Richardson still stirred by magic of cup

While certain nuances of the game may have changed, it’s still all about the players and the people around them, according to Damien Richardson who is revelling being back in football again.

Richardson still stirred by magic of cup

And having been involved in seven finals as a player and manager — winning five of them — the FAI Cup will always hold a special appeal to the Dubliner who has returned after a seven-year hiatus.

“The feelings never go away. They lie dormant but they’re always there,” said Richardson as he prepares Drogheda United, last year’s beaten finalists, for their quarter-final tie with Derry City at United Park on Friday.

“Until the day you die you’re a footballer. I still miss playing dreadfully, and it’s a ridiculous thing to be saying at my age, but I’d love to be still playing,” added the 67-year-old who last won the Blue Riband while in charge of Cork City in 2007.

“I can’t be a footballer [now], but I can maybe guide them,” he added of his somewhat unexpected renaissance with Drogheda.

“That’s the best involvement I can have. Over the years, the last seven or eight years, I’ve turned down quite a few offers, but I knew each time I turned something down my hopes of coming back were receding.

“When this one came up, I knew that if I said “no” that would be “no” forever.

“You get the little grá, the inkling, but you need an offer and when it did happen I said yes.

“Although the game has changed, in ways it’s still the same. It’s still about people, about players.

“Styles and attitudes have changed, but the game has still got the same demands, the same challenges, the same rewards and same heartbreak.

“It’s great to be back in the dressing room, which is perhaps the most sacred place of all.”

With 11 points from seven league games since taking charge in July having steered them clear of relegation, the FAI Ford Cup could now define Drogheda’s season.

“Initially, when I came in, the cup wasn’t relevant. Relegation had to be avoided, but in the intervening weeks, that’s receded greatly, so the cup now becomes the essential focus of the season,” said Richardson.

“You get to the quarter-finals and you start thinking, ‘Win here and we’re in the semis, and then anything can happen’, so in many ways it’s the most important round.

“That’s probably the great attraction of Friday’s fixtures. If you get a good draw in the quarter-finals, and then in the semi-finals as well, there’s a good few shillings coming in that makes everyone’s heart a littler happier.

“So outside of the final, this is probably the most important period of the cup.”

Appointed until the end of the season, the former Republic of Ireland international says he doesn’t know what will happen then.

Richardson regards Darius Kierans and Neale Fenn, the club’s coaches, very highly and has enjoyed his role in the management set-up.

“I find that what I’m doing now is moving my ego aside and giving them the head and hopefully encouraging them and channelling them in a way. That’s something new for me and I find that very satisfactory.

“Neither of them could manage next year because they’ve not got the qualifications.

“So, unless someone comes in from outside…

“I suppose there’s an attraction [to stay on] in that I could be a guide to those two and say it’s a natural bridge for the club because there aren’t many options out there.”

n* Ford are calling on all Irish football fans to vote for their ‘New Focus Man of the Round’ at facebook.com/FordIreland. Every person who votes will be entered into a draw for prizes, including fuel vouchers and a HD 3DTV.

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