By Cian O’Connell
The FAI Cup dominates the domestic football schedule this weekend with Galway's two clubs facing premier division opposition.
Salthill Devon host Shamrock Rovers tomorrow night at Eamonn Deacy Park, while Mervue United go the Carlisle Grounds for a clash with Bray Wanderers.
The past fortnight has brought some encouragement for first division strugglers Salthill. A plucky and promising EA Sports Cup display against St Patrick's Athletic was followed by a win over Cobb Ramblers at St Colman's Park.
Goals in both games from Enda Curran suggest Devon's attack can convert chances as Jakub Tomanica continues to impress also. Curran's crisp strike from a Derek O'Brien cross in the Pat's game was a flash of quality and Salthill will be hoping for similar enterprise when the Hoops visit.
It has been an eventful start to the year for new Rovers’ boss Trevor Croly. Draws have hindered the Hoops in the league, but a resounding Setanta Cup final success over Drogheda United hinted at their true potential.
Croly's current mission is to get the Dubliners' consistency levels up to scratch because there is little doubt about the depth and ability of the squad. Rovers will hit the west armed with a potent squad with goalkeeper Barry Murphy, Conor Powell, Stephen Rice, and Karl Sheppard all capable performers.
Salthill will trust Curran can maintain his efficient scoring form, while O'Brien, Jean Biansumba, Willie Enubele, Cian Fadden, and Brian Geraghty are others who can have an influence against one of the traditional forces in the Irish game.
Mervue United suffered an unfortunate 2-1 league reversal to Longford Town so they will be intent on making life awkward for Bray Wanderers at the Carlisle Grounds.
Inevitably Johnny Glynn's charges will be aware of Jason Byrne's smooth opportunism in attack for Pat Devlin's side, that has been bolstered by a few solid displays, including triumphs over Cork City and Drogheda United. A gritty and resilient stalemate against Sligo Rovers also suggests Bray are tricky opposition for more illustrious teams too.
Mervue will venture to the seaside town with Conor Gleeson, Michael McSweeney, Stephen Walsh, Marc Ludden, Gary Kelly, and Ryan Manning spearheading their challenge. A draw is not beyond the realms of possibility, especially if Mervue can make a gutsy start to put some doubt into Bray minds.
Glynn will have Mervue primed to be stable at the back and, providing Byrne is well policed, the Galway side will not be without hope.