All roads lead to Eamonn Deacy Park as United face Bohs in cup semi-final

Galway United's Rob Manley  celebrates his second goal with Darren Clarke who also bagged two goals in 
Galway United's SSE Airtricity League 6-0 win over  Athlone Town in the SSE Airtricity League game at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday night. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy

Galway United's Rob Manley celebrates his second goal with Darren Clarke who also bagged two goals in Galway United's SSE Airtricity League 6-0 win over Athlone Town in the SSE Airtricity League game at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday night. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy

When kick-off finally comes on Saturday afternoon, Galway United could be as little as 90 minutes away from the Aviva Stadium.

It is the basic premise of the FAI Cup semi-final and yet a difficult reality for United fans to grasp. It is 32 years since they basked in the Lansdowne sun.

It has been 15 years since they made it even this far in the cup. Fewer than 3,000 turned out that day to see Stephen Kenny lead his Derry City side to a 1-0 victory, but tickets are as rare as hen's teeth for this clash with Bohemians in the Sports Direct Men’s FAI Cup semi-final (2.40pm ) in Eamonn Deacy Park.

Last week, a similar number turned out to welcome home the First Division Champions for a dead rubber against Finn Harps. They queued in their thousands to pick up tickets for the cup game in the EcoFuel Stand. Rumours even swirled that, such was the demand, industrious Bohemians' fans had travelled down to take in the unglamorous game just to snap up the much-sought tickets.Luckily RTE cameras will be in Eamonn Deacy Park for the first time in six years,

United enter the game in rude health, buoyed by the confidence gained in a quarter-final thumping of Dundalk. Only the unlucky Francely Lomboto is ruled out through injury. Colm Horgan and Ronan Manning both made a timely return to action last Friday, when United dispatched Athlone Town 6-0.

Stephen Walsh, Vincent Borden and Rob Slevin left the field with knocks on the night. Manager John Caulfield confirmed Walsh and Borden would be fit for Saturday, while Slevin needed some stitches, but it is hoped he will also be available.

Bohemians, who had enjoyed a fast start to the season under Declan Devine, have faltered somewhat of late. Sitting fourth in the Premier Division, the Cup is of huge importance to their European ambitions, as well as bridging a silverware gap of 13 years for the storied Dublin club.

They did enjoy a nice tune-up for Saturday with a 3-1 win over a resurgent Sligo Rovers last time out. The league’s top scorer Jonathan Afolabi bagged a brace and he will demand close attention on Saturday.

The visitors have plenty of other weapons for their western assault. They can rely on the services of proven performers, such as Keith Buckley, Dylan Connolly and Ali Coote. Their experience is well blended with exciting youngsters, such as James McManus and James Clarke, who have come to the fore this season.

United selection headaches are of the positive variety. Darren Clarke put his hand up for some involvement with a superb performance against Athlone, scoring two and assisting another two.

Conor McCormack was flawless at right-back against Dundalk. However, there are additional options in that position with Conor O’Keefe and Colm Horgan both tasting action since. There is a similar scenario at left-back. Slevin was commanding in the previous cup tie, but Regan Donelon’s left-footed deliveries have been a constant threat this season, and he too has made a return in the interim.

John Caulfield has balanced these decisions all season and come up with winning formulas. The acrimony he faced after the play-off defeat against Waterford last season is a distant memory. The relentlessness of his side in the league and their dismantling of UCD and Dundalk in the cup has reminded fans of his abilities to prepare, motivate and execute. He has helped make Terryland a fortress.

Speaking ahead of the tie, Caulfield says United's home form has been exceptional.

"We have won every game so far. We know the stadium is going to be packed well before kick-off. We know there will be a cracking atmosphere. Hopefully the lads will give a great performance. If we do that, we have a chance.

"We know how strong Bohs are. We know their attacking options are so good. They are so strong up front. but we will be well prepared."

 

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