Preview: Cup semi set to enthral Showgrounds

Sligo Rovers are aiming to reach new ground when Athlone Town visit the Showgrounds on Saturday evening for an eagerly anticipated Women’s FAI Cup semi-final, writes Conall Collier.

Going into the contest on the back of a three-game unbeaten sequence augurs well for the Bit O’Red who are also the leading scorers in this season’s competition following that 11-goal haul in the first round against Donegal side Bonagee Utd.

The Rovers followed that success with a superb display at Dalymount Park that produced a 1-0 quarter-final victory against Bohemian FC.

No goals conceded so far, in the competition by the Bit O’Red, but the opposition in this last four encounter can also make that claim, although the Athlone Town players haven’t scored a goal in normal or extra-time, advancing on each occasion via a penalty shoot-out.

It could be suggested that Athlone had a more challenging path to this stage of the competition. 

Galway Utd away were negotiated in the first round and then the Westmeath side disposed of Women’s Premier Division leaders Peamount Utd on home astro-turf in the last eight, again via a penalty shoot-out.

“We had to get over Galway and the reward for that was a quarter-final against Peamount, there was nothing easy about either of those games and I know the players will be determined not to lose out now at the semi-final stage,” commented Athlone Town manager Ciaran Kilduff who took over the reins at the club during the mid-season break.

There is an extra incentive for Athlone to get to the final as the players will want to make amends for the disappointment of losing last year’s decider to Shelbourne and they will also be eager to pick up a second piece of silverware for 2023.

Athlone Town kicked-off the new season last February in fine style when winning the club’s first trophy following another penalty shoot-out victory, this time against Shelbourne, in the inaugural playing of the President’s Cup.
Athlone Town hosted Sligo Rovers in the first game back after the mid-season break in mid-August and on that occasion took the Women’s Premier Division points with a 2-0 victory with first-half goals from Dana Scheriff and Chloe Singleton.

With players of the calibre of Madison Gibson and Sligo native Roisin Molloy also in the team, Athlone will be determined to extend their three-game unbeaten sequence after winning again last weekend.

Jesi Rossman netted her first goal for Athlone and that was sufficient to earn a 1-0 victory against DLR Waves last Saturday, the same day that Sligo Rovers played out a 3-3 draw at the Showgrounds against Cork City.

Bit O’Red manager Steve Feeney is well aware of the task facing his players, but he believes that home advantage can give the team a major boost.

“It would be brilliant for the players to have the backing of a large vocal support, I’ve experienced that Showgrounds atmosphere as a player and it does make a big difference to have the crowd behind you in a game like this,” he said.

Last weekend’s result against Cork City saw the positive and negative traits of Sligo Rovers. Leading by 3-0 at the interval, they then conceded three goals in the second-half and had to settle for a point.

The lessons learned from that experience and the evidence of previous results against Bohemian FC in both the FAI Cup quarter-final and the Women’s Premier Division suggest that the Sligo Rovers players possess the ability to cope with any opposition provided a consistent performance is produced.

Kick-off at the Showgrounds on Saturday is 6pm. Tickets are available at turnstiles and the game will be available on LOITV.