Tuesday 20 March 2018

O'Brien urges Drogs to seize the day despite club upheaval

Drogheda United's Declan O'Brien
Drogheda United's Declan O'Brien
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

DECLAN O'BRIEN has encouraged his Drogheda United team-mates to ignore the infighting at the club and win Sunday's FAI Cup final for themselves.

The Boynesiders' manager Mick Cooke is set to depart after the game following a collapse in his relationship with the board.

His uncertain situation has left the majority of his squad facing an uncertain future, but O'Brien has told them to forget about that and seize the moment because they might never get this opportunity again.

"We've got to get into the mindset of thinking that we don't know where we'll be next year and we might never be in another FAI Cup final," said the experienced striker.

"People looking in from outside will say, yeah, the boat is rocking up there a bit and it's not good for continuity, but for us it's no problem, we're professionals and we get on with it.

"Mick will do alright whether he stays here or goes elsewhere because he's a top manager, but we'll park that and put it to one side.

"We've got to zone in on this one because we don't know when the next big game is going to be. They're the Blue Riband events in Ireland and you don't get into them that often.

"I thought I would have played a few by now, but this is only my second one," said the 34-year-old. "So I know that they don't come by easy."

O'Brien's debut cup final appearance was a goalscoring contribution to Drogheda's 2005 success over Cork City.

That was an afternoon where the Boynesiders, backed by investment and a large support, appeared to be a club on the up. The league trophy was secured two years later, but financial difficulties resulted in a damaging brush with extinction.

'Fabio' left for Dundalk, and was demonised for doing so, but returned in 2012 to contribute positively to Cooke's tenure.

As a survivor from 2005, he recognises that there's less excitement around the town this time around, but he is pragmatic enough to stress that the dressing-room can't worry about that because they have to be selfish about their own desires.

"For us, the buzz is the same," he said.

"Maybe it's not in the town, with the posters and things. After the club went into administration and came back, I just don't think it's captured the imagination of the people again.

"That's just the thing in Drogheda. It's the town's issue, the recession, or whatever it is, but for us it means nothing.

"Bar two or three, we're not from Drogheda, even though I'm practically adopted at this stage, but that's a different issue.

"This is about winning trophies and it would be the same buzz for us winning this as it would be at any other time."

O'Brien is confident, although Cooke's charges go in as firm underdogs considering they finished 28 points behind the Bit O'Red in the league.

However, they have a reasonable record against the Connacht club and have excelled in knockout format this term, reaching the final of both the Setanta Cup and EA Sports Cup, losing both times to Shamrock Rovers.

In that context, O'Brien was happy to see the Rovers from Sligo triumph at the semi-final stage.

"Playing against Shamrock Rovers would be mentally different because they've beaten us in big games before and that would have been an extra hurdle to get over," he said.

"But if we show up on the day, I think we can beat Sligo. In one-off games, we're a stronger team, probably the kind that shows up on the day and then maybe next week we're not as strong.

"Sligo have been there in the Aviva before and they've got some quality players which will obviously stand to them, but the squad are really confident of causing an upset. I can't say it enough that we're focused and ready to win."

Irish Independent

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