St Patrick’s Athletic are one step away from ending 53 years of hurt, as they come up against Derry City on Sunday.
This will be their eighth FAI Cup Final since they were last victorious in 1961, Derry are formidable opponents, having defeated the Saints in their two most recent finals, in 2006 and 2012.
From the outset, it’s the perfect day for redemption for St Pat’s goalkeeper, Brendan Clarke, who was widely criticised on social media sites in the aftermath of the defeat, after a crucial error granted Derry the winning goal in 2012.
However, ‘that’ word couldn’t be further from Clarke’s mind, as he aims to win it for the team and the fans, not because of what opposition they’re facing.
“I wouldn’t say its redemption. We’re certainly not thinking of it in that way. Liam’s put together a great squad and we want to be winning trophies, no matter who it’s against, although from a fan’s point of view, they might be thinking that yeah. Hopefully it’s third time lucky against Derry, I suppose,” says Clarke.
Clarke insists that although 2012 was a painful experience, he’s become a better player because of it.
“It was obviously disappointing,” insists Clarke “the following ten days/ two weeks were tough. There was a lot of wondering of what if, but the manager was great around that time. If you make a mistake, he lets you know it’s not the end of the world. I like to think that when I make a mistake that I don’t make the same one twice.”
“We sat down pretty soon after the cup game, and got planning for the new season, where we were going to go from there,” says Clarke.
St Pat’s won the league title the following season, with Clarke made the league’s goalkeeper of the season, and he believes the disappointment of the previous year played a big part.
“It made me stronger mentally, definitely. You know you’ve been through the bad times, so you don’t let lesser things affect you,” says the Pat’s stalwart.
Clarke grew up around the Inchicore/Drimnagh area and understands how much supporters want the FAI Cup, having been through the heartbreak in the stands himself.
“I remember Shels in ’96, we drew 1-1 in Landsdowne but got beaten 2-1 in the replay,” Clarke recalls.
However, Clarke is adamant that the pressure of ending the club’s cup hoodoo is not lingering over the players.
“We’re just concentrating on winning. We’re not feeling extra pressure, we put enough pressure on ourselves to do well,” Clarke explains.
Although the expectancy within the club to win will have increased, having not mounted a strong title defence, a big disappointment for Clarke.
“We were hell bent on retaining the trophy, but we dropped silly points, lost games we should’ve drawn and drew games we should have won.
“It was a different scenario this year as opposed to last, because when you’re Champions you’re there to be shot at, everyone upped their game when they came up against us and we knew that’d be the case, because we’d done that against teams in the past,” says Clarke.
On league form, the Inchicore club will be made favourites with the bookies, as they were in 2012, and while Derry may have history on their side, Clarke sees neither as being an advantage going into the November Showdown.
“Trophies are there for the taking at the end of the season, so why can’t it be us,” he enthuses.