Ryan Byrne/INPHO Stephen O'Donnell celebrates post-game.
# Reaction
'As a player it’s absolute jubilation...It’s a big sigh of relief when you’re a coach'
Stephen O’Donnell reacts to leading Saint Patrick’s Athletic to FAI Cup victory.

STEPHEN O’DONNELL contrasted the experience of winning his first FAI Cup as a coach with the three cups he won as a player, having led Saint Patrick’s Athletic to a dramatic shootout win over Bohemians in today’s decider at the Aviva Stadium. 

“It’s more relief when you’re on the coaching side of it”, said O’Donnell.  

“As a player it’s absolute jubilation. You run down and congratulate your teammates, you jump on them and what have you. It’s a big sigh of relief when you’re a coach or a manager.”

The game was goalless until the verge of half-time in extra-time, when Chris Forrester gave Pat’s the lead with a stunning solo goal. The lead lasted barely longer than the break, however, as Rory Feely headed Bohs level right after the resumption.

Viteslav Jaros kept Pat’s in the game with a couple of acrobatic late saves, which allowed them win the Cup on spot kicks; Robbie Benson converting the decisive penalty after Keith Ward and Tyreke Wilson missed for Bohs, reprieving Forrester for his miss. 

“It was such a turbulent extra time, I thought we had a good foothold”, said O’Donnell.  ”Chris scored just before the end of the first half, then Rory scores right after half time and at the death Vites pulls off a couple of unbelievable saves. You know, swings and roundabouts. We did talk about it: it’s unbelievable the amount of FAI Cup finals that have gone to extra time or penalties in recent years.

“We practiced penos for the last week to 10 days and I had a feeling it was going to go the full distance.

“You can’t replicate the bit of pressure but out lads were definitely in a good rhythm with regards taking penalties. As I said, I’ve hit a bit of a lull. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster during the game that you hit a bit of a flat spot. I think I’ll pick back up in an hour or two.” 

Manager Alan Matthews, sitting beside O’Donnell during the post-game media duties, paid tribute to Benson and Jaros. 

“They’ve set higher standards, they’ve set the bar. They’ve come to training every day trying to be excellent. That rubs off on players and the group. The level of intensity and level of application this year has come up a couple of notches; it’s not just down to those two.

“We’ve brought in players that have demanded that things are done in the right way every day and that’s down to Stephen and the judgement calls that have been very good.

“Vit coming in at 19 years of age. Liverpool were obviously here today, he’s been a magnificent signing for us. We’ll see him playing at a higher level, his work ethic and the application, you’d expect it from a seasoned pro not a guy who came in as a teenager and he goes back as a far better player and goalkeeper than when he came in.” 

O’Donnell has yet to renew his deal at Pat’s for next season, though is expected to extend his deal within the next couple of weeks. 

“We will get that sorted over the next week or two. I am delighted, buzzing to be winning with this group of lads and the staff. It has been an abnormal journey in regards Covid. I missed a game a couple of weeks ago, other lads as well because they got covid, so to dodge all them bullets and end up at the Aviva November 28th, 37,000 and be on the right side to win the FAI Cup, just buzzing.”

Bohs coach Trevor Croly was crestfallen, hardly able to muster answers beyond six words in the early stages of his press conference. 

“I think we had the better chances in the game”, said Croly, who led the team with manager Keith Long suspended and watching on from the stands. “I felt we had the bigger chances in the game, but we didn’t take them. It’s St Pat’s day, so congratulations to them. 

“Yeah, I think it is”, said Croly when asked if penalties were the worst way to lose a Cup final.

“It feels that way. It really feels bad. To go so close, to have the better chances, to go ahead in penalties and you think you will potentially win it, and then it’s gone within a couple of minutes. It’s devastating.”

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