03 November 2019 18:35

Sligo Rovers F.C. Derry City F.C. Shamrock Rovers F.C.

Treble-chasing Dundalk can rise above Shields' loss Daniel McDonnell The cameras picked up Vinny Perth at a Leinster training session the week before last, a visit borne out of the Dundalk manager's fondness for looking across codes to pick up new ideas. It's likely to be a fascinating encounter between the two best sides in the League of Ireland this season. In winning the league, they finished 11 points ahead of Shamrock Rovers, and in their four league encounters this season, the Lilywhites won three and drew one. There is also the fact that Dundalk have the experience of competing in the last four cup finals, while 2010 was the last time Rovers reached this stage and 1987 was the most recent occasion they won it. Vinny Perth's men are on course to become just the second Irish side to win a domestic treble, after Derry City did so in 1989.

They won't find it easy, however, against a Rovers team that have pushed them close for much of this season, and possess a fine array of individual talents like Jack Byrne, Graham Burke and Aaron McEneff. The FAI Cup final is on the line as reigning champions Dundalk take on Shamrock Rovers at the Aviva Stadium. Dundalk are looking to complete a domestic treble with the EA Sports Cup and SSE Airtricity League already in the bag. Vinny Perth's side are the favourites to become the first club to win the league, FAI Cup and League Cup since Derry City in 1989. But they take on a Shamrock Rovers who have won a record 24 FAI Cups but have not lifted the trophy since 1987.

They have been the best two sides in the country this season and a big crowd is expected for one of the most anticipated finals in some years. It's nine years since Shamrock Rovers last appeared in an FAI Cup final; nine long years since they suffered the heartache of a penalty shootout defeat to Sligo Rovers at the Aviva Stadium. The Bit O'Red upset the odds that day (not seismically, they only finished four points behind the Hoops), denying the freshly-crowned league champions a double. Two members of the side involved that day return to the Aviva this afternoon in search of redemption. Stephen Bradley - sent off in extra-time back in 2010 - is now the boss.

Billy Dennehy also played for the Tallaght outfit that day. "It's a massive disappointment when you leave any cup final on the losing side. There's so much expectation and emotion that goes into the day," he tells RTÉ Sport, recalling an empty feeling of frustration in the aftermath. "When you come out on the wrong side of the result there is massive disappointment and the regret as well at an opportunity missed. "When we got to the cup final the players had been fighting for a league as well.

Every point was vital, so we were focused on taking it game by game, but there's no doubt about it, when you have the break in between the league ending and the final, those couple of weeks in training are exciting." There's nothing like Cup final day, the colour and excitement. "A lot of the players, especially for Dundalk, they've been to the Aviva many times before," the Tralee man adds. "For a lot of the other lads it'll be their first time and it will be a big occasion for them and their families. "The whole club is gearing towards the final. You're going to get fitted for the club suit, all those things, it just makes for a great occasion. "Rovers have been on a good journey over the last couple of games. I think this has come at the right time for them." Stephen Bradley is searching for some FAI Cup final redemption It's surely crossed his mind this past week that this is a huge opportunity to heal that pain, to wipe it away, to end Shamrock Rovers' 32-year wait for the trophy and lead them up the steps as winners. "Fellahs like Bradser made me feel very welcome at Shamrock Rovers. He got sent off in that final, but I think it's destiny that's brought him back here as a manager. He's the manager of a fantastic club... Cup finals are strange beasts. Funny things can happen on the big day but there's no question Shamrock Rovers are going to have to produce a huge performance to get past treble-chasing Dundalk. Vinny Perth's charges are winners, steeped in success and laced with the nous required to get over the line on the days that matter. "I played against Chris Shields a number of times," adds Dennehy. "For me he's probably been the most underrated player in Dundalk's squad over the years. Obviously it's a blow that he's missing, more so for him as a player because he deserves to be playing in these occasions. But the other side of it is that somebody else has to come in, they have the chance to play and Dundalk will need them to perform really well on the day. This season people were sort of thinking, after Stephen Kenny had left, that maybe that would put a halt to the train. "I think there's a core of people at Dundalk that are driving it forward year after year, week after week really." Billy Dennehy during his days with the Hoops Dennehy, still just 32, also played for Derry City, Cork City. It's been a rewarding venture for Dennehy who says he's inspired by the wave of young coaches now working in the Premier and First Divisions. "As a manager it's completely different," he says. "You've got so many different things going on as a manager, preparing for different scenarios, team selection, set-pieces, things that might happen during the game. Managing the Kerry Under-17s this year has been a great experience for me. "I look around the league now and see Stephen O'Donnell managing St Pat's, Bradser managing Rovers and Neale Fenn at Cork City. They're three massive clubs in the country and they're all being managed by ex-team-mates of mine. it's fantastic to see clubs giving young managers a chance and obviously they're proving they're up to the challenge. Watch live coverage of Peamount United v Wexford Youths in the FAI Women's Cup final, and Dundalk v Shamrock Rovers in the FAI Cup Final from Aviva Stadium on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player from 11:45am on Sunday.