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Dublin: 8°C Saturday 8 May 2021

'Individual achievements will mean nothing if there is no medal at the end of it' - Conan Byrne

The St. Pat’s midfielder and his team mates are out to end 53 years of heartache this Sunday.

Byrne is hoping to cap another fine season.
Byrne is hoping to cap another fine season.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

NO STORY IN Irish domestic football stirs as much heartache as the tale of St Patrick’s Athletic and the FAI Cup.

The very mention of the competition around Richmond Park only evokes memories of past, yet far from forgotten, cup anguish.

Since last lifting the trophy in 1961, the Saints have fallen at the final hurdle on seven occasions. But, with each passing year comes the opportunity for the current cohort to make their own piece of history and extinguish bygone demons.

Sunday’s showdown with Derry City at the Aviva Stadium not only represents St Pat’s with a chance to end their cup famine but it’s an opening to exact revenge for some of the aforementioned heartache.

The Candystripes have denied Pat’s twice in recent years and although Conan Byrne wasn’t part of the side that were denied by a late, late Rory Patterson strike two years ago, he is all too aware of the gravity of this competition for the Inchicore locals.

“I obviously wasn’t here but when I came in during pre-season, there was still a lot of hurt,” he told this week.

“We set out at the start of the year to qualify for Europe and win a trophy. Of course we wanted to retain the league because that would have been a fantastic achievement but the FAI Cup is huge around these parts. All you have to do is mention it and people get goosebumps.”

The winger enjoyed another prolific season, scoring 18 goals in the Airtricity League, and he’s hoping his fine form can last for one final game as he looks to win his second FAI Cup having triumphed with Sporting Fingal in 2009.

Stewart Greacen celebrates scoring a goal with teammates The Saints will be hoping to avoid a repeat of 2012 Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“It’s been a great season personally but none of that will count unless we can get over the line on Sunday. You have to be positive going into any cup final and we’re confident because we had a very good performance against Sligo last Friday,” the 29-year-old said.

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Byrne has played just two games on the route to the Aviva but scored twice against Finn Harps in the semi-final. His ability to make late runs into the box and then find pockets of space is, by his own admission, something he’s done all his career but it’s the team’s freeflowing style that gives him the freedom to thrive.

“It’s just being in the right place at the right time but I’ve seemed to have done it throughout my whole career, the ball just seems to drop to me in the box and luckily I’m there to put them away.”

That said, Byrne relishes the defensive side of the game and knows he’ll be required to keep his discipline against a Derry City infused with the determination to win their sixth FAI Cup and third in the space of eight years.

“They’re a very good side. They’ve got some very good players, players that can change games, score goals and a very good goalkeeper that stops goals,” Byrne said when asked about Sunday’s opposition.

“They’re a dogged team, they play good football and it will be a difficult game for us. But I’m sure they’re going to be saying the same about us and it’s going to be a great cup final and we’re just hoping we come out on top.

It would be easy, ahead of a game of this magnitude, to get carried away in forensically analysing the opposition but that’s not Liam Buckley’s style and Byrne doesn’t expect that to change ahead of Sunday.

“We haven’t really talked about them or their tactics because we always just concentrate on our own game. Against Legia Warsaw, we just focused on our own game and did very well over there so we know if we play to our strengths, be confident and pass the ball well then it will take a very good team to beat us.”

Buckley is using the heartache of two years ago as the motivation for his players. Byrne wasn’t in the dressing room that day but he doesn’t need to have experienced the anguish of defeat to appreciate the importance of this competition to the club.

“We can rectify that on Sunday against the same team that beat us that day. Revenge can be sweet sometimes,” he added.

For St Pat’s fans, seeing Ger O’Brien lift the trophy aloft at HQ, would be far more than revenge. It would be sheer relief.

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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