Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
INPHO/Ryan Byrne Mathews.
# FAI Cup
'The players know what they went through last year. We're one game from a wonderful occasion' - Mathews
The 2011 FAI Cup finalists face Derry City at the Brandywell tomorrow afternoon.

SHELBOURNE HEAD INTO tomorrrow’s FAI CUP semi-final meeting with Derry City knowing a win will earn them the chance to put last season’s heartbreak right.

The Drumcondra club, then competing in the First Division, overcame St Patrick’s Athletic at this stage in 2011 and reached the final for the first time in 11 years to take on holders Sligo Rovers at the Aviva Stadium.

Despite Barry Clancy’s harsh sending off in the 36th minute, Shels held out for a 1-1 draw but went down 4-1 in a penalty shootout after more heroics from Ciaran Kelly in the Sligo goal.

A year on, Alan Mathews’ side have held their own during their return to the top tier and make a trip to the Brandywell for one of two semi-finals scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

“The players know what we went through last year,” Mathews told earlier this week.

“Out of the group of 21 players that we have, 19 of them experienced a cup semi-final last year, five of them didn’t get across the line and 14 of the players were in the squad that got to the cup final against Sligo.

“While we’ve not addressed this specifically, I’m sure and I know that that’s in the subconscious of a lot of the players. That’s in the background there.

“We’re one game from having an opportunity to play on a wonderful occasion in a wonderful stadium where it’s a brilliant, brilliant day for the players and more importantly, for everybody else associated with the players: their family, friends, people at the club, supporters can have a wonderful day out.

The players know that they can maintain their season for another couple of weeks and go back to a stage that every player wants to play on, so that’s the driving force. Without knowing it, I know that that’s something that’s driving the players on at this stage.”

Mathews himself has won the competition twice before during his successful spell with Longford Town in 2003 and 2004 but doesn’t dwell on past triumphs and is eagerly looking ahead.

“You move on, you have to. You don’t start looking back. They were great times. We got to the final two years in a row and then we got to the final in 2007. This is a different group of players.

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“When you look back, when you’re sitting down and you’re not doing anything, you say ‘Yeah they were good’. For the club itself, it’s important the memories are there and the history is there.

“Shels is a well-established club with a very distinguished history. We want to make sure that we achieve something as this group of players and we’ll look back on it in the latter stages.”

Facing Declan Devine’s young Candystripes, who sit three points above them in the table, will be no easy task but Shels have the slight upper hand this season having won 2 of the sides’ three meetings.

Semi-finals are there for you to win, you don’t want to fall at this hurdle so we need to make sure that we do. The players themselves, they deserve credit for the way they’ve conducted themselves throughout the league and being able to maintain a run in the cup. Now it’s all to play for on Sunday.”

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