Peter Lennon says his Wayside Celtic side are “going into the lion’s den” as they face holders Maynooth University Town in the last 32 of the FAI Intermediate Cup on Friday night.
Just two points separate the sides at the top of an LSL Sunday Senior 1 section that is pitching up to host one of the tightest promotion battles in recent years.
Wayside have lost just once this season after enduring a rough couple of years that saw them lose their top-flight status in 2017.
Last season saw them endure a horror start that saw them head into Christmas with just 11 points, but they’ve lost just three times in almost a year since.
Maynooth, who were only promoted to the second tier for the first time this season, are unbeaten this year and are the league’s top scorers with 24 from ten games.
“They’re the holders, and they’re unbeaten since they won it,” Wayside manager Peter Lennon told the Dublin Gazette.
“They drew with us up in our place at the beginning of the year. Looking at the league table, there are only two points between us. It’s tight – too tough to call.
“We’re going into the lion’s den really. It’s a cup game – a one-off game – and we’ll see what happens. We’re going in at full strength.”
Wayside are regulars at this level of the competition – they’ve reached the last 32 in three of the last four seasons – and have won it three times, most recently in 2005.
Cup success has fringe benefits too – the last 16 enter the preliminary round of the FAI Cup with a chance of a money-spinning tie with a League of Ireland side.
“I’m looking for our players to experience a run or maybe get into the latter stages, where you get into the FAI Cup. We’ve done it before over the years and done very well.
“It’s a great experience for these players, especially the players who have never done it. It all adds to their experience and, going forward, it doesn’t do them any harm.”
Regardless of the outcome of Friday night’s game, the main aim for both teams this season will be promotion.
A huge turnover of players made that too difficult an ask last year as Lennon’s young squad learned the tough realities of men’s football.
Now, with experienced heads like Caleb Murray and Ross Zambra to supplement the younger players, they’re looking to secure top-level football once more.
“The side is evolving now and to get back in the senior division, we’d compete well enough there.
“Everybody wants to win the league but, realistically, if you’re in the top three you’ve got your promotion. We’re in that now.
“Traditionally we come back well after Christmas. Last year we went on an 11-game unbeaten run, but it just came too late.
“Last year going into Christmas we had only 11 points – this year we have 24.”