Perth “very proud” of champions after Cup defeat
Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth spoke of his pride in his Dundalk FC side after their agonising penalty shootout defeat to Shamrock Rovers in the FAI Cup final on Sunday.
The Lilywhites fell behind in the 90th minute only for a last-gasp Michael Duffy strike to level things up deep into injury time but, after Georgie Kelly came closest to breaking the deadlock in a scoreless period of extra time, a third penalty shootout victory of the season proved beyond the champions.
Dundalk’s dreams of a treble died as Gary O’Neill converted from the spot to give Rovers a 4-2 shootout win but, after an incredible season that put such a rare feat within touching distance, a disappointed Perth spoke of his pride at representing the club and the town at Irish club football’s showpiece occasion.
“I’m very disappointed. I’m very disappointed for the whole town. I thought they came up and really gave us all their support. It didn’t go our way early in the game and we had to dig in but I thought we finished much the stronger side and the crowd played their part in that,” said Perth.
“But ultimately it came down the lottery of a penalty shootout and they’ve come out on the right side of it, so we have to accept it and take it on the chin.
“I’m still very very proud to lead this club into the Aviva Stadium as league champions. I was proud to leave Dundalk yesterday as champions and we’ll go back to Dundalk as champions and I’m equally as proud of what we’ve achieved.
“I’m proud of this bunch of players. It’s been a special season.”
After a tight game between the two best teams in the country played out in front of a crowd of over 33,000 at the Aviva Stadium, Dundalk looked to be heading for defeat when Aaron McEneff’s penalty – following a Gary Rogers foul on Aaron Greene – put Rovers in front in the 90th minute.
But the Lilywhites poured forward in search of an equaliser and, as they have all season, they dug deep to find a response, as Michael Duffy’s stunning half-volley left Alan Mannus with no chance to send the travelling Dundalk supporters into raptures.
“The players have just kept going all season – they don’t stop and they’ve been brilliant all season long,” said Perth.
“There’s no doubt we can improve the squad and we can get better as a club, but this bunch of players are brilliant people and I’m very proud to represent them and what is a brilliant town.”
Dundalk’s season does not end with the Cup final, however, with this weekend’s Unite the Union Champions Cup tie with Linfield giving Perth’s side the chance to end the season on a high.
The Lilywhites travel to Windsor Park on Friday (8 November) to face the Northern Irish champions (kick-off 7.45pm), before the return leg at Oriel Park next Monday (11 November, kick-off 7.05pm).
Proposals for an all-island league, led by Irish businessman Kieran Lucid, were dealt a blow last week when the Irish FA refused to sanction the participation of its member clubs, but Perth said this weekend’s tie gives the clubs an opportunity to show what might be possible for a future cross-border competition.
“We’ve got to now focus on next week. We’ve got two big games and our players, no matter what happened today, would have behaved, would have looked after themselves and we’ll do that again,” he said.
“The All-Island competition has been sort of dented this week and hopefully if we put on a show, it might give people a taste of what it could be, so we look forward to the Linfield game next week.”