herald

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Conan targets more silverware

Experience of losing a Cup final drives on Saints man

Conan Byrne, far right
Conan Byrne, far right

THE St Patrick's Athletic players have given their fans more than a few treats this season.

There was that superb Champions League display in Warsaw, they have secured a place in Europe again for next season, and their free-flowing football yielded a steady diet of goals, Pats scoring four or more goals on no fewer than seven occasions.

But for Saints winger Conan Byrne, who contributed an astonishing 25 goals from midfield and has been one of the stars for Liam Buckley's side this season - and whose exclusion from the PFAI team of the year has raised eyebrows - the season will be a failure if the FAI Ford Cup is not delivered at Lansdowne Road on Sunday.

"I am delighted with the goals and the assists as well, it's been a good season for me personally but I will forget all about that if we don't win on Sunday," Byrne told The Herald as he chases the second FAI Cup medal of his career. "It's nice to have personal achievements to look back on, but need to have a context - last season I really enjoyed scoring the four goals in Tallaght, but that would have meant nothing if we hadn't won the league.

"So while it's been a good season for me, scoring all those goals, I won't be able to look back on the year with any sort of fondness if we haven't won the Cup.

"The season will be a let-down if we don't win a trophy. We, as players, will be very disappointed if we don't end the season with some silverware. We are down about not winning the league though we can have no complaints as Dundalk and Cork were better than us as the table shows.

"We have had a decent finish to the league campaign and hopefully we can go on and put on a good show for the fans on Sunday," added Byrne.

Still only 29, the experienced Byrne has a league (2013) and an FAI Cup medal (2009) on his CV but he feels that the lows of being on a losing side in a Cup final is a big motivating factor.

"You draw on the positives from the past in your career. I played in the 2011 final, with Shelbourne, but that's gone from my head now, I can barely remember it, but 2009 (Sporting Fingal) is still in my mind," he recalls.

"I think about it regularly, to be honest. To be 1-0 down with five minutes to go, to score two goals and win it - there's no better way to win a cup final.

MEMORIES

"And as a local lad from Fingal that was a great day for me. But I want to create new memories now.

"We have players in our squad who have won Cup finals and lads who lost a Cup final but the hunger is the same. If you have been lucky enough to win the FAI Cup in your career you don't just say 'I have done it now, I can relax'.

"Instead it makes you hungry for more, and I know the lads who don't have a Cup final medal yet are desperate to win one.

"I have been in both camps, I have won and lost in a Cup final, and I know what a horrible feeling it is to walk into the dressing room with a loser's medal.

"So you just want to do well on a personal level and get that winner's medal around your neck.

"It's a bad place to be, with the losing team in a Cup final. I was there with Shels in 2011 and it's one of the worst feelings I've had in football. We went back to the Regency Hotel after the final as the supporters had a do on, but to be honest we, as players, just did not want to be there as we had failed.

"The fans had shown up in numbers and the players had to go to the function and put on a brave face, if you're a professional it's part of the job spec but it was a hard thing to do and I don't even want to think about not winning it."

Pats have the edge over Derry from their meetings in the league this season and Saints players like Ken Oman and Killian Brennan know the Derry camp and mentality well from their spells in the north-west, but City are an unknown quantity for Byrne.

"Usually you have players in the opposing side that you know but I have never played with any of the current Derry squad, I think they are the only side in the league I can say that about," he says.

"I know them from playing against them and we have had a couple of good battles this season. We drew with them up there, then beat them twice.

"We know what to expect, we know they will give us a good game and we have to make sure we're on top of our game to win on the day."

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