Monday 11 November 2019

'It's a great time, that half-hour when you're having your shower and you're getting into your suit'

Dundalk duo Gannon and Massey set for a fifth successive FAI Cup final

Within reach: Seán Gannon (left) and Dane Massey of Dundalk celebrate after their FAI Cup semi-final win against Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds. Photo: Sportsfile
Within reach: Seán Gannon (left) and Dane Massey of Dundalk celebrate after their FAI Cup semi-final win against Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Dundalk full-backs Dane Massey and Sean Gannon are both preparing for a fifth successive FAI Cup final appearance at the Aviva Stadium this Sunday.

After two wins and two defeats from four Ballsbridge showdowns with Cork City, the Dublin-born duo will now take on Shamrock Rovers in their attempt to make this a day to remember for the right reasons.

They reflect on their experiences of Irish football's biggest day.

2015: Dundalk 1 (Towell 107) Cork City 0

Dane Massey: The first one. I just remember going down and getting our suits. That was the big thing. Getting the suits and the town was all black and white. Bunting everywhere. That stood out.

Sean Gannon: Coming from Ringsend, just playing at the Aviva for the first time was big for me. But I didn't last long on the pitch. I was off before half-time. I did my ankle ligaments. Dane was trying to tell me 'You're grand, play on.' Do you remember that? I was saying, 'Yeah, no bother Dane, I can't even put my foot on the ground but I'll give it a go.' Stephen O'Donnell came on for me and I couldn't really complain.

DM: For all the family and friends, that final was special. And the way we won it was great.

SG: When Richie got the winner, I nearly done my other ankle trying to run up the touchline because I fell over a microphone. I was nearly leaving the place in a wheelchair.

DM: I'll never forget him running onto the pitch after, hobbling on. The whole squad just filtered out to the pitch. We were a close group, and we had done the double. That just gelled us and spurred us to go on to greater success.

2016: Dundalk 0 Cork City 1 (Maguire 120)

SG: That was different because we were playing in the snow in Russia a couple of days beforehand (2-1 Europa League group defeat to Zenit St Petersburg). It doesn't get much more surreal than that. Usually there's a bit of a build-up to the final, a week or 10 days, but we could only turn our attentions to it on the Friday.

DM: We stayed in Russia on Thursday after the game and we flew home on the Friday, didn't we? We put it up to Zenit, a team full of internationals. We didn't hold anything back. There was no frame of mind that we were thinking about the cup final on Sunday. We went and attacked and should have got a result.

SG: We got a couple of hours to ourselves on Friday, trained on Saturday, and stayed in a hotel on the Saturday night. We were unlucky in the game, we felt we were the better team.

DM: Even just the goal. A deflection goes into the bottom corner.

SG: It wasn't like us at all, to concede that way. A long throw into the box.

DM: Finner (Ronan Finn - now Shamrock Rovers captain) got a nudge in the back.

SG: A minute before penalties, you lose the cup final. It's not great.

DM: I always remember Stephen (Kenny) saying that year, that if you're a successful team, this is what's going to happen. Those couple of months we had a game every three days. It was a crazy schedule from the FAI and that summed it up, going into the cup final after playing at -2 degrees celsius in Russia on Thursday night.

2017: Dundalk 1 (Vemmelund 95) Cork City 1 (Campion 111) Cork win 5-3 on pens

SG: Considering how the league had gone for us that year (Cork City were crowned champions) we were really hoping to go on and win the cup. We had hit form coming towards the end of the league and we had narrowed the gap to Cork. We did our best in the league and it just wasn't to be. We saw the final as an opportunity.

DM: There was a lot of changes that year. Players leaving the club. We signed seven or eight new players and trying to get a settled starting XI was a difficult job. Losing the league had hurt us.

SG: We got ahead in extra-time.

DM: Cork are a very strong team, and they went very direct. We expected them to go direct. We probably had two of the best centre-halves in the country. Niclas Vemmelund and Brian Gartland were really firing. But they got the goal. And we felt that was definitely one that got away from us.

SG: Once it goes to penalties, it's a lottery. Everyone's just disappointed afterwards. You see the other team collecting the trophy and it really does hurt you.

DM: The characters you have in the changing-room try and speak after. It would have been Stephen (O'Donnell), and the likes of Brian Gartland and Gary Rogers. We spoke about how this had to spur us on the next year. 'Imagine sitting back here again like this. We can't let this happen.'

2018: Dundalk 2 (Hoare 19, McEleney 73) Cork City 1 (Sadlier 21, pen)

SG: Every cup final has been close and last year was a bit of a rollercoaster. We got 1-0 up and then a minute later it's 1-1.

DM: I think Sean Hoare will always be remembered for those few minutes. A fantastic header and then (he conceded a penalty from the restart)

SG: It can happen to anyone.

DM: He was unfortunate. Karl Sheppard did well, he played it. He showed him a bit of the ball, and Seanie went in naturally because he was on a high and Karl threw his body in front of it. He was intelligent enough to do it. They scored the peno and made a game of it. Jamie McGrath coming on in the second half was big for us.

SG: Jamie did excellent.

DM: Yeah, he settled us down a bit. He released you down the right, and you put in the fantastic cross for Fats (McEleney's winning header).

SG: I don't think we could have lost three finals in-a-row, could we? We were worthy winners. Kieran Sadlier had a strike from long range at the end and Gary (Rogers) has made an unbelievable save, it probably went a bit unnoticed. Once you win, I don't think you care how you play.

DM: We had a lot of the American owners over. And for a lot of the players, it was a first time winning at the Aviva and having those minutes after the game in the dressing-room. You're taking pictures for the families and you're sending them on. We sat and had a beer didn't we? It's a great time, that half-hour when you're having your shower and you're getting into your suit before all mayhem breaks loose.

2019

SG: It's not Cork but it's the top two teams in the country again. I don't know if it happens in other countries, that the top two get to the cup final every year. I think, as players, to be playing in a fifth one in-a-row is unbelievable. Maybe you don't appreciate it at the moment.

DM: We've played against Legia Warsaw as well, so that's six times at the Aviva. It's a fantastic arena. Every time you step out onto it, it's like the first time.

SG: Yeah, definitely. You can never get sick of it.

DM: Listening to the crowd walking out, the hairs on the back of your neck are standing up. It's a special day.

Irish Independent

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