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'There is potential to cement ourselves as one of the all-time great teams'

Vinny Perth’s Dundalk will complete a domestic treble if they beat Shamrock Rovers in the FAI Cup final on Sunday.

Dundalk manager Vinny Perth.
Dundalk manager Vinny Perth.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

VINNY PERTH IS well aware of what is at stake on Sunday, but the Dundalk boss insists 2019 will be remembered as a phenomenal season regardless of the outcome of the FAI Cup final.

A win against Shamrock Rovers would see Dundalk complete a domestic treble, in the process becoming the first League of Ireland side to do so since Derry in 1989.

It would also consolidate this Lilywhites team’s reputation as one of the great Irish club sides, given their remarkable run of five league titles, two FAI Cups and three League of Ireland Cups over the past six seasons.

But despite history appearing within touching distance, Perth says he will not be getting carried away over the outcome of one standalone game.

“We have not focused on Shamrock Rovers until this week and being obsessed with this game. We don’t manage that way,” he says.

“We spent the last month trying to improve ahead of next season. For example, we tried three at the back where Chris was not involved, for argument’s sake. We are constantly trying to improve for next season.

I hope it’s a brilliant final for Irish football, but if we lose, I’ll be disappointed, but I don’t think we will be disappointed with the season we’ve had. At eight o’clock on Sunday night, we’ll still have had one of the greatest seasons of any Dundalk team.

“Look, I hope we win the treble for that team, not just for this team. I think if we won it, it would cement us as one of the all-time great teams; you can argue about who have been the great teams of the past 20 years, never mind 30, 40, 50 years; I didn’t see some of them for obvious reasons: I wasn’t alive.

“But if we win the treble, there will be people who have played [for Dundalk] who are forgotten ones as well… Richie Towell, Daryl Horgan, Darren Meenan played a huge part in our success, Kurtis Byrne, Peter Cherrie. I see it like that. And obviously Stephen [Kenny].

“I think in 20 or 30 years’ time, you see the way people talk about that Derry team, they don’t talk about every performance, every good and bad day, they talk about the great Derry team. That for me is a great opportunity for us. It’s not a season-defining game for us, but there is potential to cement ourselves as one of the all-time great teams.”

Perth was also keen to play down talk of pressure ahead of the crunch encounter.

I don’t believe in psychological games in any way shape or form, so the only way I can answer that is to say, hand on heart, we don’t feel under pressure this weekend. Personally, I think we have achieved our goals. We have won a cup and we have won a league and, as I’ve said, we are in another cup final.

“You need luck to go your way in cups at different stages and we haven’t had any, we’ve been away to Cobh, away to Waterford, away to Derry and away to Sligo.

“But like I say, we’re under no pressure, and even what is brilliant for us, no matter what happens on Sunday, we still have to come in on Monday and Tuesday and prepare for what is another very big game for us next weekend [against Linfield in the Unite the Union Cup].

“So we are in a very strong position and I would presume that every other team in the country would be envious of where we sit and I presume they will be envious on Monday morning as well.”

vinny-perth-is-congratulated-by-sean-prunty-342004 Perth won the cup twice as a player with Longford. Source: INPHO

The absence through suspension of key player Chris Shields has been well documented, but Perth is set to have everyone else in his squad to choose from.

“It’s probably the one position where we don’t have an exact replica. We’ve dealt with not having Chris. At the start of the season, he was missing with a knee ligament injury, so we’ve coped before. The one thing we do is we train in a structured way where we work [as if we have] a man sent off, we work on different scenarios. We’re prepared for this. It will be a big noise for everyone else, and it will be chatter of the town. But we’ve accepted it over the weekend and we move on.

We’ve a very strong squad. This week is probably one where I lose sleep, because we’ve 24 strong players and I can only name 18. Everybody has trained in the last two sessions, that’s the first time that’s happened this season.

“The only advantage I have is that I’ve won the cup twice as a player [in 2003 and 2004] lost it as a player [in 2001]; I’ve been left out of the team by a manager, so I’ll have huge empathy for the player [who is omitted].

“Barry Ferguson, one of my closest friends, was suspended for a cup final. I spoke to him yesterday about what sort of emotions Chris is going through. We’re very experienced at this, it doesn’t mean we’re going to win because we’re experienced. But it gives us real clarity and we know where we’re going.”

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Paul Fennessy

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