By Ryan Bailey
The 2012 season comes to a close on Sunday November 4 when St Patrick’s Athletic face Derry City in the FAI Ford Cup final at the Aviva Stadium. The clash is a repeat of the 2006 showpiece event which saw the Candystripes lift the blue-riband trophy for the fourth time in their history, while also extending the Saints’ infamous cup drought, which now stands at 51 years.
The Richmond Park club have won the competition twice but not since 1961 and that loss eight years ago was their sixth time to experience heartbreak at the final hurdle. Despite their cup hoodoo, the Saints are many people’s favourites to prevail on Sunday after an impressive season which saw them run champions Sligo Rovers all the way in the Airtricity Premier Division as well as enjoying a lengthy Europa League campaign.
The road to the Aviva Stadium began all the way back in May for the Saints as they eased past Crumlin United 3-0 in Richmond Park, with subsequent wins against Louth clubs Drogheda United and Dundalk securing the Saints’ place in the final. St Pat's’ top-scorer Christy Fagan is relishing the opportunity to play at the home of Irish football but admits he and his team-mates are aware of the threat Derry possess. “The feeling amongst everyone, both fans and players, is just one of general excitement and we’re all looking forward to it. In these types of games it comes down to both teams and everything that happens on the day," he told stpatsfc.com.
Despite finishing 16 points adrift of their opponents on Sunday, Derry finished the league season strongly and with the club’s injury crisis now firmly behind them, Declan Devine will have a full strength squad to choose from as they go in search of their third cup triumph in a decade. Going into Sunday’s final, the Foylesiders are unbeaten in five games, including a 2-1 triumph over Pat's a couple of weeks ago. Devine admits his side are underdogs heading into the game but is confident of bringing the trophy back to the Brandywell. “We are absolute underdogs,” Devine told the Derry Journal. “St Pats are a quality side. If we are going to be successful, we are going to need everyone to be at the top of their game. It’s all about the squad and not just about the players who start the game.
“We’ve had a good week of training and bonding sessions. To be honest, it’s been very relaxed but that all changes now as the final approaches,” he added.
Only three FAI Cup finals since 1990 have been separated by more than one goal, while only two of the last six have been decided in the 90 minutes with spot kicks required in three of the last four finals.