herald

Sunday 19 August 2018

Hoops' hex no hassle for Pat

Fenlon no stranger to Rovers' wait after Hibs stint

PAST managers of Shamrock Rovers have felt the pressure of trying to end the club's long famine in the FAI Cup and bring that trophy back into the hands of the Hoops.

But that 27-year wait for an FAI Cup success is easy for Pat Fenlon to handle. "I went to Hibs as manager and all they talked about was the fact that it was 103 years since they won the Cup, so I am used to that kind of pressure," jokes Fenlon.

"Those records and those bits of history are following me around. At Hibs we had two Scottish Cup finals when I was there but that 100-year wait for the Cup goes on as we lost both finals and now that's being talked about with Rovers as it's been so long since the club last won the FAI Cup."

But the Rovers boss is deadly serious about this weekend's action as his side face league leaders Dundalk in a Cup quarter-final at Tallaght Stadium.

The FAI Cup has meant a great deal to Fenlon over the years, as player and a manager, back to his first success in the competition with Bohemians in 1992, as significant win for the club as it was then their first major trophy in almost 15 years.

"It's a hard trophy to win," says the Dubliner, who also won the Cup as a player with Shelbourne in 2008 and again with Bohs as manager in 2008.

"Over the course of a season you can get away with one or two bad performances in the league but in the FAI Cup you have to do the business on the day. That's why it's more difficult.

"I remember what it was like to win with Bohemians back in '92 as it was the first time they had won something in a long time. We played a really good Cork City team in the final at the old Lansdowne Road.

Better

"They were probably a better side than us but we beat them on the day with one goal and that sums up the Cup, you might not play all that well but all that matters is winning it.

"We played okay on the day in the final and Cork didn't get to the levels they were capable of, so that won the day for us.

"You have seen that so often in finals where a team goes into the final as big favourites but don't deliver on the day, and that's why the FAI Cup is so hard to win."

Friday is a major game for Dundalk as they are still in with a chance of a treble of league, FAI Cup and League Cup, but also a key evening for Rovers.

It's also part of a vital period in the season for the Hoops. As well as the FAI Cup battle with Dundalk, they also face the same opposition in the EA Sports Cup final with some big league games - including derbies at Bohemians and St Pats - thrown in.

Currently fourth in the league and 10 points behind second-placed Cork City, Rovers know that they may need an FAI Cup success to secure European football for next season, something that was one of the main objectives for Fenlon when he took the hot seat last month.

Defeat by Cork City in their last league game leaves Rovers with some work to do in their hunt for a top-three finish, but while the FAI Cup is a big deal, he has not written off the league campaign.

"We're not too far away," he says. "We are in touching distance of St Pats in third as we have a game in hand on them, though that back match for us is away to Bohemians and that's a tough game for us.

"We are not giving up on anything at the moment. We just want to keep going. The fixture list has not been kind to Rovers in relation to the home and away games, and we have a lot of hard league matches before the end of the season.

Hunt

"But we have a great fortnight ahead of us. At the end of this two weeks we could be in the hunt for things, have a trophy on board and still there in the league and the FAI Cup or we could be out of things. We have to focus on the Cup game first and see where it takes us.

"It's not really Dundalk against us in the league as Cork have been their main rivals there all season, but Dundalk-Rovers is a good battle in the Cups, we have them on Friday in the FAI Cup and then in the EA Sports Cup," he says.

"We have to play really well to beat Dundalk," he says. "They are a good side with good players, I have watched a lot of them this season, even before I got the Rovers job. Their organisation is excellent, their fitness levels are fantastic and we have to match that on the night."

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