Captain Madden “Confident” of Cup Success / Hector
Dundalk FC skipper Simon Madden is “confident” of lifting the Setanta Sports Cup trophy just three months after being handed the captain’s armband at Oriel Park. The Lilywhites made it through to their first cup final in over nine years with a 5-2 aggregate win over Cliftonville in the last four of the cross-border competition on Monday evening, with Madden hoping to become the first man since David Crawley in 2002 to hoist a knockout cup aloft for the Louth club. But the 22-year-old is well aware that whoever they face in the decider next month will be “very difficult” to beat.
“It’s brilliant,” was Madden’s immediate reaction to dundalkfc.com on Monday night. “We knew going into the game that a draw would do, but you can’t go into games thinking that; you have to go for it. Obviously, we done what we had to do, and we’re delighted to be in the final. We usually make things hard for ourselves for some reason. We always do the hard work away from home, and then in the return leg make it difficult. I don’t know what it is, but having gone 1-0 down we’re delighted to come out with the win. On the night, I think we deserved to win the game. We started well and it could have been over in the opening minutes; we had some great chances. Obviously, they went in front, but we did well to come back and win it, and for Johnny (Breen), a local lad, to score is brilliant.”
Madden entered the game, along with four of his teammates, on a yellow card, having been booked in the opening round against Linfield. And, knowing that another caution against Cliftonville would rule him out of the final, the Dubliner admitted: “It does be in the back of your head, and you’re worried when you go for a 50/50 or 60/40 tackle, but I thought the ref did well tonight. I was impressed by him.” Looking ahead to the final on Saturday 14 May, which will see Dundalk take on either Shamrock Rovers or Sligo Rovers, Madden said: “Either of them is going to be very difficult. But going into the final we’re confident that we can beat either of them. We just have to look after ourselves. Hopefully, we can go on and win it.”
Madden returned to Ireland from Leeds United in mid 2008 and shortly after signed for Shamrock Rovers, the youngster going on to spend almost 18 months with the Hoops. Asked if it would be extra special to play Rovers in Tallaght Stadium in the decider, Maddy said: “Maybe so. It would be closer for my family and friends to travel. But it doesn’t matter who we play there. We’re all looking forward to it.” On more pressing matters for Dundalk is a Louth Derby against Drogheda United this Friday night, with Ian Foster’s side without an away point after three league trips this season. “We want to put the final to one side for the moment,” Simon stated. “The derby is obviously going to be tough. But in our next two games we’ll be looking for six points, and I think if we get that it would be a good return for the first quarter of the league.”
Meanwhile, central defender Michael Hector, who is currently on loan at Oriel Park from English Championship high-flyers Reading, expressed his delight at making it through to the decider. “It’s so early in my loan here, so it’s great to be in a cup final, and hopefully I can play in it now,” Big Hec told dundalkfc.com. “I’m very pleased. The dressing room is buzzing, because it’s such a big cup to play in. Hopefully, we can go on and win it. We started off brilliantly tonight, and then we sat back a bit and took our foot off the gas. Their goal came from a couple of mistakes, not talking properly at the back. I think we needed that little kick to go on and win the game. I thought we were full value for the win. Apart from the goal, we dealt with everything else perfectly. The goal was a bit sloppy, but we dealt with everything else, in the air and on the ground.”
The game saw Hector start two games in succession for the first time, and he is hoping that a run in the team will help his progress, before he looked forward to the weekend trip to Drogheda. “Hopefully, I can keep getting better and better and more consistent in my performances,” he said, “and get more confident, and hopefully I can stay in the team. As a team, we know that we need to start picking up points away from home, if we want to try to challenge for a European place and the league. You need to get your away form right as well as your home form. We have a big game on Friday and hopefully we can get the three points. At the same time, we are really looking forward to the cup final.” Having played against both Shamrock and Sligo Rovers already this season, asked if he had a preference, Hector said: “They’re both good sides, so whoever wins the other semi-final, it is going to be a tough final. They’re both good quality sides.”