For teams vexed by league pressures cup competitions are a welcome break, but tomorrow's Terryland Park tussle between Galway United and Athlone Town should not be short on incident or intrigue.
Athlone often reserve their most industrious displays for the games in which these clubs collide, and with so many ex United exponents stuffed into their squad a revealing evening on the Dyke Road is imminent in this FAI Ford Cup fourth round clash.
Galway's cause is hampered by the absence of the suspended John Lester and the ineligible Alan Murphy and Iarlaith Daveron. Shorn of three players, Jeff Kenna's options are severely restricted. Still, Athlone may be without two of their ex-Galwegian contingent. Phillip Reilly is banned, while an arm injury renders Davie O'Dowd doubtful, but the inclusion of Nigel Keady, Ian Rossiter, Eric Lavine, and Johnny Mernagh in the midlanders' plans adds another layer of anticipation.
How Galway cope with an Athlone outfit that will be eager to impress will be worth monitoring. Last Friday Galway suffered a cruel defeat to UCD in a chaotic endgame. Having such resilience to locate a way back into the reckoning following Lester's harsh dismissal, United were undone by the concession of two marshmallow soft goals. That one arrived early and the other was scored so late ensured United were defeated and dejected.
Galway must recover briskly if a berth in the quarter-finals of the cup is to be garnered. Despite missing three players who have attained regular status recently, Kenna will still be able to field a reasonable starting XI.
Gary Rogers continues to impress and the back four is likely to comprise Seamus Conneely, Kenna, skipper John Fitzgerald, and Marc McCulloch. In midfield Jay O'Shea's development as a right sided player of genuine ability provides Galway with a wide threat. Kenna will be forced into a reshuffle in the middle of the park with Ciaran Foley and John Russell expected to form the central partnership, Ollie Fenn and Cian McBrien may deputise for Daveron.
In attack Derek Glynn has been surprisingly left out of the side for the last two matches. Jesper Jorgensen has proven to be an earnest and enthusiastic contributor, but Glynn has the pace and clinical finishing prowess to nail crucial goals. Two of Galway's three league successes in 2008 have been prompted by opportunistic Glynn strikes. United need to be harnessing Glynn's talent rather than leaving him as an under-utilised replacement.
This is the type of fixture where Glynn's influence may be significant. Athlone have shown signs of improvement since dumping Finn Harps out of the cup in the last round, but the midlanders have not enjoyed a win since July 19 when Lavine grabbed a brace in the emphatic 3-0 triumph over Kildare County.
Athlone have only taken two points from a possible 12 in the intervening four encounters and last Sunday's comprehensive loss to Monaghan United suggests Galway should prevail if a positive performance is produced.
It is an attainable mission for Galway, who have been plucky and persistent in attempting to edge their way out of the relegation zone. Now is the time for a bit of polish to decorate a tidy display.
Athlone will bring heart and honesty to the banks of the Corrib, but United's panel is sprinkled with sufficient craft to negotiate this awkward hurdle.