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'I don't care how we win it as long as we bring the cup back'

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IAN BERMINGHAM has been in the best form of his career for St Patrick's Athletic, so he's hopeful of laying a few bogeys in this afternoon's Ford FAI Cup final.



And when he talks about bogeys, he is not referring to St Pat's Cup famine of 51 years, he's referring to his own habit of missing out when it comes to cup finals.

As a schoolboy, he played for some of Dublin's most renowned clubs -- Ballyfermot United, Crumlin United and Lourdes Celtic -- they got to finals, but never won. As a professional, he has played for big clubs too -- UCD, Shamrock Rovers and St Pat's -- but all he has to show for it so far is a defeat in the Setanta Cup final and two semi-final defeats in the FAI Cup.

"I hope to change that trend on Sunday," he said last week. "While the league is our bread and butter and we are only short a couple of players from challenging for that title, it would be great for the fans if we won the cup. That 51 years is more to do with them than the players, because we've only been here a few years."

Having played in a few finals, he thinks he knows what it takes to win one, and he believes Pat's have all the ingredients this time. "It's all about who turns up on the day. I'm confident we can win it, but you do need a bit of luck."

And luck, which has deserted Pat's over the years in the cup, seems to have sided with them this year. A win over non-League Crumlin United was followed by a bye when Monaghan United withdrew from the League, and then there was that quarter-final win over Drogheda United after extra-time and penalties in a United Park replay.

"It took a goal in the last minute to bring it to extra-time, and that only happened because the ball hit off Vinny Faherty -- I'm not sure what part of him it hit -- and went in. Yes, you do need your luck. Then we drew bottom team Dundalk in the semi-final, so the draw has been kind to us."

Bermingham, who was named on the PFAI's Team of the Year for the first time, has been a livewire down the left flank from left-back all season, allowing regular left-winger Seán O'Connor operate on the right, where he has proved very effective.

Aviva finals so far have been decided by penalties, so another shoot-out can't be ruled out. Pat's have already survived that one in Drogheda, when goalkeeper Barry Murphy was the hero, and Bermingham was one of the Pat's players to miss.

Would he step forward again? "At the time I missed, they had missed two already, so the pressure was off. Yes, I'd still have a go -- I don't care how we win it as long as we bring the cup back to Inchicore."

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He is in his third year at Richmond Park, but is one of only five who survived the cull by manager Liam Buckley when he took over this season. "The players were only on year-to-year contracts, and Liam brought in his own players," he explained. "Trevor Croly and Liam did a great job getting across how they wanted us to play, and we clicked straight away. I'm loving it and I think I've benefited from the way we're playing."

Good left-footed players are highly prized in England, and at 23 he is the right age to follow in the footsteps of players like Seamus Coleman, Kevin Doyle and Keith Fahey, who moved across-channel from the League. It's not something he rules out.

"I want to play at the highest level I can. When I was at UCD I had offers of trials, but I wasn't ready. Now if I got an opportunity I would have to look at it."

Bermingham rates Pete Mahon as the biggest influence on his career. "He brought me to UCD at 17 and put me straight into the team. I played a lot of games there, and then he signed me again for Pat's, and if he hadn't I wouldn't be playing in the Cup final. I have a lot to thank him for."

A big performance on the Aviva pitch in front of a big crowd and TV audience could help Pat's end their cup famine -- and propel Bermingham to a transfer, which would put him in line to add a full cap to the underage caps already secured.

Derry City v St Patrick's Athletic,

RTE 2, 3.30


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