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Simon says it's time to end famine

TWO years after he achieved hero status among Derry City fans as one of their adopted sons from Dublin, Simon Madden plans to break the hearts of the Candystripes' faithful and dump them out of the FAI Cup tomorrow.

Before he lined out for the Brandywell outfit in the 2012 Cup final against St Patrick's Athletic, Tallaght lad Madden was reminded time and again that all successful Derry sides had a presence from Dublin, even going back to the days when the club played in the Irish League.

These days Madden is back 'home', playing for Shamrock Rovers and aiming for a second FAI Cup winner's medal, if the Hoops can oust Derry in their semi-final at Tallaght Stadium.

"Winning the Cup with Derry two years ago was a big deal for me, it was my first senior medal," Madden told The Herald.

"I can still remember the day and the celebrations. Winning the cup itself was amazing but going up to Derry the next day with the trophy was something else, just seeing the reaction of the people up there.


"I remember it was lashing rain the day we came back with the trophy and a massive crowd still turned out to see us and welcome us home."

But that's all in the past for Madden now. He still has affection for Derry as a club and as a city, still has friends in the Candystripes' dressing-room. But he is very much focused on the task of ending Rovers' long - too long, he says - wait to bring home the FAI Cup.

"It was only at the start of this season when someone said it to me that it's 27 years since Rovers last won the FAI Cup, that's incredible," he says.

"It's very long - way too long - for a club of this size to go without winning the FAI Cup. We have to get to the final before we can really start talking about winning it but that has to be the aim.

"It's been a strange season for us at Rovers, we obviously haven't done as well in the league as we'd have liked.

"It would be good to finish off the season with a trophy and that has to be the aim now. Europe was the main goal for us when Pat Fenlon came in as manager in the middle of the season, winning the Cup is the best way to get into Europe so we have to push hard for that."

The odds are in the home side's favour tomorrow for a variety of reasons. In three league meetings this season Derry have managed to take just one point off Rovers, while recent league form has been poor from City.

Two wins from the last nine matches in the league has seen a possible challenge for a Europa League slot vanish while Derry also had that embarrassing 5-0 loss to Dundalk in the league.

Yet Madden, who played with many of the current City squad in his time at the Brandywell, is wary.

"You can't really pick one danger-man from Derry as they have so many," he says.

"Patrick McEleney is a top player - if he plays well then Derry play well. They are a real threat up front with Michael Duffy and Rory Patterson.

"But their midfield is strong as well, they are very tight at the back and have a very good keeper in Ger Doherty, they are strong all over."

Derry have done a bit of mileage-munching on their Cup run this season, a venture that began in far-off Cobh (2-0 win) and carried on in Drogheda (Derry drew 2-2 all there but won the replay at home 5-0). But while fans have to put up with a day's travel tomorrow, home advantage is not such a big deal for Madden.


"I know when I was at Derry, we loved playing in Tallaght," he says. "The surface is good, it's a big pitch and it just suited the way we played at Derry. I always enjoyed the games there but maybe that's because I am from Tallaght so they were like home matches for me."

Derry have a historical advantage as they have won their last four Cup battles with Rovers, in 1989, 1993, 2002 and 2005 - the stand-out game the final in 2002 when City beat favourites Rovers.

"Stats like that can sometimes play in a player's head, but our preparations are all focused on Sunday and past victories don't really come into it," said Derry boss Peter Hutton.

"It will be a special occasion and the players are certainly looking forward to it. Our cup record against them is good, but our league record is not so good. That said, we will hold no fear whatsoever travelling to Tallaght. It's a top venue and the big pitch will certainly suit our style of play.

"There will be a big partisan crowd present and it's important that we are able to cope with that. We'll certainly respect Rovers, but we do not fear them."

Rovers can call on Jason McGuinness after he served a suspension in Tuesday's win over UCD but there are concerns over Kieran Marty Waters, Barry Murphy and Patrick .