Cooke hoping final farewell will be on a victorious note
Drogheda boss hoping it’s third time lucky in cup deciders this season, but Sligo are favourites
Drogheda United manager Mick Cooke ahead of their FAI Ford Cup final against Sligo Rovers on Sunday. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile Drogheda United Media Day, The D Hotel, Drogheda, Co. Louth. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE *** NO REPRODUCTION FEE ***
For the third time this season Drogheda United will start a cup final as underdogs but Mick Cooke and Co will console themselves as they head for Ballsbridge tomorrow that at least it’s not Shamrock Rovers they’re up against. How much better they can get to grips with Sligo Rovers at the Aviva, we will have to wait and see.
They will, of course, have to play an awful lot better than they did in either the Setanta or EA Sports deciders.
The scale of the first of those two defeats was well beyond having a gloss put on it afterwards. And while it wasn’t nearly as bad, we can only presume they didn’t really believe the “it could have gone either way,” line peddled after the second clash.
At least as much improvement again is likely to be required if they are to live tomorrow with a team that has become somewhat accustomed to wrapping up their year with a crack at winning the Ford -sponsored trophy.
Both clubs have fully fit squads and managers who might be on the move although Ian Baraclough insisted yesterday that “if there’s an opportunity to stay with Sligo then I’ll stay”.
There is supposed to have been a contract offer on the table for some time and he seems to have been eyeing up jobs back home but whatever the finer points of the Englishman’s situation, he appears to have more control over his future than Cooke who looks sure to be shown the door even if United win tomorrow.
Ensuring his side is hard to beat will be the Dubliner’s first priority in what will almost certainly be his last game in charge.
They have certainly been that through most of the league campaign with the number of games they have drawn the main obstacle to a higher finish. On those two fateful cup final days in Tallaght, however, they were far too easily opened up and the challenge this time is to tighten things up dramatically while still posing a threat to a defence that is one of the country’s very best.
“They’re massive favourites,” says the United boss of tomorrow’s opponents, “and I certainly think we’ll have to produce a performance on a par with the ones against Malmo.” If his men do that, he insists however, they can come out on top.
Cooke’s starting line up, seems set to look very like the one that took the field against Dundalk in the semi-final.
It’s hard to see Baraclough doing an awful lot more than adding Gavin Peers to the bulk of the team that beat Shamrock Rovers to get here. Whatever he does, however, there will be some disappointed players in the Sligo camp beforehand. Less so, perhaps, afterwards unless Drogheda can pull something out of the bag.