Standing in their way, though, is a well-drilled Ashgold side that is bent on ending a difficult season strongly: unbeaten in their last five matches in all competitions, and having lost just one of their last nine.
Based on their form, Ashgold would’ve been favourites against any of the other top-flight teams — just not against an opponent that ranks as the very best the division has to offer.
Under head coach Samuel Boadu, Hearts have not only mastered the art of getting results; they’ve also cultivated the habit of being ruthless when need be.
Hearts finished the just-ended league season with the most wins, fewest defeats (joint with Asante Kotoko), and the most goals scored. Impressively, they have also not conceded in each of their last three FA Cup matches.
Theirs is a winning machine unfazed by any opposition, and to think that they routed Medeama 3-0 in the semi-final without the talismanic Salifu Ibrahim and buccaneering Emmanuel Nettey typifies the team’s depth in quality.
Hearts are so good and so unpredictable that their goals are spread across the pitch. Forwards Daniel Afriyie Barnie and Kojo Obeng Junior have been the team’s main suppliers, but even the likes of Benjamin Afutu — usually stationed deep in midfield — have also contributed vital strikes to this amazing run.
Ashgold have done very well to come this far, but Hearts are a cut above everyone else right now and would be tough — if not nigh on impossible — to beat, especially on a turf that they are thoroughly familiar with.
ASHGOLD AREN’T FAVOURITES, BUT THEY PROBABLY WANT THIS MORE
Up until this point, Ashgold hadn’t had a very memorable season.
They finished the league campaign mid-table, winning only one of their last five games, and even that exception — a 7-0 final-day trouncing of already-relegated Inter Allies — wasn’t so convincing.
But even at a time when Ashgold [and Allies] are under investigation for alleged match-fixing, the upcoming FA Cup final presents an opportunity to emerge, even if only momentarily, from underneath the dark cloud that currently hangs over the club.
And they do look very capable of securing that silver lining. For all their troubles in the league, the Aboakese have been absolutely rampant in the FA Cup. In each of their last three games in the competition, Ashgold put four goals past their opponents — Aduana Stars (Round of 16), Kintampo Top Talents (quarter-finals), and Berekum Chelsea (semi-finals) — and would fancy their chances of finishing the job.
They’d feel pretty confident about doing just that against Hearts — a team Ashgold haven’t lost to in their last few meetings — regardless of the Phobians‘ purple patch. Flipping through their annals, too, Ashgold can find even more inspiration in their quest to win a major trophy for the first time since 2015.
They do have fond memories of the FA Cup, having reached its final for the first time in 1984, while still a lower-tier club; with that singular feat, Ashgold (Goldfields, as they were then known) announced themselves to the rest of the country.
Nearly a decade later, just before kicking off a run of three straight league titles, they’d win the FA Cup as their first significant piece of silverware. The only other time Ashgold have reached the final was in 2012, losing painfully to local [and far less illustrious] rivals New Edubiase.
On Sunday, then, Thomas Duah’s team would be driven by a sense of purpose on multiple fronts: a mission to write another memorable chapter in a competition that features so prominently in their history, soothe what remains of the pain from nine years ago, and sign off a tough season with a flourish.