To say Patsy Freyne is fond of the FAI Senior Cup would be doing his passion for the competition a disservice writes Peter McNamara.
Basically, his grá for the cup superseded that of any other competition as a player.
Freyne, of course, won the cup with Cork City in the 1997/98 season.
Following a scoreless final encounter with Shelbourne at Dalymount Park, Derek Coughlan famously notched a replay winner for City in a 1-0 victory.
That occasion represented City’s first time earning that particular piece of silverware.
Reflecting, Freyne pinpoints that night in the capital as an obvious career highlight.
Grinning, the man from the northside of Cork city recalled one moment in that showdown that remains vivid in his mind.
“It’s funny looking back now on the ’98 final,” Freyne began to explain, in a banter-filled manner. “At the time, Pat Morley was playing with Shels, the great player that he was.
“I remember Pat being out injured in the run-up to the final. Damien Richardson, though, in a kinda ‘last throw of the dice’ move, put Pat on.
“It was coming to the end of the game and we were obviously 1-0 up at the time. There was about five or 10 minutes left and on comes Morley.
“Shels got a corner with a few minutes to go and I was at the back post.
“Pat was lurking in the box and all of a sudden the verbals thrown his way from our lads you couldn’t print in a family newspaper.
“I can’t really tell you what we were saying to him.
“Put it this way, though, if he had scored to deny a Cork team the cup I don’t know if he’d have made it home.
“A Corkman denying us the cup? Jees, that wouldn’t have gone down well. And we made sure he knew it.
“Jokes aside, Pat came back to us the following season and we had the craic about it afterwards. Morley was one of the greatest players to ever grace the League of Ireland and he’s a top, top fella.
“Those were great times though. That was an amazing night for the club, winning the cup for the first time. A breakthrough.”
The former midfield maestro nowadays, as a City supporter, retains a particular interest in the cup.
“I always had this thing for the FAI Cup, actually.
“Even being involved in the earlier rounds gave me this kinda unique buzz.
“There was always more media attention when it came to the cup and I always just enjoyed that definitive buzz.
“Even last year, at the final, being on the terraces, I just wanted to be out on the pitch. Obviously, it was great to be among the supporters, but the buzz to have been out on that pitch… it’s a really outstanding competition,” he said.
Freyne will return to Aviva Stadium this Sunday to support City as John Caulfield’s men attempt to deny Dundalk back-to-back league and cup doubles.
The Rebel Army will be out in force again in the hope Stephen Kenny’s side will finally be defeated in a truly major collision between the teams.
Yet, Freyne understands the magnitude of the task at-hand for the Leesiders.
“The Cork City supporters are genuinely the best in the country. And they would deserve to enjoy a victory on Sunday.
“What Dundalk are achieving at the moment though is incredible and it’ll take a monumental performance from the first 11 and the subs that go in to beat them.
“I have to say, I get a kick out of watching Dundalk play.
“There’s a lot of talk lately regarding whether or not they are the greatest League of Ireland team of all-time but it’s tough to really say.
“I played against the Shamrock Rovers team of the 80s, the one that won four leagues in a row and three out of four cup finals.
“At the moment, for me, that Rovers side would still be the best team ever. But if Dundalk keep going as they are they’ll obviously then be running them close,” he opined.
Kenny’s credentials as a manager were never in question, either. Still, his CV these days is a beacon for all that is positive about a present-day coach.
Freyne has plenty of time for the Lilywhites’ boss.
“Stephen’s record speaks for itself. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him a few times. He’s an unassuming, quietly-spoken man but clearly a very deep thinker of the game.
“Actually, I can’t speak highly enough of him.
“He has that elusive knack of piecing a group together and getting the best out of that collective then.
“A few years ago he managed to take a Longford team going nowhere to cup finals. He’s constantly proving himself.
“John (Caulfield) the same though with City. Both are doing remarkable jobs really,” Freyne stressed.
Nevertheless, were City to triumph on Sunday, Freyne foresees further silverware residing on Leeside in the near future.
“Winning your first major trophy is the hardest. If City win this they could go on and win more silverware,” he added.