Bradley targets cup success as stepping stone for Shamrock Rovers
In-form Dundalk eager to add to their large haul of silverware in recent seasons
Stephen Bradley: “I’ve made no secret that our next thing was to win something as a group.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Stephen Bradley says he sees a win in today’s EA Sports Cup final as an important step in his side’s development with Shamrock Rovers, he hopes, set to follow Dundalk’s lead by using a League Cup success as a stepping stone to greater things.
“I’ve made no secret that our next thing was to win something as a group,” says the 32-year-old, who won pretty much everything in the Irish game bar this competition during his own playing days.
“When we sat down to set our targets it was to beat the top teams and go on certain runs. We’ve done that and our next one is to win something as a group.
“I believe it grows the group very, very quickly. Stephen [Kenny] showed that by winning this [in 2014 with Dundalk] and I think it showed with Cork last year winning the FAI Cup.
“It grows a belief within the squad, within the whole club really, that you can go and win things as a group. The sooner we can do that the better. Saturday is obviously our first opportunity.”
Rovers, as it happens, have won the competition just twice although they did beat Dundalk on the way to lifting the trophy in 2013. Kenny, on the other hand, has led teams to victory on five separate occasions and, like Bradley, he is hoping that a win this weekend might be the first instalment of a cup double in a season when Cork City have run away with the league.
The title race was, of course, effectively lost over the first half of the season when his side struggled to recapture the form they showed last year but midfielder Robbie Benson believes he and his team-mates are getting back to that sort of level now.
“It’s the time that you want to be playing your best stuff which we are,” he says. “We’re not just winning games at the minute, we’re really winning by two, three four goals. It’s definitely the best we’ve played and hopefully we can keep it going until the end of the season. It’s just a pity that it kind of got away from us at the start of the year.”
Dundalk are without Dylan Connolly for the game in Tallaght (kick-off 3.0) while Dane Massey (knee) and Tommy Stewart (hip) face late fitness tests.
Rovers, who announced a commitment of €180,000 from the FAI yesterday towards the development of their academy, have Lee Grace cup-tied and Graham Burke out injured but Gary Shaw, Luke Byrne and Sean Boyd are all expected to be available.