Drogheda United manager Mick Cooke reckons his team will need to hit a European level of performance if they are to overcome Sligo Rovers in tomorrow’s 2013 FAI Cup final at the Aviva Stadium (3.30pm).
In July, Drogheda held Malmo scoreless in Tallaght in a first leg Europa League tie before pushing their opponents all the way in a 2- 0 defeat in the second leg in Sweden.
“Sligo are massive favourites and I certainly think we’ll have to have a performance on a par with the ones against Malmo,” says Cooke. “I think we could have won the game here and over there it took until the 93rd minute before they killed us off. I think we need to perform to that level on Sunday.”
While Drogheda have been no more than middling in the league this season, they have enjoyed better fortunes in the cup competitions — up to the finals, at least. Twice, they have finished as runners-up to Shamrock Rovers, the first a painful 7-1 demolition in the Setanta Cup, the second a more respectable but still disappointing 2-0 loss in the EA Sports Cup final.
However, facing into the biggest cup final of them all, Cooke doesn’t believe the occasion got the better of his players in either game
“I don’t think so, we beat Rovers in the League Cup final last year,” he points out. “The first final this year, anything that could have gone wrong did go wrong and I think that game could have ended 10-6. When you look at the mistakes that we made at the back, nothing worked out for us on the day.
“The second one was more even but I’ve said to them, this is the blue riband — let the women go off and buy their new dresses, whatever they want to do, let them enjoy the occasion. For us, I’m trying to instil in the players’ minds that it’s just another game.”
With Cooke seeming to be on the way out in controversial circumstances at Drogheda, he admits he initially feared his precarious position might prove an unwelcome distraction, but pays tribute to his players for the focus they have shown in reaching the biggest stage in the domestic game.
“When it did come to light, that was my great fear,” he says. “That people would say, ‘well if Mick isn’t going to be here next year, where are we going?’ At this stage last year I think I had six or seven players signed for the following seasons. Players want to know where they’re going, they’re human beings and all have commitments — mortgages, bills to pay — and football money is a great help to everybody.
“It’s not awkward for me — I’ve no club to sign players for. Hopefully I will have a club in the near future to sign players for. It certainly leaves Drogheda…unless they’re working behind my back to sign players, I don’t know. But it’s not my business any more. As my father would say, lord be good to him, it’s another chapter in the book. I’ll just move on.” But not before he might bow out on a high. Indeed, the question arises as to whether his situation at the club could change on the back of a famous win tomorrow.
“Certainly, if we win there’ll be a few days before anything is done,” Cooke laughs. “I won’t be in a fit state — and that’s being honest — to discuss anything! And I’ll let rip twice as much if we get beaten.
“But I’m not looking for revenge on anyone,” he adds in serious tones, “I’m too long in the game. I’ll talk to anybody. If they don’t want talk to me that’s their problem. But certainly it’s given me and the players that little bit of extra gist to go out and prove people wrong. We’re not going out with that in mind but I think at a quarter past five on Sunday if we have the cup it will be a bonus.”
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