North desperate for cup glory to ease future fears
IT'S not just a place in the FAI Cup final that Danny North is playing for tomorrow – but also his future.
In a league where job insecurity goes with the territory, the distraction of a game of football would seem the perfect way to escape the realities of the workforce.
Except that this is North's source of income. At least it is until the first week of next month when his contract ends and his worries begin – though it would help if he could bring an FAI Cup winner's medal to the negotiating table.
To do so, his Sligo side have a couple of sizeable hurdles to clear, firstly against Shamrock Rovers in tomorrow's semi-final and then, if successful, against the winners of the Drogheda-Dundalk clash.
"It is not a nice scenario to be in," said North (above). "Knowing in the back of your mind that you will be signing on the dole. That is not something I would be proud of.
"In England, where I played before, there was always a severance payment of a month's wages when your contract expired and that gave you a bit of security.
"But look, we're here. We have a reality to deal with and you have to accept the facts of life.
"From observing this league over the years, we have seen how some teams have won a title and then disappeared from view.
"That's unhealthy. You need stability, but there is a lot of work to do before that stability arrives, from the quality of the football to the quality of the grounds."
Quality should be on view tomorrow though, because these two teams – when the mood takes them – have the capacity to produce a thriller.
"These are the two biggest teams in the country and this is the biggest game," said North. "They are looking for a cup treble, us for something to hang our season on. It should be tight."
As it will be in Drogheda, where Dundalk travel to for the first cup semi-final meeting between these old rivals.
Like Sligo, Dundalk regard the cup as a form of redemption to compensate for the fact their title ambitions are practically over.
Drogheda, though, have a different ambition, namely to reach a final and give their forward Gary O'Neill – who was diagnosed with testicular cancer last month – something tangible to look forward to.
"Gary will make the final if we get there," said Drogheda defender Alan Byrne.
"We have his No 10 jersey hung in the dressing-room as a reminder of how much he means to us. Getting to the Aviva is what we're hoping for – to do it for Gary, firstly, and for us, secondly."