Saturday 25 January 2020

Heary hell-bent on filling last gap in trophy cabinet

St Patrick's Athletic v Bohemians
Live Setanta Sports 1, 6.30

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

TONIGHT, the Setanta Cup matters. It hasn't always been the way on the road to Tallaght, but that all changes when medals and a trophy are only 90 minutes away.

The clash of St Patrick's Athletic and Bohemians lacks the cross-border element the organisers would prefer and, in many respects, with the expulsion of Cork and Derry, and the problems with scheduling, it's been a renewal to forget. Next year's straight knockout format can only be a good thing.

Still, the final has the potential to deliver. With the rapid improvement of the Saints this year under Pete Mahon, a win over Bohs at Dalymount Park being arguably the stand-out, this should be a competitive affair. And for Bohs boss Pat Fenlon, there is a real incentive to add the one major domestic trophy that has eluded him to the honours list.

It's a similar story for his skipper Owen Heary, who has been Fenlon's chief of staff through the glory days with Shels and now with the Gypsies.

"It's the one I don't have," said Heary. "I've won all the other trophies from the Shield up. I'm looking at Paul Keegan, he's going for his hat-trick, and Stuey Byrne has been in four finals. I'm envious of that and that's why I'd like a Setanta medal."

Indeed, the only opportunity which the experienced defender had to play in a final was the first one, against Linfield, alas he was ruled out by suspension and the Belfast men took the prize up the M1.

Considering he's chasing Mick Neville's haul of 15 medals -- 33-year-old Heary stands on 11 -- every competition counts.

That's why he was disappointed at the EA Sports Cup loss to Monaghan in midweek, a game which reminded him of his age when he lined up in a youthful Bohemians team alongside a youngster, Denis Moran, whose dad was a team-mate at schoolboy level.

In managerial terms, Saints supremo Mahon is at the veteran stage. Twenty years ago this weekend, he famously led non-league St Francis to the FAI Cup final.

He's missing out on the anniversary to concentrate on this affair. The 62-year-old would dearly love to kick off a different kind of celebration back in Inchicore.

"It would mean everything on a personal level, and for the fans and players. It's a good club and I always had a bit of grá for them. I think where I was coming from, with a community based club at St Francis, they were an extension of that really.

"Obviously there was the Brian Kerr factor there back in the 80's and 90's. I was always hanging around and there would have been a lot of friendly games with Pat's so that's where it (the affection) came from."

Mahon believes that victory is within his side's capabilities, while acknowledging that Bohs carry the favourites tag.

"We certainly have the hunger, the passion and the determination," he asserted.

"What we need to do now is play well. I would be very confident that if we play well, then we've a great chance to beat Bohs."

Heary -- who is unsure if he will start the game -- is used to dealing with the expectation that comes with the status of league champions.

"When you're at Bohemians, it's a case of you have to win week in, week out. When you're at other clubs, people might say 'who are you playing this week? Oh, you're playing Bohs. Right we'll up our game, we're not expected to win so it doesn't matter.'

"When you're at Bohs though, no matter who you play, you're expected to win. That's the pressure you have to adapt to."

They have bad memories of Tallaght, with three losses from as many games against arch rivals Shamrock Rovers at the venue. If they perform to their maximum, they can leave with better memories this time around.

Irish Independent

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