St Pat’s and Bohs put domestic game front and centre in raucous FAI Cup final

Season finale felt like a major sporting event and showed that the game is on the up here

A few days before this unique FAI Cup final went the way of St Patrick's Athletic, thanks to Robbie Benson's cool finish in the penalty shootout, Keith Buckley and Chris Forrester took a rare stroll down memory lane.

Masked and anonymous on the Luas, these soon to be opposing midfielders returned to the playgrounds of their youth in O’Devaney Gardens and Markievicz House flats, communities that barely survive in the shadow of cranes and state sponsored upheaval.

The mini-odyssey through a disappearing Dublin, captured by David Sneyd for, ended with two old friends chatting about Sunday's game "on the big pitch at the Aviva."

Buckley, the Bohs captain, branded the Lansdowne prairie as so vast that neither team could expect to control matters for 90 minutes.


How about 120 minutes, lads?

“Not a hope,” said Buckley.

“The pitch is huge,” Forrester agreed. “Always trying to read balls. Ball going in lanes 10 metres wider.”

Their prescient discussion unfolded in real time as the result appeared to swing on Forrester getting the better of Buckley at the end of the first half of extra-time. Billy King picked out Forrester, a yard inside St Pat's half, and with a swerve of the hips a childhood pal was left in his wake.

Buckley - a painter and decorator by trade - was understandably gassed after 106 minutes trying to read balls, but Forrester entered a different dimension, twisting Promise Omochere inside-out before rifling a shot past Bohs' almost unbeatable goalkeeper James Talbot.

The tumbling noise made it apparent that Bohemians had most of the record 37,126 crowd in their corner but the Inchicore faithful went ballistic down the north end.

That should have been that but we were only warming up. Early in the second half of extra-time Rory Feely’s thunderous header beat St Pat’s Czech stopper Vitezslav Jaros.

At 1-1, Bohs poured forward, with Ross Tierney, Stephen Mallon and Feely and Feely all denied from point blank range by a combination of Jaros heroics and a simple twist of fate.

What we witnessed here, was either a glimpse into the future of Irish football or mere mirage on a cold November evening. The only smattering of empty seats, as Dublin rivals Bohs and St Pat’s dueled for the first time in the cup final, were inside corporate boxes or high up in the rafters.

The occasion looked and sounded like a major sporting event. It looked and sounded like the FAI are generating a sustainable football industry. All the pieces linked together, for a few hours. The soccer supporters were real, flare-throwing disciples of a league long hidden from view of a wider audience who believes that Manchester United or Liverpool are the only clubs worth following.

Warm the soul

Afterwards, a story spilled out of the delirious St Pat’s dressing room that can only warm the soul.

"I said it to the lads before the game, that it's an absolute honour to lead them out into the Aviva for this club in a cup final," said St Pat's captain Ian Bermingham. "It was probably the proudest day of my football career. To come out on the winning side and lift the trophy with a great friend of mine, Christy O'Neill [the club physio], who has been here longer than me is just special."

Hold on, the skipper was only warming up. The fairytale end to the season that Bohs had promised their rising supporter base held nothing against a St Pat’s rearguard playing for Pippa Bermingham.

“I had my first child on Friday so all of my dreams came through in one weekend. I can’t believe it to be quite honest with you, it’s the best weekend of my life.

“Me and my missus Leaha went into hospital on Friday morning, she had the baby at 5:05pm on Friday evening. I was there until late Friday evening and then early Saturday morning. Then I had to sort of leave them then to meet up with the lads to go through everything.

“I’ve just spoken to her there, video-called her, and they’re at home. They just got out, I think they watched the game at home, and saw me lift the trophy. I’m buzzing with that and they’re all good. I think she’s letting me out tonight.”

Girl or boy?

“Girl, Pippa.”