FAI FORD CUP FINAL:
Derry City v St Patrick’s Athletic
The elephant isn’t only in the room at Richmond Park, it’s on the pitch, in the stands and, most conspicuously, in the trophy cabinet, where it has taken up residence since 1961 – famously, the last occasion on which St Patrick’s Athletic lifted the FAI Cup, when they beat Drumcondra 2-1 in a Dublin derby in front of 22,000 people at Dalymount Park.
Adding to the Groundhog Day feel as Pat’s make yet another attempt to lift the jinx at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow is their opponents this time are all too familiar, Derry City having edged out the Saints in two thrilling finals as recently as 2006 and 2012. And, as far as Liam Buckley is concerned, the still fresh memory of that 3-2 reversal two years ago should be more of a spur for the current crop of players than the 53 years of cup drought.
“They all understand that it’s a cup we haven’t won in over 50 years ,” says the manager, “not that that’s a motivating factor, because once you get over the white line, I think if we perform well we’ll give Derry a game, that’s for sure. (After the 2012 final), I remember saying to them, ‘It’s disappointing we lost, but these occasions are all part and parcel of being a sportsman, not everybody can be a winner every week, every month, every year’.
“From our end of it, I’m sure the fellas that were there, it will sort of motivate them. But I heard Roy Keane talking about living in fear — the fear factor. Winning only stays with you a short time, honest to God it’s when you lose you kind of reflect back on it. So, hopefully, from our point of view, we’ll push on on Sunday and give a good performance. If we do, hopefully we’ll get over the line.”
Having failed to defend their league title this year, it could be argued there is even more pressure on Pat’s to end their cup drought tomorrow.
But serial goal of the year contender Chris Forrester doesn’t see the game against Derry as defining whether the season will be regarded as a success or a failure in Inchicore. “Fair play to Dundalk, they were best team all year,” he says. “But I don’t think whether we win the Cup (or not) will define whether the season is a success or not. At the start of the season, Liam said we’d go for a European place, go well in the Cup and challenge for the League, and I think we’ve done all that he said.”
Which is not to say Forrester lacks any confidence in his side’s ability to end the season on a high at the Aviva. “If you look at the team two years ago and the team now, I think we have a much better side,” he reflects. “No disrespect to the lads that are gone or anything like that. But I think the lads that have come in, like Keith Fahey, have improved the team.
“We’re optimistic among ourselves and I’m looking forward to it. The law of averages says we’re due the win? (Laughs).I think the best team on the day will win it – and hopefully it’s us. Obviously you don’t want to feel the heartbreak again, lying on the Aviva with your heart just falling out. I don’t want to feel that again, so it does give you that extra bit of kick.”
Standing in Pat’s way is a club which enjoys a much happier and more productive relationship with this competition, as former Derry City playing legend, now manager, Peter Hutton, needs no reminding.
“I think, traditionally, Derry and the Derry public have a real affinity with the cup and that one-off, winner-takes-all type thing,” he says. “For the semi-final at the Brandywell against Shamrock Rovers, they came out in their droves and it was a great night, very reminiscent of the past where we had great success as well. It was great for some of those younger players who haven’t witnessed that.
“Rollercoaster sums up (our season) certainly. We didn’t have a great start as was well documented, then there was a change of manager and, to be fair to the boys, they’ve worked extremely hard since, and it’s just reward for them they still have something to look forward to this season after all their sacrifices and commitment I know the league campaign has been a big disappointment but it was over very early in terms of trying to achieve anything through Europe so we did prioritise the cup.”
As to what he’s expecting in tomorrow’s decider, Hutton says: “Both teams aren’t overly defensive-minded and I think both are similar in the sense that they like to get it down and play. We are both attack-minded teams, so I think it will be a fairly open and decent game.”
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