Been having a look at the FAI Cup Outright market with my Pats scarf off and my gambling hat on.

2014 FAI Cup – Best Odds (2nd Round opponent in italics)
Pats 4/1 (Ladbrokes) – Away to Pats CY
Rovers 9/2 (Ladbrokes) – Away to Sheriff YC
Cork 13/2 (Boylesports/Paddy Power) – Home to St Mochtas
Dundalk 8/1 (Boylesports) – Home to Sligo
Sligo 9/1 (Bet365) – Away to Dundalk
Derry 12/1 (Bet365) – Away to Cobh
Limerick 33/1 (Bet365) – Home to Bohs
Bray 40/1 (Bet365) – Away to Wexford Youths
Drogs 40/1 (Bet365) – Home to Cockhill Celtic
Bohs 50/1 (Bet365) – Away to Limerick
50/1 bar

Obviously the prices reflect the difficulty of ties each team faces in this weekend’s Second Round ties.

Starting with us, tonight should be straightforward but as a gambler you just couldn’t take 4/1 about any team with a Final record like ours to win the thing.

To a degree the same could be said of Rovers – our wretched luck in the competition has taken attention off the fact that they haven’t won the Cup since leaving Milltown and have lost three finals in that time, all of which they fancied themselves to win. Added to that is the fact that they appear to lack quality beyond their first 11 which will probably become a bigger factor as the season wears on.

Cork will get through this round without fuss but I’d expect that progress against the better fancied teams will hinge very much on them getting home advantage and winning first time out. The law of averages says they won’t keep getting draws like that. Even if they did make the Final I reckon they lack the big match experience to win it.

There’s a very real possibility this year’s winners will come from tonight’s clash at Oriel. Sligo have established themselves as the Cup kings in recent years but will face as tough a task as they’ve ever had in this competition to survive beyond this round. Their away form in the league has been uncharacteristically poor (more losses than wins so far) and they took a fair tanking on the plastic pitch just a couple of weeks back. While it could be argued that the fact their season (domestically at least) probably hinges on tonight will be a motivating factor, it’s just as likely to heap pressure on them.

As for Dundalk, it’s very hard to make a good case for opposing them right now. At this midpoint of the league they’ve definitely looked the best side so far and have won their last six league games by an aggregate score of 27-3. Obviously they’ve got a tougher task than the other leading contenders on paper but that’s been factored into the price – actually, over factored into the price IMO. They’re a shade of odds-on in most places to win tonight and should they do so they’ll probably be installed as favourites to win the competition outright. Unlike ourselves or to a lesser extent Rovers, they’ve no ‘Cup curse’ sitting on their backs and the experience of playing in this year’s Setanta Cup Final should stand to them were they to make the Aviva. There’s clearly a divergence of opinion among odds compilers on how to price them – Bet365 and Ladbrokes have them as short as 5/1, while Boylesports are sticking their necks out at 8/1. Obviously backing them now carries the live risk that your bet will be in the bin by 10 O’ Clock this evening but at 8/1 I think the potential reward (of getting 8/1 about the favourites) more than justifies the risk. They'd be my selection at the prices.

Nobody beyond them makes much appeal to me at present. Were Mick Cooke to go back to Drogs as some have speculated he might, the 40/1 about them might be worth an each way shot given how well they performed in the Cups under him in his first spell there.

Oh and anybody about to ascend their “I couldn’t bet against Pats because I love them more than you” high horse, save it for elsewhere. You’re in Gambloria now, this is strictly business.