Cobh Wanderers Football Club

MATCH PREVIEW: Wanderers prepare for Intermediate Cup battle with Avondale

The FAI Intermediate Cup takes precedence once again this weekend as 32 clubs enter the third round stage. It is here where sides depart their domestic surroundings and the draw becomes truly national. Clubs are no longer pooled into their respective leagues and instead an open draw is made
The draw however has remarkably pitted two Cork heavyweights against each-other and Sunday afternoon will see MSL giants Avondale United and Cobh Wanderers battle it out for a place in the last sixteen. Both sides are joint-fourth favourites to win the overall tournament, with odds of 10-1. The duo are undoubtedly two of Cork’s most well-regarded intermediate sides and it immediately stood out as one of the ties of the round. The giants will battle it out at 2pm on Sunday in Avondale Park.

As last season’s beaten finalists, Cobh come into the tie with proven pedigree in the competition. Michael Deasy’s men suffered a heart-wrenching penalty-shootout defeat to Liffey Wanderers at the Aviva, having twice come back from being a goal down in the tie. The majority of that side has been retained while re-enforcements have arrived in the form of Martin Deady, Jason Abbott and Brendán Frahill among others. Avondale’s home advantage shouldn’t count for much as Cobh will travel in numbers for what is set to be a thrilling tie. In another interesting subplot, the pivotal Wanderers trio of Brian Fitzgerald, Conor Meade and Ian Stapleton have all spent time with ‘Dale in recent times and will come up against plenty of familiar faces on Sunday.

Cobh faced College Corinthians in a tense game in the opening round with an Ian Stapleton goal securing a 1-0 victory. Round Two was a simpler affair as Wanderers left MSL newcomers Park United with a 3-0 win, in what was the Mitchelstown club’s first year at Intermediate level. The Great Island side come into the game with considerable momentum having won the Keane Cup Final 3-0 against Castleview and a securing 3-0 victory at UCC in the league. With only four league outings so far the side currently sit third in the table and are well-poised for another push for the title in 2018.

Cobh manager Michael Deasy is clearly looking forward to the tie, not surprising given the game’s importance,

”It’s definitely the biggest game of the season so far for us. We’re feeling confident at the moment with the Keane Cup already in the bag and we’re ready for Sunday. Avondale are a strong side and it will be a very tough game but we have a good record playing there over the last few years. Of course the two clubs would have wanted to avoid each-other, especially this early in the competition, but the draw’s been made and to be honest I think the winner of this game will go very far in the tournament.”

Avondale won an incredible four Intermediate Cup titles in a row between 2011 and 2014 in a period of true dominance unseen at this level for many years. The club have gone through somewhat of a barren spell since with no final appearance since the 2014 win over UCD and they are yet to reach the decider since it has been hosted at the Aviva Stadium. It appears however that the tide is turning back in their favour and a newly-built squad are leading the way at the top of the Munster Senior League Premier Division. The side flirted with relegation in 2016/17 but avoided that fate and set about re-establishing themselves as one of Cork’s finest. Former UCC and Cork City attacker Josh O’Shea is leading the line, ably accompanied by Danny O’Connell and Vinny O’Brien. Young revelation Simon Falvey is another impressive member of the new guard while the likes of Eoghan Lougheed and Mark Horgan preserve experience from the cup winning sides earlier in the decade.

A 3-0 win over Kinsale saw Avondale progress from round one back in September and they then defeated Ballincollig in a 3-2 a thriller during the last round. The Dale picked up a 2-0 win against Rockmount in their last league outing and have yet to lose an MSL game so far this season.

In some ways it is a pity that these two sides meet each-other so early in the tournament. Both would have been expected to carry the Cork flag far in the competition but once this tie is concluded, only one will be able to do so. Ringmahon Rangers, College Corinthians and UCC have already crashed out, such is the competitiveness within the Cork region, and it won’t be long before another of the MSL giants follows them.

Kick-off on Sunday is at 2pm in Avondale Park.

By Thomas Stafford