Tuesday 15 October 2019

Clarke eager to make up for Saint's Cup final heartache

Pictured ahead of the 2014 FAI Ford Cup Quarter-Final fixture between St.Patrick's Athletic and Bohemians is Saint's keeper, Brendan Clarke. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Pictured ahead of the 2014 FAI Ford Cup Quarter-Final fixture between St.Patrick's Athletic and Bohemians is Saint's keeper, Brendan Clarke. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Liam Kelly

THE Saints' long wait for the march to Ford FAI Cup glory continues but goalkeeper Brendan Clarke has no time for negativity as St Patrick's Athletic prepare for the visit of city rivals Bohemians tomorrow night.

Pat's last Cup victory was in 1961, and since then they've come a cropper in the finals of 1967, 1974, 1980, '96, 2003, '06 and 2012.

Brendan Clarke knows more than most exactly how much the Inchicore club's fans want the Cup famine to end. He was the 'keeper for Pat's when they lost the 2012 final 3-2 to Derry City.

He committed a foul to concede a second-half penalty from which the Candystripes scored, and the Northern team went on to win the match after extra-time.

Afterwards Clarke experienced the ugly side of sporting desire when he was the subject of some horrendous tweets from so-called fans, but can empathise with the more rational element of the Saints' support.

"I have been to most of the finals we have lost since '61 so I understand what everyone has gone through," he says.

"I was there as a fan when we lost in a replay in '96, I remember the finals in 2003 and 2006 when we lost again.

"But you have to feel you have a good chance every year so as Liam Buckley says, you try to take each game in the Cup as it comes, someone has to win it, so why not us?"

Clarke's roots with the Saints and Cup finals go deep.

His grandfather, Des Byrne, played on the losing St Pat's team in the 1954 final; his uncle Sean Byrne (RIP), a son of Des, played for the club in the 1974 Cup final defeat to Finn Harps; and then Clarke had his own 2012 heartbreak.

Reflecting on the 2012 loss, Clarke says it was a blow, but there was a silver lining in that dark cloud of disappointment.

"I think it's made me strong. You learn to deal with disappointment. The mistake I made on the day in 2012 . . . I haven't made that mistake again. You become a better goalkeeper for it and you just deal with it.

"Losing the final in 2012 made us stronger last year. As a group, we were a lot more tight-knit last year, and that was evident in the performances through the league campaign. I think that had a big bearing on winning the league last year."

Clarke already has a Cup winner's medal from 2011 with Sligo Rovers, but it was tinged with mixed feelings as Sligo boss Paul Cook famously replaced him one minute before the end of extra-time and brought sub 'keeper Ciaran Kelly on for the penalty shoot-out.

Kelly came good, and was the Sligo hero of that shoot-out.

Clarke was reminded of that when Louis Van Gaal made a similar late change of 'keepers for Holland's World Cup quarter-final win on penalties over Costa Rica.

All that's in the past. Now his only focus is on the Dublin derby with Bohemians.

"Owen Heary has a good squad at Bohemians. They're well-organised and work hard for each other, so we have to be ready for that," he says.

"We had a good win in Derry last week, it was a backs-to-the-wall sort of game, especially in the second half. A win and a clean sheet was a big boost for us, and we're looking for another win on Friday."

Irish Independent

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