Inside League of Ireland: Tallaght set for epic Setanta Sports Cup final

Dundalk and Sligo Rovers face off in the final of the all-Ireland competition with both teams aiming to win the trophy for the first time
DUNDALK AND SLIGO ROVERS SET TO MAKE HISTORY

Saturday's 2014 Setanta Sports Cup Final will see a new winner lift the trophy in its ninth season. Although the competition has been suffering in recent years due to lower prize money and scheduling issues, the winner-takes-all clash to bring down the curtain on this year's tournament promises to be an exciting encounter.

BARACLOUGH AIMING TO ADD SILVERWARE
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Two in-form sides meet at Tallaght Stadium as Dundalk and Sligo Rovers come head-to-head. Last season's showdown was a disappointment as Shamrock Rovers steamrolled Drogheda United in the final, but this year's event will be much more even.

Stephen Kenny has yet to win silverware with Dundalk, despite turning them into one of the most exciting teams in the League of Ireland. The experienced manager will want to guide the Lilywhites to the trophy, which could be a catalyst for a successful title challenge.

Dundalk currently sit at the top of the SSE Airtricity Premier Division, and their slick attacking football is exciting fans around the country.

In the other dugout, Ian Baraclough has helped fill the trophy cabinet at the Showgrounds, and looks to add the Setanta Sports Cup to the league and FAI Cup trophies he has lifted in his first two seasons with the Bit o' Red.

Sligo's slow start to the season had some calling for Baraclough's head, but the 43-year-old has turned things around despite the loss of some key members of his squad.

Fans at the neutral venue in Tallaght will be treated to a classic encounter, that could easily go down as the best Setanta Sports Cup final to date,

FIRST DIVISION SIDES ADD TO THE EA SPORTS CUP

The quarter-final draw of the EA Sports Cup draw sees Wexford Youths take on Galway, meaning that the last four will include at least one SSE Airtricity First Division side. Longford Town also remain in the competition after defeating Mervue United in their second round clash.

Having these teams in the tournament is good for the clubs themselves, as it gives the fans a chance to see their teams take on different opponents than their usual second tier opposition, while it also adds a different dimension and energy to the competition itself.

Dundalk played a completely changed XI for their win over Bray Wanderers, meaning different players also get the chance to make an impact, but the successes of the three First Division sides has made this League of Ireland Cup much more than a distraction from the league.

SPLIT-LEAGUE IDEA HAS MERITS

Sean O Murchu of TheLOIBlog has posited the idea of splitting the league at the midway stage along the lines of the Scottish Premiership, with the top half separating from the bottom half to make the title race and relegation battles more interesting.

A split league would mean that some of the midtable sides would have more to play for in the final weeks, but would also make it much more difficult for fans to plan which games to attend as the fixtures would not be finalised until the summer.

This could also increase travelling expenses for clubs as they could not book transportation or accommodation until much nearer the scheduled match date. However, any proposal that brings more fans through the turnstiles should be considered.