EA Sports Cup Final has put the smile back on the faces of the Hale brothers
DERRY CITY'S Hale brothers have endured a frustrating fortnight while on international duty with the Republic of Ireland U21s but they're hoping Sunday's EA Sports Cup Final will put a smile back on their faces.
The Belfast lads were thrilled to return home from Dublin, refreshed and anxious to turn their attentions to their first ever senior Cup final against Cobh Ramblers at Brandywell Stadium.
It was a difficult international break for Rory, in particular, who was an unused substitute for both UEFA U21 European Championships 2019 qualifiers against Kosovo and Germany.
Ronan played the final 12 minutes of the 1-1 draw in Kosovo where ex-City teammate, Ronan Curtis netted a late equaliser but was sat idol beside his elder brother on the bench at Tallaght Stadium on Tuesday evening as the Germans ran riot.
As the pair left Dublin on Tuesday night following the 6-0 demolition by a classy Germany side with their qualification hopes in tatters, they were in a hurry home to Belfast before returning to duty with Derry the following day.
When questioned about their thoughts on Sunday’s EA Sports Cup Final, however, their demeanour changed for the better as they looked ahead to what’s expected to be a real family occasion for the Hale household and the chance to win their first piece of silverware as professionals.
It’s something their esteemed grandfather, Danny Hale failed to do during his outstanding Derry City career. A record-breaking goalscorer, Danny was a key figure in Derry’s progression to the Irish Cup Final in April 1971 at Windsor Park. It was a Derry man, the current Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill who ruined his hopes of lifting the trophy, however, scoring twice as Lisburn Distillery clinched a 3-0 victory on that occasion.
Danny will be in attendance at Brandywell on Sunday amongst bus loads of family and friends who arrive on Foyleside intent on a party and in the hope of finally landing two cup winners’ medals for the Hales’ Newington home.
“I can’t wait for it,” beamed Rory. “I’ve been buzzing for it all week even though I haven’t been playing here or training as much as I would’ve liked ahead of the final.
“It’s been a tough two weeks but I’ve been talking to Ronan all week about it (the final) and just can’t wait. We haven’t had many minutes under our belt but we’re refreshed for Sunday and will get plenty of preparation.
“It’s my first professional final. There are bus loads coming from Belfast, from youth clubs, about 20 mates and my whole family is coming so hopefully it’s a good day for everyone and hopefully it’s a packed out Brandywell. I can’t wait to get out there.”
Rory played an integral role in Derry City’s progression to the cup final scoring a stunning, decisive goal in the 1-0 win over Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds at the beginning of August with his younger brother adding the assist.
One of Derry’s most consistent performers this season, the midfielder will be a key player against First Division outfit, Cobh Ramblers. He’s not too bothered about getting on the scoresheet this time and is quite happy to leave the goalscoring duties to his brother who could be a pivotal line of attack in the absence of the cup-tied Ally Roy.
“Hopefully we can add a trophy,” added Rory. “I don’t care if I score or assist a goal or if Ronan scores or whoever as long as we win.”
Ronan, also played his part in Derry’s path to the final scoring one of the seven goals scored against Shelbourne at the quarter-finals stage.
The on-loan Birmingham City striker turned 20 years-old last Saturday but will delay any birthday celebrations until the end of a frantic week of cup action for the Candy Stripes.
Indeed, there’s a quick turnaround after Sunday’s Cup Final with Bohemians arriving at Brandywell for the FAI Cup quarter-final and Ronan is dreaming of a potential cup ‘double’ in his first season in senior football.
He’s adapted well to League of Ireland football this season, announcing himself to the Brandywell support when netting a hat-trick on the return to the Lone Moor Road venue against Limerick last March.
Another highlight was his first European goal in the impressive second leg victory over Dinamo Minsk in Belarus.
He’s now very much a part of Noel King’s Ireland U21 squad and is hoping to lift his first trophy on Sunday.
“I’ve just turned 20 on Saturday and I’m taking it as it comes. I’m getting plenty of experience and next year is hopefully going to be my year with the U21s where hopefully I can cement my spot in the starting line-up. I wasn’t expecting to play as much for Derry but I’ve got plenty of games under my belt, a few goals and a few assists and I’m getting called up to play for my country so it couldn’t have gone any better.
“I’ve made a lot of great memories in my first senior season so hopefully I can add a title to that as well. Hopefully the team can do the job on Sunday and we’ll all be ready for it.”