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Sunday 17 November 2019

Treble winner Neville backs Dundalk to seal the deal

Mick Neville recalls Shelbourne’s 1997 cup success with fondness
Mick Neville recalls Shelbourne’s 1997 cup success with fondness
Dundalk players celebrate their league success and are in line to complete a treble if they beat Rovers on Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile

For three decades, the record, has stood - intact, untroubled.

But for Mick Neville, now is the time for Dundalk to become the first club to win the domestic treble since he achieved it with Derry City in 1989.

Neville is steeped in the history of the game - only two men have won more FAI Cup medals than his tally of seven.

Despite that, Neville's not so strong on some parts of the game's back story as he wasn't aware that his Shamrock Rovers side of 1987 was the last Hoops team to win the Cup.

"I still can't believe it's been 32 years since Rovers won it, everyone still regards the club as 'the Cup team' but we were the last team to win it. It seems like an age," he says.

"I honestly thought they had won it since then, but they lost a couple of finals, it's such a long time for a club like them not to have won it.

"It's unbelievable that Rovers have had to wait so long. They have a brilliant set-up there now, Stephen Bradley got a lot of stick early on but he has built a team and a club who can challenge Dundalk.

"Dundalk have set the bar for the last six years, everyone knows that. It was like that in our time with Rovers in the 1980s and other clubs have to come up to that."

Neville has a foot in both camps as he's a Hoops legend, part of the 1980s team which won four league titles in a row as well as three FAI Cups.

But with a job as an FAI development officer for Co Louth and a role as Dundalk's U-19 team coach, he has strong ties to the Oriel Park club.

And that's why he would be happy for this current Lilywhite team to end that record of his Derry City side of '89 - the only team to have won a domestic treble.

"Dundalk are a fantastic team," he says. "We had our time in 1989, it's their time now.

"Hopefully Rovers will have success in the future but Dundalk have done it for the last five years, they deserve the recognition as a club."

Neville knows how hard it is to win a treble, as Derry nearly slipped up in '89, needing penalties to beat Athlone Town in the League Cup while they had a real battle with Bohemians in the FAI Cup semi-final.

"At Rovers, we couldn't do the treble. We lost two League Cup finals, we didn't take the League Cup that seriously but now it's Dundalk's chance

"I'd love to see them win the treble as they are such as great side, great people off the field and as a club they deserve to be there," he says.

"Rovers could eventually do it and come good, Sunday could be their day to start something. Rovers need to win a trophy at this stage, but Dundalk have that treble in their sights."

Neville won seven FAI Cups, with Shamrock Rovers (1985, 1986, 1987), Derry City (1989) and Shelbourne (1993, 1996, 1997).

Yet despite that proud record (only William 'Sacky' Glen and Johnny Fullam won more), he is pained by the ones that got away. "I remember the finals I was beaten in more than the ones I won," says Neville, a beaten finalist in 1984, 1995 and 1998.

Losing to UCD in '84 was an education.

"We were expected to win but if you looked at the teams, they had more experience than us, we learned our lesson then and it never happened again," he says.

The successes at Shels pleased him most ("I'm a Shels man") but he picks the '87 final win, Rovers beating Dundalk, as one highlight. "We were underdogs that day so it was a big win," he says.

The Cup often lacked a sense of occasion then: a small crowd (7,000) and a poor pitch at Dalymount Park for the '85 win over Galway United makes Neville wish he could have played on the Aviva turf in front of 30,000.

Six of his seven Cup wins came with Dublin clubs, but Neville learned with the 1989 success at Derry that it's different beyond the Pale. "After the game you'd have a meal somewhere and you did celebrate, but it was more difficult for the Dublin teams, it was much better for the provincial clubs," says Neville.

"When you win it with a Dublin club you have a meal and a bit of a celebration but then you just go home, it's different in somewhere like Derry or Dundalk.

"With Derry in '89, that was immense. We saw crowds waiting for us on the way back, people in Aughnacloy and Strabane, then an open top bus across the Foyle in Derry.

"That brought home what it meant to the people of Derry at the time and it's what the Cup final should be. It will be like that for Dundalk if they win it again."

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