Drogs play for pay
Captain Prendergast wants team to prove worth with cup win
DROGHEDA UNITED captain Derek Prendergast knows that there won't just be celebrations in the Co Louth town if he gets to lift the trophy at the end of tomorrow's FAI Cup final against Sligo Rovers.
This Drogheda squad is a disparate group and they have pockets of fans in places like Cabra on Dublin's northside – where Pendergast hails from – and places like that will party on if Drogheda manage to upset the odds and beat Sligo.
"I played for Bray and Drogheda, I played my schoolboy football on the southside, I played alongside Glenn Whelan at Maryland, but I'm a northside boy through and through," says Prendergast, hoping to become only the second Drogheda United skipper in history to lift the cup.
But Sunday at Lansdowne Road is much more than a day out for the United squad, as Prendergast admits that the entire panel are playing for their futures.
There's a massive amount of uncertainty at the club with manager Mick Cooke destined to leave, no matter the outcome tomorrow, after a falling out with the club's hierarchy and the entire squad out of contract on Monday.
"Every single player is a free agent next week as we don't have long-term contracts and this could well be the last game that we play in together as a group," says Prendergast.
"We all know what's gone on with the manager and no one knows what the future holds. Of course we want to win the cup for the club and for the fans but we are also playing for our futures, whether that means a future here at Drogheda under a new manager or elsewhere, no one knows.
"It would be a great pity if this team broke up, so winning the cup tomorrow could help things. If we win, we qualify for Europe and that would be a big attraction for next season in terms of making people stay on or bringing new players in.
"I could play out of my skin tomorrow but the new manager might not like me and might have other plans for next year so I might have to move on. It's a hard situation. All we know is that we play on Sunday, we head back to Drogheda on Sunday night to have a drink together as a group, but that could be the last time we'll be together and that would be a massive pity," he says.
Drogheda have become known as a cup team this season, as they have already been to the final in both cup competitions, losing in the Setanta Cup and EA Sports Cup.
"We only want to be known as the cup specialists if we actually win something, we don't want to go down in history as the team who lost three cup finals in the one year," he says.
"We try to win every game we play, but it's just been the case that we went all the way in the three cups, we had a bit of luck along the way," added Prendergast.
Sligo – who have won the cup twice in the last three seasons – go into the final as favourites but Drogheda had a decent finish to the season and Prendergast hopes that their defensive record can see them over the line.
A lot of places in the United side tomorrow are up for grabs but it's certain that Prendergast will start in central defence alongside the long-serving Alan McNally.
"Ally has been brilliant since I came here, we have a great relationship," he says.
"I played a fair bit alongside Alan Byrne as well but the way we play now, Alan Byrne sits in front of the back four and he has been a massive part of what we have done this season, Alan protects the back four and he snuffs out so much of the danger."
The Drogheda skipper knows what to expect from an attacking Sligo side.
"They are a confident side, good on the ball and they do look to pass the ball through to the front men," he says.
"We made a lot of silly mistakes in the Setanta Cup final against Shamrock Rovers.
"Hopefully we will be more switched on tomorrow, if Sligo are to beat us they will have to work very hard to do it as we won't hand them anything."