For the first time in over 18 months, it finally feels like normality has resumed.
During the week, Irish sports fans were informed that sporting venues would welcome 100% capacity crowds as of Friday, amidst the latest easing of Covid restrictions.
For fans of our domestic football leagues, it’s time to celebrate by getting ourselves through the turnstiles at our local grounds, as both divisions are coming to their conclusions.
This weekend alone, we’ve two tantalising First Division matches on Friday evening. Along with five crucial Premier Division games, spread out over Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
But, of course, the marquee fixtures take place in the capital on Friday night, as the 2021 FAI Cup semi-finals take place.
We’ve got four top tier sides left standing, all desperate to book their place into that Aviva Stadium final, on Sunday, 28th of November.
And your boys at the Big Kick Off have you covered. As we take a sneaky glance at what we can look forward to in the semis.
Friday, 22nd of October 2021
FAI Cup Semi-Finals
Bohemians vs Waterford
Venue – Dalymount Park
Kick Off – 7.45 pm
Odds – Home 4/11 Draw 3/1 Away 6/1
* All odds were accurate at the time of writing and were provided by popular Irish bookmaker.
Watch On – RTE 2/ RTE Player
Referee – Rob Harvey
Bohs come into this one as the clear favourites with home advantage, as they look to reach their first FAI Cup final since 2008.
They’re fresh off their 1-1 draw with bitter rivals Shamrock Rovers, in a clash that they may be disappointed to not have taking all three points from.
While they were without key players like Ross Tierney, goalkeeper James Talbot and the league’s top goal scorer Georgie Kelly. Bohs enjoyed a lion share of the chances in the first half, and replacement goalie Stephen McGuinness had a howler for Richie Towell’s goal.
Albeit, that point handed Keith Long’s men their third game without a defeat. As they snatched a late draw against Dundalk, and battered relegated Longford Town away from home, in recent weeks.
Despite the patchy form throughout the season, the pressure is on the Gypsies to deliver their first piece of silverware since the Leinster Senior Cup in 2016. And most importantly, their first honour under their highly respected manager.
While Waterford find themselves in a serious relegation play-off fight, optimism has surrounded the club since the arrival of new owner, Richard Forrest.
On-field, the Blues are also without a defeat in their last three league meetings. They’ll be riding high on momentum after their stunning 4-1 victory over Finn Harps last Friday.
They’ll be relying heavily on the likes of Anthony Wordsworth, Eddie Nolan and Niall O’Keeffe in those key midfield battles. Along John Martin to provide some creative magic for Phoenix Patterson, who has scored in his last four appearances.
It’s a fantastic opportunity for the Munster side to reach their first cup final, since 2004.
If manager Marc Bircham was to pull that off, and keep their Premier Division status, that Manager of the Year crown is certainly calling his name.
Prediction – Tight Bohemians win.
St. Patrick’s Athletic vs Dundalk
Venue – Richmond Park
Kick Off – 7.45 pm
Odds – Home EVS Draw 11/5 Away 12/5
Watch On – LOITV
Referee – Neil Doyle
This was once a competition that haunted everyone involved with St. Pats. But their famous triumph in 2014, brought an end to 53 years of FAI Cup misery.
Now, Stephen O’Donnell’s side look to reach their first final, since that fateful night, seven years ago.
The Saints have been one of the overachievers this season, as they currently sit second in the Premier Division standings.
Their shortcomings in games against Shamrock Rovers realistically killed any title hopes. But the Inchicore natives are finally back in the upper echelons of the table.
Their recent form has seen them trade wins and losses, over their previous six outings, in all competitions. With their most recent match ending in defeat, at the hands of fellow European hopefuls, Derry City, courtesy of a Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe diving header.
A packed Richmond Park may play a factor on the night, as Pats have only lost once at home since the return of fans.
Add in the fact, Dundalk haven’t won in their last eight away days, and the early omens look well for the Dubliners.
Speaking of the Lilywhites, this competition is their last chance saloon, if they’ve any hope of playing European football next season.
Vinny Perth’s side are also embroiled in that relegation play-off dogfight but have shown real signs of life, over the past several weeks.
They’re unbeaten in their last six league ties and have a three-point cushion from that dangerous ninth place spot.
While we’re hearing nothing but negativity surrounding the future of the club, this is a phase that they know well, as Dundalk aim to reach their seventh consecutive FAI Cup final.
With the likes of Sean Murray, and especially, Pat Hoban playing out of their skin of late, don’t let that league position fool you. This one is far from a foregone conclusion.
Prediction – We fear this one may need a replay.