It’s the final everyone wanted.
The former champions against the new champions. The most successful side of the last decade against the side hoping to dominate in a new era. Dundalk vs Shamrock Rovers.
There might not be the annual trip to the Aviva Stadium on Sunday for Dundalk supporters but for once in these strange times there should be no motivation required for either fans or players to get up for this one.
It has been a strange year on and off the field, not helped by the wider events around the world as a result of Covid-19. However, if Dundalk can end this year with a trophy it would completely change the narrative of the season.
Many have deemed this year to be a poor one for the club but given their qualification for the group stages of the Europa League and the financial benefits that brings about in a year when otherwise the club’s finances could have taken a huge hit, adding a Cup to it would be the cherry on top and something no doubt most would have taken had it been offered at the start of the year.
The fact that it is Rovers in the final only whets the appetite for the game even more. Without Chris Shields and Patrick McEleney last year, Dundalk underperformed when an historic treble was on the line.
Despite all the squad’s achievements up until then, most of the plaudits over the winter were given to Stephen Bradley’s side.
They’ve backed that up this season by kicking on to win the league title. It might have been a shortened campaign but no one can deny the Hoops were deserving winners. Many fancy them to now complete a double and go on to dominate for the coming years.
Dundalk might be back in a final but there are those who feel this great side’s time in the limelight is coming to an end.
Filippo Giovagnoli’s side have a chance to prove otherwise on Sunday. Rotation to prioritise the Europa League play-off meant that they never got a proper crack at Rovers in Oriel Park this season.
Now there should be no shortage of motivation to end the campaign with silverware by bursting their invincible bubble.
At the start of this Cup run before Giovagnoli’s first game in charge down in Cobh at the end of August, the Dermot Kennedy track ‘Giants’ rang out around St Colman’s Park before the game.
“We used to be giants, but when did we stop,” is how it begins.
This Dundalk side have been written off this year and received a level of criticism that many at Oriel Park would be totally unfamiliar with. On Sunday they can prove they’re still very much a force to be reckoned with.