Letterkenny Rovers and Home Farm prepare to do battle

Letterkenny Rovers manager Eamon McConigley.

LETTERKENNY Rovers manager Eamon McConigley says his side must put the Ulster Senior League on the back-burner this week and concentrate all their efforts on the FAI Intermediate Cup.
Rovers face Home Farm at Leckview Park on Sunday (kick off 2pm) in the quarter-final of the blue riband competition following their impressive 3-0 win against Cherry Orchard in the Fourth Road in Dublin last month.
They began their defence of the Knockalla Cup last Sunday with a 1-0 win at Glenea United while they have also enjoyed an unbeaten sequence of results in the USL, but the Intermediate Cup remains a top target.
Winner of the competition twice as a Fanad United player in 1988 and 1995, McConigley guided Rovers to the final two years ago – losing 5-0 to Crumlin United in the decider which was played at the Aviva Stadium.
“You need to have your expectation to win the Intermediate Cup but you also have to have a fair slice of luck. We’ve been extremely lucky this year with injuries. We did lose two players before the Crumlin game but managed to bring in three exciting young players in their place,” he said. A retired member of An Garda Siochana, McConigley spent much of Tuesday working on the pitch at Leckview Park.
“We’ve just cut the grass. We haven’t played at Leckview since October due to the weather but the Aura has been very good to us since but I suppose the weather has affected all teams,” he said.
Before last weekend’s win against Glenea United in Glascherchoo, Rovers travelled to Dublin to play Crumlin while they’ve also had matches against both Finn Harps Reserves and Kildrum Tigers in recent weeks.
“They were all good, competitive matches. It’s good to get such games under your belt ahead of any big game,” he said.
McConigley is joined on the sideline by assistant manager Liam O’Donnell while Anthony Gorman is first team coach. Gorman, a former League of Ireland and Irish League player, has been in contact with Cockhill Celtic manager Gavin Cullen this week in a bid to garner some information about Home Farm ahead of Sunday’s game.
“Home Farm beat them (Cockhill) 1-0 in the last round and any team that beats Cockhill has to be respected. Anthony and Gavin worked together with the USL team and I know that they’ve talked this week but, ultimately, it’s about getting our own team right,” he explained.
Goalkeeper Rory Kelly, striker Darren McElwaine and Christy Connaghan are three of the more experienced players who lined out for Rovers in the 2016 Intermediate Cup final.
“We’ve plenty of experienced players in among the younger lads. Two years ago we lost out to Crumlin in the Aviva and we would love to get back to a final. A lot of the lads who will be involved on Sunday were at that game. They enjoyed the occasion and no doubt they would like to get the chance to play in a final. That said, we’re looking no further than Home Farm on Sunday,” he stressed.
“Big P (Patsy Collins), Barclay (James) and Duffy (Mickey) were all there too (Aviva) and they also want to go back so we’ll see what we can do,” he added.
Should Rovers win their existing games in hand they’ll leap-frog both Cockhill and Fanad United and return to the summit of the league table but that’s a concern for another day. “It’s nice to be looking forward to a quarter-final. It’s a break away from the rigours of league football while it also gives us the chance to play different teams with different styles,” he said.
Reflecting back on the club’s fourth round win over Cherry Orchard, the Rovers boss said that they played well. “They’re (Orchard) quite a good side but on the day the lads all played well. It came together and we got the result that we wanted,” he added.
Rovers lost Lee Toland (Finn Harps) and Sean McCarron (Institute) during the most recent transfer window, while Luke Nelis (Harps U19s), Christopher Dillon (Kilmacrennan Celtic) and Declan Sharkey (Galway United) are new to the dressing room at Leckview Park.
“They were two big players to lose but then we went up to Dublin and got a result and we signed three good young players,” he said.
At the start of the year, Rovers set out with the target of bringing another USL title to Leckview Park.
“It’s February and we’re still left in every competition we entered. There’s plenty left to fight for and we’re looking forward to the next few months. It will be a busy period but it helps when the team is successful.
“We went to Glenea last weekend without three first team players and won. We’ve a good, strong panel and we’ve lads fighting for places all over the pitch and that’s what we want. It doesn’t make my job any easier but I can live with that,” he said.
“They all know what’s at stake. We’re getting at least 14 to training every night and there’s a good buzz about the place.
“If you want to win something you have to be prepared to put in the effort. We’ll take every game at it comes, starting with Home Farm on Sunday. It’s about finding the right balance,” he added.
Striker Paddy ‘Pajo’ Rafferty, Ryan McConnell, Luke Nelis, and Conor Tourish, are among those looking to get to the Aviva for the first time this season, but they still have two games to win, starting with Home Farm on Sunday.
“If we play to the best of our ability then we won’t be far away.
“That’s all we can ask for,” McConigley said.

Rovers Darren McElwaine.

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