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Seventeen year wait for Cup Final about to end for Waterford FC?

It's been twelve years since Waterford were last in a cup semi-final. A 76th-minute goal from Matthew Blinkhorn was enough to dash Deise hopes that day at the Showgrounds, with Sligo Rovers advancing to the final; ultimately being beaten by Sporting Fingal in the Tallaght Stadium on the last day.

Since then, the club has gone through seven managers, the club has changed names, changed owners, and gone through a global pandemic. Now they face the challenge of Boh's at Dalymount where one good performance is all that's needed to book their place in the final.

2021 began with a former Irish great taking the helm in what would be a low ebb in the club's history. Issues on and off the field affected results with the consensus best keeper in the league benched for off-field matters.

In March, following a brief spell where the academy chief took charge for an ill-fated game of men versus boys at the RSC, Marc Bircham; a former QPR, Milwall, and Canada midfielder took charge seemingly out of the Blue. The usual League of Ireland stalwart names had been bandied about, but the London native came to Waterford, completed his quarantine, and took charge of a team who were in the doldrums.

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The air around the performances has gone through a drastic change since the start of the year. Some series' of games have shown what the team can be capable of and the manager has shown a disdain for anything but players giving their all but on and off the field of play.

While the fight to remain alive in the Premier Division remains, the FAI Cup campaign has been one of the highlights of the year.

A first-round thriller against Athlone Town ended up with eight goals scored and the sides deadlocked on four-a-piece. Penalties were needed to ensure passage to the second round.

Kilnamagh lined up against the Blues in round two for what would be a routine 4-1 drubbing at the RSC where John Martin, Cameron Evans and Phoenix Patterson all bulged the back of the net.

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The quarter-final against UCD wasn't as simple and while the Blues boss had spent the weeks around that march bemoaning the standard of officiating, the rub of the green went his way that night. 3-2 was the score by the time the whistle went and his side were in an FAI Cup semi-final for the first time since 2009.

Defender Greg Halford was still wet behind the ears in his Waterford tenure when the wild ride in Athlone played out and what a game to get your introduction to life as a Blue.

Definitely made it hard for ourselves. The Athlone game was my debut. 4-4 and penalties is everything that a neutral looks for in a cup game. It's not great to play in but I'm sure it was good to watch. Then obviously UCD was a tough game you know; they have their way of playing and you know it's effective and we found it difficult at the beginning.

With no league cup to be played this year, goalkeeper Brian Murphy, who as mentioned had an unpleasant start to 2021 says that the opportunity at hand with the cup is one that they can't let slip through their fingers.

It's getting the chance to play in the Aviva in front of a big crowd and win a cup you know it's all about winning. I wouldn't care where we played the game if we won it. We have a tough semi-final to get through. They're going to be a good team and they've done well this year as well. They're probably not in the best form but you know, we got to go out and match them and give it a go.

When Boh's last lifted the cup in 2008, Murphy lined out for the Dublin side who claimed the cup 4-2 on penalties.

It's been a long time for them so they'll be eager to get into the final anyway. Look there are no guarantees at the end of the day; we'll go up there and give it a shot. The cup is special, especially semi-finals. It'll be a good atmosphere up there, I imagine it'll be a full house for what they can take. It'll be good. Look we'll go up and give it a shot and if we can get into a cup final and a day out in the Aviva it'd be brilliant.

With the clock now ticking until kick-off in Dalymount, eyes turn to recent form and what side looks best placed to advance. In Boh's last ten outings, they've won four, drawn three, and lost two; and all the while have not kept a clean sheet in six games. On the other side of the coin, the Blues have won six, drawn two, and lost two and kept one clean sheet in six. There most recent results saw Waterford smash Finn Harps 4-1 at the RSC, while Boh's drew 1-1 with Shamrock Rovers.

The form would indicate that Bircham's team have the minerals to get the job done and book their place in the Aviva, but Keith Long's Gypsies won't lie down and wait to be beaten. The manager will be hoping that the currently in-form Phoenix Patterson can keep his shooting boots on for at least one more week.

Here's hoping that the result can be routine, it only for stress levels of the fans who will be in attendance.

Tomorrow's game will be live on WLR thanks to McConnell's Toyota Waterford, with Ray Scott and Matt Keane on commentary.

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