Drogheda determined to make it to another cup final at the expense of local rivals Dundalk
Alan Byrne targeting a place in Europe via success in the FAI Cup
Drogheda’s Alan Byrne in action against Dundalk’s Stephen McDonnell. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
It’s been a remarkable season for Dundalk for whom there will be plenty of consolations if, as seems likely now, they miss out on the league title. In the meantime, though, there can be few things providing more satisfaction to supporters of the Oriel Park outfit than the 27 -point lead they enjoy over their old rivals Drogheda United.
The knockout competitions, though, have been a different story with Mick Cooke’s side reaching the finals of both the EA and Setanta Sports Cup; quite an achievement even if they did end up losing both to Shamrock Rovers.
Stephen Kenny’s side now stand between them and a third crack at a piece of silverware with both clubs aiming tomorrow to make it to next month’s Ford-sponsored FAI Cup final. League form suggests there can only be one winner but the home side have other ideas and, they are at pains to point out, it’s certainly not because they fancy themselves as cup side.
“People say that we are a cup team,” acknowledges Alan Byrne a little reluctantly, “but I don’t think so. It does suit us but we are still not just a cup side.”
A lengthy explanation based on tactics follows but the argument never seems quite as compelling as a glance at the club’s results in the respective competitions this season. In the end, even Byrne seems to fold as he fairly chirpily concludes: “I wouldn’t mind being labelled one, though, if we get to three finals in the one season.”
They will most likely, he knows, have to play better than they have been doing of late if they are to pull it off although in addition to Byrne himself, Cooke does have David Cassidy, Shane Grimes and Alan McNally back from suspension for the game.
The visitors, who have Stephen O’Donnell back from suspension, will have the added impetus of having effectively seen the league slip from their grasp over the last couple of weeks.
For United, Europe, for which their opponents have already qualified, is the goal although there would be something special too about giving Gary O’Neill a cup final to go to as he receives ongoing treatment in the wake of his recent surgery for testicular cancer.
“We are two games from Europe,” says Byrne in relation to the former. “We would have had to win our last 10 league games to get in that way but now, if we beat Dundalk and win the final, we are in. That’s how close it is.”
Beating Dundalk and one or other of the Rovers might be a tall enough order but, he maintains: “We can beat any of those teams, we have no doubt about that”. Their league position suggests otherwise but then again, they’re quite a cup team.