By JOHN HUDSON
AS HE prepares to set up his side to face Ringmahon Rangers in Cork on Saturday in the FAI Intermediate Cup semi final Killester Donnycarney FC, manager Gary Howlett could be forgiven if his mind wanders back to Saturday afternoon 37 years ago and another major cup semi final encounter.
That one was at Arsenal’s famous Highbury Stadium in 1983 when Howlett’s then English club Brighton and Hove Albion were bidding for first ever appearance in the FA Cup Final at Wembley when they met Sheffield Wednesday managed by the late Jack Charlton in the semi final.
“I remember it well as it was a lovely sunny afternoon at Highbury and the great feeling we got at the final whistle after beating Wednesday 2-1 to get to Wembley. Jimmy Case got the winner after we had scrambled home the first one I think Michael Robinson was involved in it.
“What a great feeling it was to get Brighton to their first ever Wembley Final against Manchester United we were over the moon” he said.
The 1983 final was memorable too as Brighton well represented by Irishmen Howlett, skipper Tony Grealish, Michael Robinson and Gerry Ryan on the bench were underdogs and they held United to a 2-2 draw. In fact they might have clinched the win had United goalkeeper Gary Bailey not saved that famous late chance from Gordon Smith.
Unfortunately in the replay Brighton never reached the heights of the first game and were defeated 4-0 with goals from Bryan Robson, Norman Whiteside, Gordon McQueen and an Arnold Muhran penalty.
Howlett in his fourth season in charge of the Hadden Park club will be hoping the same joy he experienced all those years ago can be replicated by his Killester Donnycarney charges on Saturday in Cork.
“I would love to overcome Ringmahon and do like Brighton achieved in getting to their first Wembley final and see Killester Donnycarney make a first appearance in the Intermediate Cup Final.
“It seems a long time now since we overcame Kilnamanagh 2-1 in a hard fought Intermediate Cup quarter final tie but since we came back from the lockdown everything had been going well in training and friendlies until last Sunday when Crumlin came to Hadden Park in our first Leinster Senior League game since football resumed. It turned out to be a bad day at the office and we lost 4-0.
“May’be we were a bit relaxed and made too many mistakes in the game but remember Crumlin are a quality side with some fine players. During the week we had a good chat and the lads know we just can’t afford to make the same mistakes against Ringmahon.
“On our way to the semi final we have defeated good sides like Kilbarrack United, Glebe North, Cork side Castleview and Kilnamanagh and Ringmahon are up there with the best at this level and they will be difficult opponents but I’d love to get to the final for the lads and particularly for those in the club who put so much work into it off the field “ explained Howlett.
Apart from influential midfielder Mick Kelly suspended after been sent off against Kilnamanagh and Sam Burgess cup tied Howlett will have a full squad to select from on Saturday.
He’s well aware that Ringmahon will prove difficult opponents particularly on their home ground but with the game an all ticket affair and limited to 200 including both team squads and match officials they may miss what is always a strong and very vociferous band of supporters.
Before the Munster Senior League brought their season to a close Ringmahon were poised to make a strong challenge for the top title and with players of the quality and experience of goalkeeper Eric Grimes who had a spell with Leeds United, Anthony McAlavey, Dean Swords and Darren Murphy they could give Howlett’s side plenty of problems.
Along the way to the last four Ringmahon have knocked out Carrigaline, Park Celtic, Bangor Celtic all by 2-1 while Colleges Corinthians were edged out 1-0 in the quarter final.
Howlett will be hoping that after his Brighton cup semi final experience history might repeat itself and he can finally take Killester Donnycarney into an Intermediate Cup final in the competition that ranks only behind the FAI Senior Cup in Irish football.