THE reality for St Patrick's Athletic and Bohemians is that the fate of their season could rest on what unfolds in their FAI Ford Cup quarter final at Richmond Park tonight. In truth, it's a game that neither manager can afford to lose.
With sizeable budgets at their disposal, results are expected of Sean Connor and John McDonnell and failing to qualify for Europe or even the Setanta Cup is still a possibility for both parties should this tie go against them. The price of defeat could be very costly.
For Connor, that is particularly the case as his charges enter this game in sixth place in the Premier Division table. Sure, they have a League Cup final on the horizon against Derry City, but it's dubious to suggest that a win there would salvage their season if this encounter marked the end of their FAI Cup journey.
The cup competitions have been kind to the Belfast man this season and drawn attention away from their inauspicious league position so he desperately needs their interest in the Blue Riband to be maintained. With the Bohs board having put their faith in him with a three year contract, it's stretching it to suggest his job could be on the line with a negative result this evening.
For St Pat's and McDonnell, the position is slightly more complex. They're still in a healthy enough League position in third spot but they have stuttered after a thrilling start to the campaign.
While catching leaders Drogheda United looks unlikely, they're still within touching distance of second spot which would represent an acceptable return.
However, the flip side is that Shamrock Rovers have been more consistent in recent weeks and Cork City are also beginning to creep up on them. They could just as easily be squeezed out of the equation and that could pose problems for McDonnell's long term security.
The investment of Garrett Kelleher and arrival of a new board in addition to Brian Kerr's return as Director of Football has dramatically increased expectations at Richmond Park.
Despite the regime change off the park, McDonnell has remained in situ throughout, but it's natural that such transition will bring questions about his stewardship.
To fend off that threat he needs to deliver and, with League title hopes now looking forlorn, the cup is the only remaining chance of success from this year.
There are parallels between the pressures that both Connor and McDonnell have been under this year.
Both are in charge at clubs whose financial turnarounds are public knowledge. They have signed high-profile players, which backs up the belief that they are operating with budgets far superior to some of their rivals.
The argument that both managers will make -- and it's a fair point -- is that the new signings will not click overnight and this year should be regarded as a period of transition. Alas, the counter point is that the League is a weak one after the implosion of Shelbourne and the downturn at Derry.
A cheaply assembled and still effectively part-time Shamrock Rovers team challenging for top spot has succeeded in embarrassing and heaping scrutiny onto their Dublin rivals, much as they would fail to admit it.
So this is why the cup is important. With Drogheda and Rovers long since departed and holders and cup specialists Derry dumped out by UCD on Friday, the semi-finals line-up currently comprises the Students, Longford and the winners of the Waterford/Cork replay tomorrow.