Bohs and St Pat’s ready for a rare Dublin derby in the FAI Cup final

Keith Long’s side might marginally be the better bet but it looks to be a close call

St Patrick’s Athletic’s Jak Hickman and Liam Burt of Bohemians vie for the ball during a recent league game between the teams. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

St Patrick’s Athletic’s Jak Hickman and Liam Burt of Bohemians vie for the ball during a recent league game between the teams. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

FAI Cup final: Bohemians v St Patrick’s Athletic

Kick-off: 4pm, Sunday. Venue: Aviva Stadium. On TV: Live on RTÉ2.

All seasons must pass. This unique FAI Cup final brings the curtain down on a laborious journey from empty grounds to what is brewing into an extravaganza on Lansdowne Road as the previous record attendance of 36,101 from 2010 was surpassed on Friday morning.

Bohemians are unbeaten from three thrilling nights at the Aviva stadium already this year. St Patrick’s Athletic have yet to enter the debt-saddled arena.

It also marks the first meeting of these ancient Dublin rivals in the cup final. Bohs are seeking to end a 13-year wait for their eighth success while St Pat’s last gripped the trophy in 2014. Between them they have lost this fixture 15 times.

On paper, St Pat’s were 10 points better than Bohemians in an inevitable title race that had little to do with the also-rans. Bohs, in reality, parked the league soon after dumping Shamrock Rovers out of the cup with Keith Long’s light squad struggling for a rhythm after a glorious Europa Conference League qualifier streak ran aground in Greece.

European qualification is on the line, as Bohs seek one last joyous memory at the Aviva to partner Ali Coote’s double last August, which clipped the wings of Greek giants PAOK.

“For those three nights in the Aviva, for loads of reasons, it felt like a fairytale,” said Daniel Lambert, Bohs chief operating officer. “The fact we had never played at the Aviva, the fact it was during Covid when the games were drawn and nobody could see them, and suddenly there were six and eight thousand at them, and to score eight goals and concede one.

“It gave three nights to the fans but all the members and the board have all known there is huge potential in the club but it feels now that we are fulfilling some of that potential. But there is loads more to do, we wouldn’t be licking ourselves.”

On social media, Bohs lick themselves better than anyone else, calling on the animalistic tones of Irvine Welsh, Brush Shiels and the club’s unofficial chef-de-mission Johnny Logan. The Eurovision icon never sought the loyalty of the Bohs faithful but Hold Me Now generates an alchemy at Dalymount Park that should transfer to the main stage. Where Logan and Dawson Devoy have always belonged.

Same goes for Alfie Lewis, St Pat’s midfield dynamo, so something has got to give in the creative stakes.

After the thrill of featuring in this game, comes inevitable sadness as Bohemians’ wild campaign concludes with the squad guaranteed to never be the same again. Ross Tierney is already bound for Motherwell while Dundee manager James McPake has confirmed attendance to see whether Georgie Kelly can add to his 22 goals in a stellar season by the environmental finance student.

As much as Devoy and Lewis are footballers for the purist, the influence of Keith Buckley and Chris Forrester could prove more influential if the game descends into rancour that a Dublin derby can always generate.

But Bohs look the better bet with Scottish wingers, Liam Burt and Ali Coote, a revelation only overshadowed by Kelly’s addiction to goals. Devoy’s natural passing ability ensured an Ireland under-21 call up but it was teammates Tierney and Andy Lyons whose quality was rewarded with extended minutes in the international arena.

Bohs have been irresistible when all this talent was singing the same tune but none of them will intimidate Stephen O’Donnell’s more consistent outfit, who will be fully intent on spoiling the party, especially after being snubbed from the PFAI team of the season that included Bohs goalkeeper James Talbot, along with Devoy, Kelly and Burt.

Bohemians (possible): Talbot; Lyons, Cornwall, Kelly, Breslin; Coote, Buckley, Devoy, Burt; Tierney, Kelly.

St Patrick’s Athletic (possible): Jaros; Desmond, Barrett, Abankwah, Bermingham; Lennon, Lewis, Smith; Forrester, Coughlan, Burns.

Referee: Rob Hennessy.

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