The biggest game in the history of Rush Athletic awaits in just over two weeks as the Fingal club welcome Donegal club Greencastle in the last 16 of the FAI Junior Cup.
A 3-1 away win over Villa of Waterford on Sunday afternoon saw Rush reach uncharted territory as they reached the last 16 for the first time ever.
Rush have been as far as the last 32 before – fittingly with a win over Greencastle – but three successive title wins see the club transformed and on the brink of intermediate football.
They currently top LSL Sunday Major 1, ahead of heavyweights Sheriff YC, who have won four of the last seven FAI Junior Cups, and Usher Celtic, who meet at Grangegorman in the last 16.
However, much the same can be said about the club from Inishowen, who underlined their credentials by knocking out holders St Michael’s, winning 2-1 after extra time.
“There’s no doubt about it [it’s the biggest game in the club’s history],” chairman Adrian Kelly told Dublin Gazette.
“As a chairman, I’m very, very proud of the lads who’ve got this far. We’ve made history now, so now it’s up to us to keep re-writing it.
“They’ve been on to me already asking have we got any better. And we have gotten better because we’ve won all the leagues since.
“On our day, we’re good enough to beat anyone in that draw. We have guys who can score goals, and we’re going to give it a go and enjoy it.”
Rush, who have signed defender Luke Ring from Drogheda United, saw off the challenge of Villa in testing conditions on Sunday, sealing the tie in injury time as Villa pushed to force extra time. A brace from Barry McAllister, either side of a Brian Gillen strike, saw Declan Whyte’s side to victory despite Danny Walsh pulling one back late on.
The visitors took the lead just before the break as a long ball from Dylan Kelly picked out striker McAllister to slot the ball home.
McAllister set up Gillen for the second 20 minutes from time before Walsh pulled one back from a corner and, with Villa pushing an equaliser, McAllister made sure of the win in added time.
While Greencastle have requested the game be played on Saturday, February 1 so they can stay over in Dublin, the tie is likely to go ahead on Rush’s usual Sunday matchday.
“You could see on social media our travelling support – it was amazing. We’re going to have three times or four times that at home. The atmosphere will be fantastic – it’ll be a carnival atmosphere.
“We’ll enjoy it. The whole town is going to enjoy it, and the young kids will get out and support it. I was very nervous. I couldn’t believe it at the draw – I was very nervous waiting on us to come out.
“Once I heard us come out first, it was lovely. I didn’t care who it was [we got]. The preparations start now and I have to get home and start making phone calls!”