Preview: Rovers boosted by returning players ahead of UCD

Sligo Rovers begin their FAI Cup campaign on Sunday when taking on UCD at the UCD Bowl, kick-off 7:45pm and live on WATCHLOI.

The teams met last year at the quarter-final stage. A place in the last eight is on offer when they clash on Sunday night.

Rovers won 2-0 in both games in the UCD Bowl last year. College have three former Sligo Rovers players in their ranks in Jack Keaney, Liam Kerrigan and Paul Doyle.

They are one of the form teams in the First Division, including a 3-0 win over leaders Cabinteely last week.

Rovers, meanwhile, made it four win from five when seeing off Dundalk last Saturday.

The 3-1 success moved Liam Buckley’s side to fourth in the table.

The Bit O’ Red were beaten at the semi-final stage last year against the Lilywhites.

In team news Danny Kane (ankle) is the only player unavailable.

Regan Donelon (calf), John Mahon (broken leg), Will Seymore (hamstring) and Garry Buckley (groin) have trained this week and are all available to be part of the matchday squad.

Liam Buckley said: “We are chuffed to have a bigger group of players available again. Some players are coming back from long spells out. We have decisions to make in terms of the matchday squad, and keeping in mind match-fitness, but it’s a welcome scenario for us. We’ll be making some tough choices not just in terms of the XI but the overall squad and that’s a situation we want. The more options we have, the better.

“It was a fantastic result for us last week. I felt we played well in patches and created lots of chances. We’re still looking to get that better. As I look at the league, in the blink of an eye you can be at the bottom of the table or you can find yourself fourth. We’ve found a bit of form so we’ve moved up but it’s all to play for with every team. We’re going to need to continue the work-rate, the effort and all of that to keep it going or we’ll quickly find ourselves being overtaken and back down again. We’re all aware of that.

“The focus is on the FAI Cup this week, the competition is wide open and anyone can win it. That may sound like something you hear all the time but I really believe it is the case, because particulary in this type of season, anything can happen where a team can go on a run and it doesn’t matter what division they are in.

“We’d love to be in the mix late in the competition, and I feel we can be, but the only way that is going to happen is if we start by overcoming UCD. That is the only objective. We’ve studied them, Dave Campbell has been to see them live, we’ve given them due respect and they are your typical UCD side in terms of style and playing out. I think Andy Myler will be pleased with how they are shaping up and undoubtedly they will be looking for at least a play-off spot, if not trying to get that automatic place. Their result last week certainly showed that.

“We were able to condition the players correctly this week given the eight-day gap from the last game, it’s always more preferential to coming off a midweek fixture. We’re under no illusions and we have to produce a similar performance to some of our previous games if we are to get through. It’s a one-off game where anything can happen so we have to be prepared for it. The FAI Cup is a big part of any season so we have to go out and get the result we need to progress in it.”