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Wednesday 25 April 2018

Cooke's proud of Drogs despite loss

Drogheda United players argue with referee Paul Tuite after Sligo Rovers scored their second goal. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Drogheda United players argue with referee Paul Tuite after Sligo Rovers scored their second goal. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

DROGHEDA UNITED made history, for the wrong reasons, as they became the first side to lose three major cup finals in one season.

But United boss Mick Cooke, in charge of the side for the final time in yesterday's 3-2 FAI Ford Cup final defeat by Sligo Rovers, said he was proud of his players and his own achievements with the Co Louth club.

As he prepares to move onto the next chapter in his career, with no chance of rapprochement with the board following their falling out, Cooke went so far as to tell local radio that he had been treated "like a leper" by the club in recent months. But Cooke remained defiant and dignified.

"I can't be prouder of the players and what they gave," he said. "It was a tremendous final. I thought we had the chances to kill them off. We needed the second goal obviously. But the way we bounced back from 2-1 down to nearly get the extra-time showed the character of the lads I've had here for the last couple of years.

"It's just a pity that we've lost three cup finals in the one season. But the big thing is that they were there for the three of them.

"And I'm sure as a team and as individuals, they will have learned from what they've achieved this season. Hopefully they will go on and win medals somewhere."

Drogheda were rated as outsiders before the game – this Sligo side had won the Cup twice in the previous three seasons and also won the league title – but Cooke, working off a small budget, has assembled a talented and well-drilled side.

They took a deserved lead on 13 minutes through Paul O'Conor, holding that advantage until the 78th minute when their world was turned upside down.

Pressure

"I thought we were the better side, I thought we were comfortable," he said. "We knew we were going to be put under pressure in the second half. I thought we coped very well."

Drogheda had legitimate complaints about key decisions, with a quickly-taken Sligo free kick setting up their second goal and a disallowed goal from Gavin Brennan, who was punished for a push on Sligo full back Alan Keane.

"You would think in a physical game, a certain amount of contact is allowed," added Cooke.

"Nobody puts a gun to your head to go out and play football. You have to allow contact.

"The way it's gone, it's gone like Subbuteo where you can't make challenges. But the lads have learned. It's a great season. And I'll move on.

"Certainly, I've retained my dignity all season. The pressure I've been under from the club. The way the players have shown their response to me, it was an us and them situation. I think we came out on top."

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