BOTH Cork City and St Patrick’s Athletic will welcome the timing of this game.
They each saw their league ambitions dented last weekend and the distraction of what should be an entertaining cup match will motivate both sets of players.
I would imagine that after they let a two-goal lead slip late on against Cabinteely, City players would have been deflated.
Yes, the draw meant that City are now seven games unbeaten, but before the Cabinteely game, the players would have felt they had a chance of reaching the play-offs, but whether they will admit it or not, those slim hopes are now gone.
Had they had a league game this week, it would have been hard for the players to recover from the Cabinteely match and motivate themselves for what would have been a pointless league fixture.
However, even though they will know that facing St Pats will be a very tough game and they are underdogs, it’s a game they should be relishing.
Of course, they would have preferred an easier draw than playing against the second-best team in the country at this moment, but they will take heart from the fact that they have already defied the odds this season by defeating Sligo Rovers in the previous round.
However, this Pat’s team are a much better side than Sligo, and City will have to go up another level than what they did against Liam Buckley’s team.
Being underdogs will suit City and I would envision manager Colin Healy will deploy the same sort of tactics that he did against Sligo tonight. Against Sligo, City allowed the Connacht side have the majority of possession and kept a solid defensive shape.
They allowed Sligo to tire themselves out and caused them lots of problems on the counter-attack because of the pace that they have in their side. However, Pat’s are a much fitter team than Sligo and I don’t imagine them to fatigue like Sligo did.
I’ve always been an advocate of City playing 4-4-2. I feel it suits them better to play two up front because of the way Beineon O’Brien Whitmarsh and Cian Murphy complement each other.
I feel City can get away with playing just two players in centre-midfield in the first division, but against a team like St Pat’s, it would be naïve of City to think that they can afford to have two men in the middle against their three.
The Dublin side have a much better quality of player than what City have come up against this season — including Sligo — and if City play with just two midfielders, then they will be simply overrun in midfield and they could struggle to have any impact on the game.
Alec Byrne and Barry Coffey are two good players, but it’s early days in their partnership and I don’t think they would be capable of dominating against whatever trio Stephen O’Donnell decides to play in the middle of the pitch.
City need to have a player in centre-midfield that his main concern is going to be to protect his back-four and bring energy in the middle of the pitch.
That player could be Cian Coleman, but that’s a difficult decision that Healy will have to make because Coleman has been excellent in defence.
Pat’s come into the game on the back of a surprising defeat to Finn Harps, but I wouldn’t read too much into that. Any team can go to Ballybofey and get turned over by Harps, especially in the poor conditions that the Pat’s players had to endure that night.
Pat’s will be a wounded animal desperate to make amends. They are a very good side and they will be looking forward to coming to Turner’s Cross. The repetitiveness of the premier division in the League of Ireland — playing the same teams four times in a season — means that Pat’s will enjoy the variety of playing at a ground and against a team, that they have not been to or faced this season.
Pat’s have a point to prove. Their title hopes seem faint, at the very best, and they will be desperate to at least get to the final of this competition.
City’s best hope will be to try and lure the Pat’s defenders to play high so that they can use the pace in their team to hurt O’Donnell’s side.