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Saint Patrick’s Athletic fans celebrate with the cup after the FAI Cup Final against Derry City.

Saint Patrick’s Athletic fans celebrate with the cup after the FAI Cup Final against Derry City.

SPORTSFILE

Philip Lowry, Derry City, in action against Kenny Browne, St Patrick's Athletic

Philip Lowry, Derry City, in action against Kenny Browne, St Patrick's Athletic

SPORTSFILE

Christy Fagan, St Patrick's Athletic, celebrates after scoring his side's first goal with team-mate Chris Forrester

Christy Fagan, St Patrick's Athletic, celebrates after scoring his side's first goal with team-mate Chris Forrester

SPORTSFILE

Christy Fagan, St Patrick's Athletic, celebrates after scoring his side's first goal with team-mate Keith Fahey

Christy Fagan, St Patrick's Athletic, celebrates after scoring his side's first goal with team-mate Keith Fahey

SPORTSFILE

Philip Lowry, Derry City, in action against Kenny Browne, St Patrick's Athletic

Philip Lowry, Derry City, in action against Kenny Browne, St Patrick's Athletic

SPORTSFILE

Saint Patrick’s Athletic fans celebrate with the cup after the FAI Cup Final against Derry City.

THE weight of expectation has been too heavy a burden for generations of captains at St Patrick's Athletic when it comes to the FAI Cup.

So for Ger O'Brien, the honour of being the first Pats skipper to hold the trophy aloft since 1961 - a time which predated the Berlin Wall, RTE television and the birth of the current president of the USA - was long overdue.

Heavy weighs the crown, as the old saying goes, but the ending of that 53-year wait for the FAI Cup to visit Inchicore has seen a massive weight lifted from shoulders all around Dublin 8.

It was a man from north of the Liffey, inner city lad Chris Fagan, who did the damage to Derry on the day, though Tallaght boy Keith Fahey played no small part with a superb range of passes to help set up Fagan for his goals, but O'Brien knew exactly what this win meant to the club.

"It's great as captain. Everyone knows the history," said a delighted O'Brien after he played through the pain barrier to help Pats get that first win in 53 years. "I think when you sign for the club, the first thing you hear about is the hoodoo.

"But after winning the league last year, we were disappointed ourselves this year.

"I felt we were good enough as a squad to retain it - but this is the next best thing. To lift it as captain means so much," added O'Brien, aware that former Saints boss Brian Kerr had seen so much Cup misery with Pats, in Kerr's time as a fan, manager and fan again, Kerr donning a Pats scarf from his position in the press box as a TV analyst once the job was done.

"I spoke to Brian Kerr and he just said two words: 'Thank You'," said O'Brien.

"He has gone through so much himself, I think he's been to every final that they've lost. There are grown men in their 60s and 70s crying out there. I think if any team was going to win, it was going to be this team."

Past finals have been loaded with trauma and pain for Pats, but from early on, as Saints fans drifted into the Dublin 4 area, they felt this was their day. Derry had drawn confidence from some pre-match side issues, as a coin toss saw Derry designated as the 'home' team for the day so City got to wear their home shirt (the Saints, therefore, forced to wear their 'Patselona' away kit similar to a certain Catalan club's colours) and use the home dressing room, which Derry had also occupied for their previous visits to Lansdowne Road, for finals they'd go on to win.

But even the team line-ups gave an injection of confidence for Pats, as Liam Buckley was able to name a full-strength side while Derry had a patched-up defence.

WONDER

Pats prodded and tested that defence from early on but some misses by Fagan led some Saints fans to wonder if the whole day would end up being off-target for them - indeed captain O'Brien would later joke that Fagan could have scored six, though there would have been little tolerance of jokes in the dressing room if the misses had been costly

But the mixture of a stunning move involving Conan Byrne and Keith Fahey, some patient play in the box by Fagan and some slack defending from Derry gifted Pats that lead goal on 51 minutes.

Fagan should have made it 2-0 on 63 minutes but missed the target, and that could have cost the Saints as Derry, revived by substitute Barry McNamee, threatened late on.

But tired minds and tired legs caught up with City as captain Barry Molloy, shunted from midfield into defence to make up for the loss of the injured Ryan McBride, made an uncharacteristic slip to put a second goal for Fagan on a plate in injury time.

"When Christy scored that second goal, it's just pure relief." added O'Brien. "It was a little bit nervy, we let them back into it."

That second goal took Fagan's tally for the season to 25, to copperfasten a big moment for midfielder Killian Brennan who added a Cup medal to the ones he's already won with Derry and Bohemians.

"Christy's has had a terrific season, he's scored plenty of goals. I thought he could have had a bagful, it didn't look like it was going to be his day in the first half but he kept on plugging away to be fair and got his just rewards," said Brennan.

"I think throughout the season he's been fantastic, I think he's probably been the best player in the league and hopefully he goes on and wins player of the year."

As their fans gathered around various watering holes around Dublin last night, Pats fans were more occupied with history, and the relief of ending that 53-year wait, than the future, but today minds will turn to the future.

With clubs like Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk and Cork City keen to strengthen in the off-season there's a challenge for Pats to do better than a third-place finish in the league next season. But Richmond Park is not a place that anyone wants to leave, not now.

"It obviously depends on what Liam is going to do in the off-season, he will look to strengthen and decide who is going to stay and who is going to go," says Brennan.

"With rolling contracts, it's hard to tie players down but we'll be strong again next year. We should have done better this season on paper but we didn't really put a run together whereas the two teams that finished ahead of us did. But look, we have silverware and we have Europe to look forward to next season."


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