To dare is to dream...such words are adequately apt as Athlone Town prepare for an FAI Cup semi-final fixture with Dundalk in Lissywollen on Sunday night (kick-off, 7.45pm ), the final four fixture to be televised live on RTE.
Athlone Town have achieved a semi-final place on merit, their comprehensive 4-1 victory over Shelbourne raising confidence levels among the playing squad as they prepare for their toughest competitive fixture of the season this weekend.
It is 22 years since Athlone Town reached the semi-final stage of the FAI Cup, current manager, Adrian Carberry, featuring for then manager, Liam Buckley’s charges, as the were defeated by eventual winners, Cork City.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser in advance of the weekend cup tie, Carberry was in anticipatory mode, as he prepared to welcome the FAI Cup champions of 2018 to the Athlone Town Stadium.
“Obviously it is a major occasion for our football club and we are very much looking forward to competing against arguably one of the top two League of Ireland clubs. We are in the semi-final on merit as our comprehensive victory over Shelbourne would suggest. We now have to embrace the occasion and I will be getting this message into our players as the week progresses,” Adrian remarked.
Devoid of two key players for the weekend, Taner Dogan and Tumelo Tiou, due to suspension, Athlone Town will strive to remain in the game for as long as possible in the hope of creating a major FAI Cup shock.
“The two players who have impressed through the season are big losses to the team but it is an opportunity for other members of the squad to positively impact proceedings on Sunday night.
“You cannot look past the first half of the cup tie at the moment. If we remain competitive until the half time whistle that will enable us to build upon our performance as the game progresses. Pundits will not afford us any opportunity of achieving a victory. That will allow us play with no fear and hopefully we can put on a performance for the viewing public,” Adrian continued.
Training thrice this week, Athlone have not played a competitive game since their defeat of Shelbourne in late October whereas Dundalk have continued with their on field exertions courtesy of their weekend cup quarter final success over Bohemians and Europa Cup exploits.
“We are under no illusions as to the challenge ahead. Ideally, further match practice would have been beneficial but with the present Covid-19 situation such eventualities could not materialise. We will be carefully analysing our opposition during the week and implementing a playing system which will prove positive for the team,” Adrian added.
Having recently signed a new two year contract to remain as the club’s senior team head coach, the Athlone native, noted the progress being made both on and off the playing field and is hoping that a positive performance on Sunday night can attract players and further sponsors for the club.
“The club is making progress both on and off the field which may go unnoticed by many. Our semi-final is an opportunity to show the viewing public that Athlone Town is a club with aspiration. There is no reason why we cannot become a club of a similar standard to that of Dundalk in the future,” Adrian asserted.
To dare is to dream...will the dream be quenched on Sunday night or will Athlone Town revel in the moment and produce a performance for the ages to advance to the ultimate cup fixture in Irish football.