This coming weekend sees what is arguably the greatest festival of high profile knockout football matches ever witnessed in Westport as Westport United host a hat trick of national quarter finals at United Park on both Saturday and Sunday in what are three compelling, difficult and must watch matches and all are likely to attract record numbers to United Park and it is hoped that all matches will be streamed live on the Westport United Facebook page, and that would also likely attract record numbers tuning in as the greater Westport diaspora and general football supporters would be tuning in from places as far flung as Australia, United States, Canada, New Zealand, Dubai, Denmark, Germany but to name a few as well as around Ireland and the UK.
The first match in Saturday's double bill is the Skechers SFAI U.13 Cup quarter final against Kildare outfit, Leixlip United with Westport taking on the favourites to win the competition. Westport United reached this stage with a 3-1 win against Clonee United, surpassing their last 16 feat of last season and their opponents reached this stage courtesy of an excellent 5-2 away win over Shamrock Rovers. The winners of this tie face an away trip to either Carrigaline United in Cork or Tramore AFC in Waterford. This will be a very tough challenge for Westport and they will need to be at their very best to reach the semi final of the competiton. Kick off at United Park this Saturday is at 12:30 with a huge crowd expected and the lads will be looking forward to your support.
In the second game, it is the U.14s that will be looking to reach the semi final for the second time in three seasons when this particular group of players met Saturday's opponents, Shamrock Rovers in the penultimate stage of the U.12 competition in Dublin. Shamrock Rovers won the match 4-0 but it was an unfair reflection on Westport's display that day, when they really made life difficult for their illustrious Dublin opponents. Westport United reached this point with a huge win away to Kilcullen AFC last weekend while Shamrock Rovers defeated Duleek AFC from Meath 3-1. The winners of this tie face an away trip to a potential trio of teams with tournament favourites, St Kevin's Boys, Clare's Shannon Town or famous Dublin nursery outfit, Belvedere FC, whom the lads actually defeated in the Sports Park at U.12 level lying in wait. Like the U.13 game, this game will be a very tough challenge for the Westport lads and they will need to produce a very special performance on Saturday to reach the last four. Kick off at United Park is at 2:30 and there will be a large crowd in attendance like the U.13 encounter and the lads will be delighted to see you all getting behind the team.
Sunday sees the biggest home match for Westport United in 50 years as Westport United play in their third FAI Junior Cup quarter final in 16 years and in the previous encounters,Westport United lost 4-3 on penalties to Southend United in Waterford on 24th March 2003 after a 1-1 draw and then defeated Killester United 1-0 on 6th March 2005 with Vinny O'Malley getting the winner.
Westport United's last home quarter final in the FAI Junior Cup was in March 1969 when upwards of one third of the town's population was in attendance at the Sports Park to see Westport United pulling off a sensational giant killing act when they defeated one of the favourites to win the FAI Junior Cup outright, Hoganville from Dublin 2-1 after extra time (ties went to a replay in those days). Tony Browne (grandfather of current Westport United footballers, James O'Donnell and Darren Browne) scored in normal time while Johnny McNally's extra time winner was greeted by a mass pitch invasion to mob the match winner just after he scored the all important goal.
Westport United welcome Aisling Annacotty to United Park in what promises to be a very tough, tight FAI Junior Cup contest between a transitional side that has discovered a lot of new found belief in the competition and opponents that have been doing remarkably well in the competition in recent seasons. While it would be somehow ridiculous to compare some old stats to this emerging team backboned by some decorated veterans that have won everything that could be won, Westport United has a good record against Limerick clubs in the more recent meetings in the FAI Junior Cup. They defeated Ballynanty Rovers 1-0 in 2003 and that was followed by a 3-0 win against Pike Rovers in 2005 followed by a re-fixed match against Carew Park the same year and Westport United also won 2-0 but this information counts for absolutely nothing on Sunday. United advanced to this stage fo the competition with a memorable 6-5 penalty shootout win against Peake Villa in Thurles while Aisling Annacotty dismissed the challenge of Ballymun FC in Dublin with a 1-0 win and as anybody knows, Limerick sides have a consistent pedigree of taking on top clubs around the country in their own backyards and beating them. In the latest odds with Paddy Powers, Westport United are quoted at 12/1 to win the tournament outright while Aisling Annacotty are priced at 16/1 but as we have seen already, betting odds counts for absolutely nothing and despite what the bookies might want you to believe, Westport United are truly underdogs in this tie.
Since the win against Peake Villa, United has been traing hard and preparing intensely for this huge clash and there is no doubt that United have their homework done on Sunday's opponents. The players have remained focused and disciplined on the task ahead and any injuries or knocks that the players are suffering from is currently being worked on and the intensity of the work behind the scenes is professional in nature as United look to leave no stone unturned to get the job done as efficiently as possible.
Kick off is at 2:00 on Sunday and a record crowd is expected to attend United Park and the players, management and coaching staff will all be delighted to see you all there. Also we encourage our supporters to really get behind the players on Sunday with a lot of noise and colour and make it a right carnival atmosphere to bring the best out of the lads.