EAMON McConigley will be hoping to guide Letterkenny Rovers to the final of the FAI Intermediate Cup for the second time in three years when they play host to Firhouse Clover at Leckview Park on Sunday afternoon, kick off 1pm.
Rovers were on the wrong side of a 0-5 scoreline when they played Crumlin United in the 2016 final at the Aviva Stadium and they’re determined to correct the record this time around.
McConigley was an FAI Intermediate Cup winner as a Fanad United player in 1988 and 1995 while he was also part of the team who lost out to Wayside Celtic in the ‘96 decider.
The Cathedral town club are hoping that that experience, coupled with that gained by the players two years ago will stand to them this time around.
“I suppose I’ve been lucky enough to have won the competition twice and I know what it takes. There’s no magic formula though, it’s all about hard work and preparation on the training pitch and the lads have given it their all again this year,” McConigley said.
Rovers warmed up for Sunday’s game with a 1-0 defeat against title rivals Fanad United in Tri-a-Lough last Sunday. They did so without the services of joint-captain and striker Darren McElwaine and wide-man Paul McVeigh.
“Neither of the lads played last weekend but, otherwise, we would have put out our strongest team to play Fanad. Macca (McElwaine) has an achilles problem while Paul has missed the last few weeks with a hamstring injury.
“Conditions were not good in Fanad last Sunday. It was stormy and cold while it was also Fanad’s final. They knew that if they didn’t get the result they would fall a bit behind in the league and they were really up for it. We were probably a little bit cautious and didn’t want to get hurt ahead of our final this weekend,” McConigley said.
Following the club’s impressive 2-0 win over Home Farm in this year’s quarter-final, Rovers were delighted to see their name come out of the hat first once more in the semi final draw.
“At the start of the competition Firhouse were favourites to win it. They had the strongest, fittest team in Dublin and, therefore, they were the best Intermediate team in the country. That’s proven to be the case so far at least,” he said.
Firhouse play in the senior division of the Leinster Senior league and are managed by Keith Baker, assistant manager Ed Saul and coach Paul O’Brien. They defeated Crumlin United 1-0 in an all LSL senior division quarter final clash in match that saw three sending offs – two for Crumlin one for Clover in what was a real battle on the pitch from start to finish.
“I know that they’re a good side. They’re very professional in everything that they do and I don’t expect there to be too much between the teams on Sunday. If there’s any advantage it’s probably the fact that we have been drawn at home. Like most Intermediate Cup games we’ve played this year there will probably be only be a goal between the teams come the final whistle. Here’s hoping that it is us who score it,” McConigley said.
Letterkenny are expected to adopt a cautious approach for the early exchanges against Firhouse before reverting back to the more attacking style of play which has served them so well this season.
“We’ll probably size one another up for the first ten minutes or so but after that we’ll try and go for the jugular – it’s the way we like to play,” he said.
Should McVeigh and McElwaine pass late fitness tests the Rovers manager will have his strongest possible squad available to him.
“That would be a nice headache to have. In fairness, the lads are all training hard showing that they want to be given a jersey on Sunday,” he said.
The game has been brought forward to 1pm to facilitate Firhouse Clover.
“We got a request from them for an earlier start and we’ve no problem with that,” he said.
Given the earlier start and the significance of the game, Rovers will rely heavily on the experience gathered by their manager over the years.
“I suppose I know quite a few of the pit-falls at this stage and I’ll be trying to make sure that they’re ready to play come one o clock. We’ll be well organised and ready for battle.
“I don’t bother too much with the opposition. We have some idea about their set pieces but it’s all about us being right on the day and making sure that we’re up for it.
“We’ve been preparing very well all season for matches and things are going well this week too.
“We’ve trying to ensure that no stone is left unturned,” he said.
Back playing a Leckview Park after using the Aura Leisure Centre facilities earlier in the year, McConigley said that the pitch is in good shape.
“We’re hoping that last Sunday in Fanad was nothing more than a wee bump in the road. We’ve left that behind us and we’re looking forward to the semi final. It’s in our own destiny.
“We’re still left in everything. This is our first final and we have t be ready come Sunday,” he said.
Posted: 8:04 pm March 23, 2018