With over 650 teams entering Europe’s largest cup competition at the start of the season, we are now down to 4 in this year’s FAI Junior Cup. The road is narrowing and the Aviva Stadium is almost in sight as each club require only one more wins to book a final date at the home of Irish football.
Here we take a look at the four teams and how they reached this stage.
Last season: Fourth Round
First Round: Bye
Second Round: Killarney Celtic 9-0 Newcastle West
Third Round: Killarney Celtic 5-0 Coole FC
Fourth Round: Listowel Celtic 1-6 Killarney Celtic
Fifth Round: Killarney Celtic 1-0 Mervue United
Sixth Round: Newmarket Celtic 2-3 Killarney Celtic
Seventh Round: Ballynanty Rovers 1-2 Killarney Celtic
Quarter-Final: Killarney Celtic 2-1 Janesboro
Killarney Celtic made history rs in the FAI Junior Cup Seventh Round as for the first time in 25 years they qualified for the quarter-final stage of the competition and continued to break records by reaching the semi final at the expense of second favourites Janesboro.
The Kerry men have been in flying form throughout their run to the final eight. They breezed through the area stages into the national rounds where they first defeated a strong Mervue United.
A trip to 2016 quarter-finalists and Clare heavyweights Newmarket Celtic was next on the cards and it proved to be an absolute thriller as Chris O’Leary grabbed an 85th minute winner to settle the five-goal tie.
In Round Seven Killarney were once again on the road; this time visiting Limerick Premier Division title contenders Ballynanty Rovers. Celtic never let the occasion get to them and looked confident throughout as they sealed a 2-1 victory and made history as they put their name in the last-eight hat.
Key players for Killarney so far have been O’Leary, Cathal O’Shea and Wayne Sparling. Sparling has been in lightening form so far banging two in the Newmarket Celtic game and also his sides’ second against Ballynanty while O’Shea is also known to chip in with a goal or two.
Last season: Winners
First Round: Bye
Second Round: Sheriff YC 3-0 Larkview Boys
Third Round: Elywoodlawn FC 0-3 Sheriff YC
Fourth Round: Sheriff YC 4-3 Collinstown FC
Fifth Round: Sheriff YC 2-1 Carew Park (AET)
Sixth Round: Sheriff YC 5-2 Usher Celtic
Seventh Round: Sheriff YC 0-0 Villa FC (Sheriff YC win 4-1 on penalties)
Quarter-Final: Peake Villa 2-3 Sheriff YC
Defending champions and heavy favourites to retain, Sheriff YC have had a strenuous path to the quarter-final this year. Alan Reilly’s side have come up against some of the best Junior sides in the country throughout the competition and even when in the face of adversity they’ve found a way to advance.
Their first real test came in the Fourth Round when they hosted former AUL Premier A rivals Collinstown. In what was a cracking game, Sheriff edged the seven-goal thriller by four goals to three in what was the game of the round.
Next up was Limerick Premier Division champions Carew Park. In an incredibly tight encounter it took an Anto Murphy extra-time winner to separate the two giants and seal Sheriff’s progression to the last-16.
Usher Celtic, Premier A’s form side of 2016/17 were next for Sheriff. Usher came into the game on the back of a massive victory over TSDL side St Michaels who were for many one of the favourites to win the trophy.
Sheriff were well-set up, however, and made light work of Celtic with a comfortable 5-2 win. Their quarter-final game against Villa will go down as one of the most unlikeliest victories in the Junior Cup’s history.
Reduced to not ten but nine men inside the opening 25 minutes, Sheriff had to hold off Waterford’s Villa FC for the remaining 90 minutes plus extra-time. They made it to penalties where Lee Murphy once again proved to be the hero in saving one and scoring the winner to ensure Sheriff advanced to the quarter-finals.
The quarter final against Tipp opposition was also somewhat of a bumpy ride, but the Evergreen John Rock ensured progression.
They will go into the game as favourites to advance, however, the likes of Paul Murphy, Darren Dunne, Darren O’Brien and John Rock will have to be at their best to ensure another third successive Aviva day out.
Last season: Fourth Round
First Round: Bye
Second Round: Mullingar Town 1-3 Evergreen
Third Round: Evergreen FC 3-0 Newtown Utd
Fourth Round: Bridge Rovers 1-5 Evergreen
Fifth Round: x-x
Sixth Round: Newfoundwell 2-3 Evergreen
Seventh Round: Evergreen 2-0 Willow Park
Quarter-Finals:: Evergreen X-X Kilmallock United
Evergreen FC will be full of confidence going into their Quarter-Final tie with Kilmallock United. The Kilkenny men have never really looked troubled by any sides they’ve come up against in the competition so far. They breezed through the regional rounds, scoring 11 and conceding just two.
Against Newfoundwell in the last 32 they raced into a 3-1 lead and killed the game off by half-time. A clinical performance against Willow Park followed as two excellent finishes from Sean Barcoe and Conor English sealed their progression.
Evergreen have only ever reached the Junior Cup Final once, way back in 1984, so they will be eager to book their passage into the final four to provide the current squad with a golden opportunity to put their names in the history books.
Holden’s side will be brimming with confidence after toppling an in form Kilmallock United from Limerick in the Quarter Finals. Their trip to Sligo will see them step away from their astro surface in Kilkenny to a more expansive pitch at The Showgrounds.
Barcoe is their main man up top and the Evergreen faithful will be hoping he will be able to continue his red-hot form this season in Sunday’s game and fire them into the final.
There is one player within Holden’s squad that has a positive experience of playing at Sunday’s venue. Quarter Final match winner Mikey Drennan last visited the Showgrounds in 2015. His goal saw Shamrock Rovers beat Sligo Rovers 2-1, one of many he scored for the Tallaght side that year.