COBH RAMBLERS will be hoping that the magic of the FAI Cup will be in full flow on Sunday when they entertain Dundalk at St Colman’s Park (5pm).
This contest is being played behind closed doors, but it is being streamed live on the WATCHLOI service.
Given the recent on and off the pitch turmoil at Dundalk, along with the recent form of Ramblers, this has all the ingredients for a potential shock.
Ramblers and Dundalk have plenty of recent history incup competitions, with Sunday’s meeting being the third year in a row that the two will have met at St Colman’s Park.
Perhaps the most memorable occasion in Cobh’s recent history occurred two years ago when they stunned the Lilywhites in the EA Sports Cup semi-final.
Chris Hull got the all-important goal on that occasion, as Cobh denied Dundalk the opportunity to treble.
In 2019, they faced off in the FAI Cup, where Dundalk won 1-0. But Ramblers ensured it was a highly competitive cup tie.
As for what will happen this time around, well all will be revealed on Sunday.
“We are looking forward to it,” said Cobh manager Stuart Ashton.
“We have got to be realistic with that also, they are the current Premier Division champions and were cup finalists last year. So we know what we are up against.
“But having said that, it is about our lads pitting their wits against the better players in the league. They are up for the challenge.
“Hopefully, if we are at our best on the night and if they have a few little hiccups, who knows what can happen.”
Dundalk are a side in a bit of crisis at the moment to say the least, especially going by the high standards they have set in being the top dogs in domestic Irish football over the past six years.
Since the league restarted, the Lilywhites have not been at it. They have lost away to Bohemians and most recently Sligo Rovers, while drawing at home to Waterford and St Patrick’s Athletic.
Vinny Perth was relieved of his duties as Dundalk boss in the wake of a poor run of form, including a disappointing 3-0 defeat to Slovenian champions NK Celje in the Champions League qualifiers.
Italian Filippo Giovagnoli has been appointed interim head coach. A former player in Serie C, Giovagnoli has most recently been the director of coaching at the Metropolitan Oval Academy in New York for the past six years.
Despite all that has been going on at Dundalk, Ramblers will have to concentrate on themselves and going by recent displays, Ashton’s side have plenty to be encouraged about.
Coming into this cup clash, Cobh won two league games in a row and played some good stuff, as they are now right back in the chase for the promotion play-off spots.
Ramblers are an improved outfit this term and have been very well drilled and organized, with a good tempo and intensity recently being evident in their displays.
The fact that centre-back Charlie Lyons turned down a move to Premier Division side Waterford in July is a massive compliment to the current footballing project at Ramblers under Ashton.
Overall though, this is essentially a free hit for Ramblers and all the pressure will be on Dundalk.
Going by the recent performances of both teams and with the high energy and hunger seen in Cobh performances in recent weeks, this clash could potentially be a real banana skin for the Lilywhites.
Meanwhile, Ashton said that goalkeeper Paul Hunt isn’t in the squad for the game because he hasn’t turned up to training since losing his place in the starting 11 against Wexford.
“He hasn’t replied to any calls, or made any contact with us... it is what it is,” said Ashton.