Letterkenny Rovers are hoping to bridge a 21-year gap when they meet Crumlin United in Saturday's FAI Intermediate Cup final at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium. (Kick off 7pm).
Not since Fanad United won the cup final in 1995 has a team from the Ulster Senior League enjoyed success in this competition.
But Rovers, whose manager Eamonn McConigley was also manager of that Fanad team in ‘95, are now just 90 minutes away from an historic first ever Intermediate Cup title.
And as the excitement builds ahead of Saturday night’s big game, McConigley said there are many similarities between the successful Fanad teams of the past and the current Rovers side.
“One thing I have learned from back then is that you have to be committed,” McConigley said.
“You also have to have experienced players. If you were to ask me about the three times I was involved in Intemediate finals, the common denominator was experience. In 1995 we had ten players on the Fanad team who had League of Ireland experience.
“This year, I have experienced players, players who have played in the League of Ireland and who have played up the north. That’s why I think we are doing well and why I think we will do well in Dublin.”
It’s never easy to get to a cup final and Rovers have managed to pass some difficult tests along the way, perhaps none more so than the opening round clash with Cockhill Celtic.
“At the start of the year we played Derry City in the league , and they went on to beat us twice and we drew at Leckview,” McConigley said.
“I said to the boys when we went into the dressing room after that game there’s no way we’re going to meet a better Intermediate side than Derry City and that we should be trying to win the Intermediate Cup.
“We got an away draw against Cockhill in the opening round and we went down there and won. That was the start of it.
“That result didn’t catch me by surprise because I knew I had a good team. We were playing well, playing good football and we gave a good account of ourselves.
“In the Dunboyne match up in Dublin, we got a draw. When we came back here and beat them, that set the wheels in motion and the players started to believe after that.”
Rovers qualified for the final after an absorbing semi-final with Ringmahon Rangers of Cork - Letterkenny finally coming through following a 2-0 replay win at Leckview Park.
One of the scorers that day was David Shovlin who came off the bench to help Rovers to victory. He has been hampered by injury of late but is among those pushing for a start on Saturday night.
Steve Okakpu Emeka is favourite to partner Darren McElwaine in attack, but Shovlin is also an option.
That’s one of the big calls that McConigley must make as he plots the downfall of a Crumlin United team who are hoping to win the cup for a second year running. They cruised to victory in last year’s final beating Tolka Rovers 4-0.
Jonathan Minnock has also been on the treatment table, but will be okay to start and his contribution, along with the likes of Shane Bradley, keeper Rory Kelly, Mark Forker, Paul McVeigh and team captain McElwaine, will be key as Rovers chase the win on what promises to be a special night.
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