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'It’s a joke, the condition the pitch is in' - Jack Byrne critical of timing of FAI Cup final

The surface cut up badly a day after it was used for an Irish rugby game.

Jack Byrne after the game.
Jack Byrne after the game.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

SHAMROCK ROVERS’ JACK Byrne could not hide his frustration at the scheduling of this year’s FAI Cup final, in the aftermath of his side’s 4-2 defeat to Dundalk after extra time. 

The pitch cut up throughout the game, with the Cup final held a day after an Irish rugby game against Scotland. 

“It’s a joke anyways, the condition the pitch is in”, said Byrne after the game. “To play a rugby match the night before the Cup final, when they’ve had all year to play the game, I don’t even want to talk about it, to be honest. The Cup final should have been finished a week ago, anyways. From that point of view, it’s madness.” 

Following the restart of the season in July, the Cup final was initially scheduled to be played on Sunday, 29 November, but was pushed back following delays in staging three of the four quarter-finals. Thus the semi-finals were played last weekend, with the final pushed back to the first Sunday in December. 

“I don’t think any of the clubs would have participated in a Cup final on the 7th of December, when you’re given a date by when the Cup final has to be finished. The league has come out saying there would be no more games postponed, and then the Cup final stretches on to the 7th of December, I don’t see how anyone thought that made sense. 

“And then we had two league games, I think we played on a Friday and Sunday [sic: Rovers played their final two league games on a Saturday and then Monday]. We have no excuses about the game, we had rest and they didn’t have rest as they played on Thursday, but all in all, I think that can be looked at.” 

Byrne wasn’t making excuses, and admitted Dundalk deserved to win a thrilling game. Rovers took the lead early in the second half through Aaron Greene, but a David McMillan double handed Dundalk the lead, which was then cancelled by a Roberto Lopes header. Dundalk, however, won the game in the second half of extra time, with Sean Hoare and then McMillan sealing a 4-2 win.

“Obviously the momentum changed when they got a couple of goals really quickly, we did well to get back into the game but I felt we were running out of steam a little bit as we were fighting our way back into the game.

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“Fair play to them, they are a good side, they deserved to win it on the night. They took their chances and we didn’t, so they deserved to win the cup.” 

Byrne didn’t comment when asked whether he would be at Rovers again next year, saying he hasn’t made his decision yet. 

Rovers manager Stephen Bradley, meanwhile, echoed Byrne’s thoughts on his side’s profligacy in front goal. 

“I thought we played really well. I thought they had little spells in the game. We didn’t take our chances, and at the end of the day if you don’t take your chances in the Cup final it will come back to hurt you. We had enough chances today to win the game, and we didn’t.” 

That said, Bradley said the defeat does not take the gloss of Rovers’ season, which saw them win the league without losing a game. 

“No, of course not. We were chasing our own bit of history today, the double unbeaten, it hasn’t been done in a long, long time. I felt the players were excellent again, and if we take our chances it’s a different game.”

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Gavin Cooney

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