STEPHEN O’Flynn and Ger O’Brien both admitted having ‘soft spots’ for their former club, but the ‘Super Saints’ duo will sever any emotional ties with the Brandywell club come this Sunday afternoon.
SIMON COLLINS reports
Derry City’s 2006 F.A.I. Cup triumph over St Patrick’s Athletic at Lansdowne Road and the U.E.F.A. Cup adventure which followed, remains one of the major highlights of former ‘Candy Stripes’ striker, O’Flynn’s career.
Indeed, the Cork man harbours many fond memories from his short sojourn on Foyleside but, at 30 years of age, he understands this season’s F.A.I. showpiece could be his last chance of reliving those magical moments.
And O’Flynn is confident that the League of Ireland’s Blue Riband trophy will find its way to Inchicore after a 51 years wait but he’s expecting a tough test from his former employers.
As the feverish anticipation among both sets of supporters continues to grow, O’Flynn believes the Derry fans can play a major part in creating that special atmosphere at the Dublin venue.
“With both sets of fans being the way they are, this promises to be a great occasion,” maintained O’Flynn.
“I’ve experienced life up in Derry when I signed for the club back in 2005 and I honestly don’t think there are any better fans in the country.
“I’ve told the St. Pat’s lads that Derry City will likely bring 10,000 supporters down to the Aviva Stadium, so there should be a great atmosphere on Sunday.”
The respected hitman sat out the last league meeting between the sides with an Achilles injury when Derry recorded a 2-1 victory in the Brandywell last month and having watched the game from the sidelines, he expects an exciting clash on Sunday.
“After watching that game it really is a mouth-watering prospect,” he added.
“Down through the years games involving St. Pat’s and Derry City have always been good matches. Both are considered to be good footballing sides and, hopefully, we can get a different result in the final.”
Delighted to face
Derry in Final
Another St. Pat’s player with strong ties to the Brandyewll club is defender, Ger O’Brien, who left Derry City during the club’s financial struggles at the end of the 2009 campaign.
After spells with Sporting Fingal in 2010 and Bohemians in 2011, O’Brien signed for the club he supported as a boy during the close season.
And the 28-year-old talented right-back still keeps in contact with many of his old acquaintances at Brandywell.
While he’s thrilled that Derry area back in an FAI Cup final, he’s desperate to end the season with some silverware as a high profile member of the Richmond Park side.
“Thank God I’ve been lucky with injuries since leaving Derry and things have gone very well for me,” declared the player.
“Obviously, I follow Derry City’s results regularly having played for the club and I still have a soft spot for all those associated with it,” he continued.
Having travelled up for the game against Derry in the Brandywell a few weeks ago, O’Brien was not selected to play and was resting a minor injury.
However, knowing he would not be involved was not enough to keep him away from his former stomping ground.
“It’s great to be back at the Brandywell and I’ve had a chance to have a chat with so many faces that I know well. I still get on very well with all the players up here and we’ve kept in contact which is good.
“Personally, I’m delighted that Derry got through to the final as I have and will always have a soft spot for the club and everyone associated with it,” he added.
Following Derry City’s Setanta Sports Cup Final defeat earlier in the season and St. Pat’s shortcomings in the race for the Airtricity Premier Division title, O’Brien knows both sets of players will be hungry to end their seasons with silverware.
“This year’s final involves two very, very good footballing teams and, therefore, I think the final will prove to be a very open game. Both teams have quality players and match-winners, so I think it will prove to be a very interesting match for the neutral supporter.
“Both clubs have great histories behind them with Derry City widely regarded a very good cup team while Pat’s failure to win this particular trophy is also well documented - so all the ingredients are in place,” declared O’Brien.
“Both clubs have won trophies over the past few seasons so everything is set to be a big day. I would expect a big crowd to arrive in Dublin from Derry - they always support their teams in finals - but I know that St. Pat’s will also be there in large numbers.
“Derry are a totally different side these days as all their ‘big’ players appear to be back to full fitness. During the season Declan Devine was forced to put in kids that have made the breakthrough this season and while they have done well, very few teams can maintain the momentum without their key players.
“For long spells this season, Derry were missing quality players such as Kevin Deery, Rory Patterson, Stewart Greacen and even Stephen McLaughlin has missed vital games. But those players all appear to be fit and well now having played in matches towards the end of the season,” noted O’Brien.
“It’s no coincidence that when all Derry’s big players are back playing again, they can pose the best teams in the league big problems. Results have changed over recent weeks and that does not surprise me at all.
“The final should be a great spectacle and given that both teams like to get the ball down and play, I think it’s fair to suggest that the neutrals at the final will not have any complaints in relation to the overall quality of the game.
“From our point of view, we’ve done really well. While it’s been a decent season for us, I think you have to finish the campaign with a trophy which confirms that success.
“There’s a great hunger and a great desire in our dressing room which I haven’t seen for quite some time and, obviously, we are keep to put St. Pat’s FAI Cup hoodoo to rest,” concluded the Dubliner.