve not played a competitive game in six weeks or so but since the New Year kicked in we are doing three nights - two training and one doing spin and weight classes at énergie fitness in Letterkenny.”
When Drumkeen started out in the competition with a 12-0 win against Killea FC and then a 7-1 win over Bonagee United, there were scant few dreams of reaching the latter stages.
Drumkeen have warmed up for Sunday’s fixture with two useful friendly wins in the last fortnight. Fanad United U-19’s were defeated 4-2, while Drumkeen enjoyed a decent 4-1 win over the county’s other Intermediate Cup participants, Kildrum. A third friendly, against Carndonagh last weekend, fell foul of the weather.
Verona FC, who come from Blanchardson, defeated Crofton Celtic from the southside of Cork city in the last round, having got past CYM Terenure 2-1 after extra-time in round one and then won 3-1 against Leixlip United from Kildare.
Domestically, they are in the Saturday Major 1B of the Leinster Senior League, 15 points behind Portmarnock in fifth place, but with only eight games played to the leaders’ 13 outings. A more accurate measurement of their form this term would be their 19 points from 24 available.
“I’ve spoken to Kieran Harte from Ramelton, who played against them last week,” Bonner said. “We’ve never got this far before so it’s a great achievment for the club and we can’t wait for Sunday. the club committee are having meetings to make sure all the plans are put in place to make sure everything moves smoothly and I’m sure it will. “
“It’s a big day for the club and the parish and hopefully the weather will be good enough so we get a big crowd out to support us, not only from people from Drumkeen but also from people who follow football and indeed other Ulster Senior League clubs.”
College Corinthians v Kildrum Tigers – Sunday, 12 noon
Oisin McMenamin has returned to Kildrum Tigers to significantly boost the hopes of the St Johnston side ahead of their trip to Cork.
The pacey frontman, who is a native of nearby Newtowncunningham and played underage for Kildrum, was at Finn Harps last year before playing in the Donegal League for Lagan Harps. McMenamin scored twice on Tuesday for LYIT against Drogheda Institute.
“Oisin is a good player, full of ability,” Kildrum manager Raymond McDaid said. “We’re glad to have him signed on time for a tough game at the weekend.
“To be honest, this is the round of the competition Ulster Senior League teams find difficult every year, because of our summer season and the rest of the country playing winter football.”
Kildrum took two bites against Dunboyne in round four. After a scoreless draw in Meath, the team managed by McDaid won the replay 2-1 at Station Road the week before Christmas with Cormac Carlin scoring both.
Prior to that, Kildrum defeated then reigning Ulster Senior League champions Cockhill Celtic 3-2 on penalties after extra-time concluded at one apiece.
Kildrum managed to make it to the semi-finals of the Intermediate Cup in 2007 but were beaten at Station Road by Avondale United from Cork. That season they defeated College Corinthians in the last 16. Ronan Coyle was on the mark in a 1-1 away draw before the same player and Gareth Mullin scored in a 2-0 replay win.
Coyle has recovered from an operation on a foot injury last season but is still not match-fit, although he might play a fleeting role, while Garrett Callaghan remains a long term absentee with an Achilles problem.
“We’re not too bad in terms of availability,” McDaid added. “But you never know. In the last round we thought we were fine too but Dermot Kelly came down with a bug and then Kenny Doran picked up a slight hamstring injury so we’ll have to see.”
For their part, College Corinthians were 2-0 victors over Letterkenny Rovers in the last round. The feeling from that day was if Rovers had taken their chances – Darren McElwaine missed a penalty – then the result could’ve been vastly different.
Beforehand, College Corinthians won 3-2 against Crosshaven AFC in the first round and then were comfortable 4-1 winners against Cork Institute of Technology.
They are now sitting in seventh of the 13 teams in the Beamish Stout League, with seven points from five games. Corinthians, from Douglas, twice reached the final of the Intermediate Cup but lost out to Fanad United in 1995 and then to Cherry Orchard three years later.
“Letterkenny Rovers did well down there but I’d say they were much fitter then than we are now,” McDaid added. “We’re only back training since last week but looking at the weekend, to be honest we’d be delighted with a draw again. By the time the replay comes around we’d be into our proper pre-season before the domestic scene starts in late March.”