Murphy focused on the one that keeps getting away

14 Sep

Published by TheScore.ie, 14 September 2012

FOR A PLAYER who has won multiple league medals, league cup medals — even a Setanta Sports Cup medal — there is one important blank on Anto Murphy’s career CV: he has never won the FAI Cup.

Not that the Dubliner hasn’t come close. In the summer of 2008, Pat Fenlon brought him home from Sligo to strengthen a Bohemians squad that was challenging for both league and cup. Bohs did the double that year; Murphy, however, was cup-tied.

When it seemed his chance might finally come with St Patrick’s Athletic last season, Shelbourne spoiled the party, upsetting the Saints in a semi-final replay.

Now as he prepares for Friday night’s cup quarter-final against Shamrock Rovers in Tolka Park, the script remains the same for Murphy but with one important difference. Where it read Pat’s last year, now it reads the name of the Saints’ northside rivals Shelbourne, another Irish footballing institution who have not won the cup in more years than their fans care to remember.

A cup drought has been the least of Shels’ worries of late. After a bright start to their first season back in the top flight, Alan Mathews’ men seem to have run out of puff since the mid-season break and find themselves struggling to snap a nine-game winless streak in the league, a run which stretches back to mid-July.

The players aren’t getting down on themselves though. As Murphy explains, there are plenty of positives to find in their most recent league performances, a 2-2 draw away to Rovers last Friday and a 2-0 defeat against Pat’s on Monday.

“I don’t think there’s any pressure on any of us,” the midfielder told TheScore.ie. “We knew when we played Derry [a 2-0 home defeat] that the performance wasn’t good enough and we all knew that it wasn’t good enough. It just wasn’t there, especially at home in front of our home crowd, it just wasn’t acceptable.

Al made a few changes and I think it’s kinda given a couple of people a kick up the arse and got us back going again because the last couple of performances are probably our better performances this year.

There’s no lads feeling down or anything in the dressing room. It’s just that things haven’t gone our way lately and hopefully we can turn that around.

If there is any pressure on Shels, it’s because of the glittering prize which dangles in front of the eight teams still in with a chance in the cup: European football, something which was once a staple around Drumcondra but is now very much a rarity.

In eighth place and with little left to play for in the league, extending a cup run in which they have already beaten Bray Wanderers and Cherry Orchard becomes even more important.

“If we lose tomorrow, I wouldn’t say it’s the end of the season but it’s a long five or six weeks considering we’ll find it hard to get up into a European spot. You’d be languishing around mid-table.

The cup now is our best chance for Europe and as long as you keep the tie alive… don’t get me wrong, we’ll be going to win it tomorrow, that’s the main thing, but as long as we don’t lose because it will be a long season and there’ll be a lot of sorry faces in the dressing room after.

Shels have the confidence too that they can beat Rovers, not least because the Hoops are still reeling following the decision to sack Stephen Kenny earlier this week after less than nine months as manager.

Compare the head-to-head record in the league this season and doesn’t look great. Shels have only taken one point from nine against Rovers, but beside each of those games is a small asterix that can be spun positively.

Goalkeeper Dean Delany was sent off in the opening minutes of their first game, a 4-0 Rovers win, while the Hoops needed a late brace from Gary Twigg to grind out a 3-2 win in the second, a match Shels were forced to play most of with 10 men after Murphy was sent off early on.

Last Friday, it took an goal-line clearance from Craig Sives to stop Paddy Kavanagh’s certain winner and deny Shels all three points deep into stoppage time.

“They haven’t battered us or overturned us in any way. The first game, the sending off of the keeper was key to that result, but in the last two games it was nip and tuck between us.

We were disappointed coming in after a 2-2 draw against last year’s champions. We’re coming in disappointed and that’s the sort of attitude [the manager] wants from us, coming in disappointed after drawing a game. There’s not many games this season that we’ve come in like that against a top four team.

We haven’t beaten a top four team and I think last Friday was our chance to do that. Hopefully now we can turn the tables and get something in the home tie.

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