Even should Cabinteely go no further in this seasons First Division play-offs campaign the Dublin club have already created history. Having only joined the League of Ireland in 2015, Cabo’s 4th place finish this season was not only their best ever League of Ireland finish but it was also the first time the club had achieved qualification for the end of season play-offs. Having finished 4th, Cabinteely were at the disadvantage of playing away from home against 3rd placed Longford Town in the first stage of this drawn out play-off process but after a dramatic penalty shoot out in the Midlands last week Cabinteely overcame that disadvantage but will have to do likewise against this seasons First Division runners up Drogheda United.
While Longford Town were even money favorites to get past Cabinteely last Friday, De Town’s eventual elimination came as no real surprise to followers of the second tier given Longford had failed to defeat Cabinteely in any of their 4 previous meetings this term.
However, such stats will not apply when Pat Devlin’s underdogs host Tim Clancy’s Drogheda with the County Louth side hammering Cabo 5-0 at this venue in May. This was far from a one sided fixture during the regular season however, as Cabinteely comprehensively won the first meeting 4-1 in Drogheda before the sides drew 0-0 in the final head to head showdown at United Park in July.
There has been much talk of whether Drogheda United’s second place finish this season has actually yielded them an advantage for this play-off tie given the fact the Drogs have not played a competitive game since their 4-1 defeat on the final day of the regular season away to Bray Wanderers on September 21st. While that result was largely down to Tim Clancy ringing the changes given his side had already secured their play-off place it does raise question marks over Drogheda’s march sharpness.
Meanwhile, Cabinteely have come through two ultra-competitive games against top opposition in Longford Town with the second of those meetings going to extra time and then penalties. Looking back to last year’s play-off campaign it was the runner up who eventually ending up being promoted as Finn Harps picked off a Drogheda side who had been involved in a hell for leather showdown with Shelbourne so on history at least it certainly does suggest Drogheda’s freshness should come into play here.
However, Cabinteely are an extremely well organised side who will take breaking down so should United show any signs of ring rust you wouldn’t expect Cabo to give their opponents anything easy.
Despite only finishing a single point clear of Cabinteely this season, Drogheda United scored an incredible 20 goals more their this Friday’s hosts with Tim Clancy’s side the divisions top goal scorers with 59 strikes in 27 matches.
Cabinteely however, did have a much better defence record than Drogheda, conceding just over a goal a game (28 goals in 27 games) with the Drogs shipping 36 goals in the league in 2019.
Throw in the fact both teams handed each other a hammering this year with a scoreless draw the outcome of their most recent meeting and you get the feeling this play-off tie may play out a long the lines of the Cabinteely v Longford ties with defences on top and nerves getting the better of some of the players.
In saying that, Drogheda United were the only side to run Shelbourne close to the title this year and the Louth club possess a fantastic ability to carve out goal scoring opportunities from all over the pitch which in my eyes gives them the slight edge over this very rigid Cabo side who in truth struggled to create opportunities over the two legs against Longford despite emerging victorious.