Clarke aims to add Bohemians’ scalp to scrapbook of triumphs
Penalty shoot-out in FAI Cup decider of 2011 still rankles with the Dubliner
St. Patrick’s Athletic goalkeeper Brendan Clarke with Seán Gannon of Dundalk. Photograph: Morgan Treacy / Inpho
Football was supposed be the last thing on his mind when St Patrick’s Athletic goalkeeper Brendan Clarke settled down for a quiet night in with his wife Simone a few months ago. For a few hours, at least, even the knockout stages of the World Cup were going to be ignored.
Midway through their movie, though, football gatecrashed things pretty spectacularly. Over in Salvador, Louis Van Gaal had changed his goalkeepers for a penalty shoot- out with Costa Rica and, well, one or two people decided to let Clarke, who had suffered Jasper Cillessen’s fate while playing for Sligo Rovers during the FAI Cup decider of 2011, know he wasn’t alone any more.
‘My phone exploded’
“As soon as it happened my phone exploded,” he recalls with the air of a man resigned to something following him around forever more. “She nearly threw it out the window.” And the message from friends and fans varied little on the theme: “There’s another member of the club now!”
The Dutch won and Cillessen was back for the semifinal just as Sligo Rovers did and Clarke got his winner’s medal so all is well that ends well, eh? The Dubliner certainly attempts to put a brave face on it all but the cracks in the façade show occasionally for it clearly still rankles. It’s just one more reason, though, to want to win the competition again this year.
“Oh, that would blow 2011 out of the water,” he says. It would go a long way towards making up for 2012 too, when, back at the club he has supported since childhood, his mistake in the final handed Derry City a penalty that ended up contributing their victory.
Then there’s the family history: his grandfather Dessie Byrne, who scored an own goal in the 1954 final but who, having retired from playing, was still involved with the team in 1961 when, famously, St Patrick’s last won the competition. And since then his uncle Sean Byrne scored the equaliser against Finn Harps in the 1974 final which was lost 3-1.
There is, in other words, history here and a real sense of family tradition although Clarke says that having been weighed down by it all slightly during his first stint with the club he tries to put it to the back of his mind now while others, mainly his father, chronicle this latest generation’s achievements.
“I think it means more to them than it does to me,” he says. “I never met my granddad, as he died before I was born, but I’ve read back through his scrapbook. My uncle had one as well before he passed away, and my dad keeps mine now. Every time you [the press generally] write a good report on me he puts that in. He get rid of the bad ones,” he adds with a laugh. “That will be great for my son Zac to read in however many number of years if he decides to go down that footballer route.”
The league title win of 2013 will be the best chapter yet to date but even after all the disappointments of this campaign, this year’s might just ended up producing the most personal. First, though, there’s the small, matter of Bohemians tonight to contend with.