By Darragh Farrelly
The year was 1961. John F. Kennedy became the 35th President of the United States of America, Ben E King was riding high in the charts with the hit “Stand By Me“, St Patrick’s Athletic beat Drumcondra 2-1 at Dalymount Park to win the FAI Cup final.
Since then, a lot has changed. The ending for President Kennedy was not too kind, Ben E King was somewhat of a one-hit wonder, and the Saints have yet to recapture the FAI Cup since that sunny afternoon in April. Coincidence much? Hardly.
Yesterday provided Pats’ fans with hope. Hope that will undoubtedly turn to pain. This is the FAI Cup and this is St Patrick’s Athletic after all. A comprehensive 3-0 victory over Dundalk in Oriel Park yesterday gave Pats a final berth for the seventh time since the heroes of ’61 brought the cup back to McDowell’s in Inchicore.
Liam Buckley has instilled a sense of freedom to this current Pats that has been waning in recent years. Players seem to have a sense of confidence in their own ability. They have, at times, being the best footballing side in the country. Yesterday’s display in Dundalk did nothing to dispel that theory. Goals from Greg Bolger, Sean O’Connor and the opener from Kenny Browne let Pats fans dare to dream that maybe, just maybe, this is the year to break the curse. I’m having none of it.
On November 4th, St Pats will play either Shelbourne or Derry City in the final of the FAI Cup at the Aviva. The final of 2006, the last game of football at the old Lansdowne Road, was a classic, Derry edging past Pats 4-3 after extra-time. This may be a slight exaggeration, but that was, for my money, the coldest in the history of the world. Ever. There’s a score to be settled with the Candystripes.
This evening Republic of Ireland midfielder and ex-St Pats man Keith Fahey, speaking ahead of our World Cup qualifier with Germany on Friday, suggested that if St Pats fail to win the cup this year, they may never do so. Maybe he has a point.
Whether it is Shelbourne or Derry City, they will enter this final as favourites. The prospect of a Dublin derby final with Shels and Pats is extremely enticing, at least for the fans anyway. Ask any Pats what their hopes and expectations were for this season before a ball was kicked and I can guarantee you a cup win would be right up there. It has been for the past 51 years.
Maybe, just maybe, this is the year to break the curse.
Hell, I’ve been a Pats fan my whole life, I’ve experienced cup final heartbreak over and over again. Will we start as favourites for the final? Yes. Is our overall squad better equipped than both Shels and Derry? Probably. Is this cup jinx finally about to end? Hopefully.
Don’t hold your breath though, this is St Patrick’s Athletic and the FAI Cup. Sure what’s another year, eh?.