SUNDAY'S FAI Ford Cup final is not just a trophy but a ticket to Europe, and that is one of the main incentives for Drogheda United's players as they aim to cause an upset against cup specialists Sligo Rovers.
No matter what happens, 2013 has been a fine season for Drogheda as they stayed well clear of the relegation zone, reached three cup finals and put on a decent display in Europe (losing 2-0 to a Malmo side that went on to humiliate Pat Fenlon's Hibernian 9-0). But the memory of that European jaunt is still fresh for the United players and they have a taste for more.
"Europe is a massive incentive for us this season. We qualified for Europe through the league last season. We haven't done that this year, so we need to win the Cup to get back and it is a big ambition for us," says Drogheda's Mayo-born keeper Micheál Schlingermann.
"The experience we had in Europe, playing over in Sweden against a club of the stature of Malmo, was brilliant. They were a very good side when we played them, but they struggled to beat us in the second leg after we drew 0-0 at home.
"They have shown how good they are since then, it looks like they are going to win the Swedish league this season; I have been keeping an eye on the results in the Swedish league since we played them."
Of course, Drogheda have a decent cup record this season – tomorrow will be their 20th cup tie – as they got to the final of the Setanta Cup and the League Cup, losing both.
"It's nice to say that we have been in a few cup finals already. Hopefully, all that experience, the stuff that goes with preparation for a cup final, will stand to us on Sunday, and we have prepared well for the game," Schlingermann added.
"This is the biggest cup competition in Ireland and we get to play in the national team's home stadium, so it's great to be here, but it's all about the performance on the day. We need to do the business in 90 minutes."
Many positions in the Drogheda side are up for grabs, and the keeper's shirt is one of those as manager Mick Cooke has alternated between Schlingermann and Gabriel Sava for the season. Sava got the nod to play in the Setanta Cup final and both legs of the European clashes with Malmo, but Schlingermann was picked for the EA Sports Cup final and has been in the side for the most recent league games.
"It's a call for Mick to make, we have trained together and worked together all season, but whoever gets to play will get the support of the other keeper," says the Mayo man.
"We have both played a part in the season, but if I get to play on Sunday and have a good game, that's down to the fact that I have had Gabby pushing me all season, and vice versa.
"A lot of clubs in the league have used just one keeper for most of the season, the likes of Ger Doherty at Derry and Brendan Clarke at Pats, but it's a credit to the two of us that we have had to battle with each other. I was disappointed not to start the season, but once the mid-season break came around I got my chance."
If he plays, Schlingermann will be a busy man, something he accepts.
"Sligo are massive favourites, but we will make it as hard for them as possible," he said.