One of Ronan Finn’s last games for Dundalk was in the Aviva Stadium in the FAI Cup final three years ago.
On the day the current Shamrock Rovers captain produced a man of the match display but still saw his side lose out to Cork City after Sean Maguire’s scuffed finish in the last minute of extra-time sealed a 1-0 win for John Caulfield’s side.
That victory would eventually lead to Cork winning a double the following year and Finn is hopeful that victory on Sunday for Rovers can have a similar impact as they look to close the gap on Dundalk further next season.
“I’ve been back three years and I feel like we’re building something to go and challenge Dundalk in the league and that’s the ultimate aim – for us to overtake Dundalk and for us then to go and become the league champions and grow from there to start to build our own legacy.
“Dundalk have been great over the last few years and been so consistent. We feel we’re starting to bridge the gap in terms of the quality that we have in the side. Dundalk are deservedly champions but the games we’ve played against them tend to be very tight and I can’t imagine the Cup final will be any different. I think it will be a cagey affair but a good game because there are a lot of good players on show.”
Finn regularly gets stick from Dundalk fans over comments he made following his departure about Rovers being the biggest club but he said he has huge respect for his former employers.
“That’s football. If you weren’t getting stick you’d be wondering why so I nearly take it as a compliment that I get a bit of stick because it means my time there meant something to them.
“I was under no illusion that Dundalk at that stage when I left were a superior team. I knew that but I also knew from playing at Rovers just how big a club they are. That’s easy for me to say because I played there. That’s no disrespect to anybody else and I hope I’m not causing offence by saying it but the opportunity of success and to be part of what the club is building was never going to happen overnight and I was aware of that but I think at this stage three years down the line we’re getting there.
“Dundalk have an established team and have continued to add to it as well because the success means players want to sign for them but we just need to keep going. I think the gap is getting smaller. We dropped off at a stage of the season and let Dundalk pull away but I think with the brand of football we’re trying to play it was never going to happen overnight but we believe in what we’re trying to do and come the cup final we’re really looking forward to putting a showcase on.”
Finn feels this Rovers side need a win on Sunday to be classed as a good team though.
“We always wanted to be in with a chance of the league this year. We dropped silly points at a certain stage of the season and in fairness to Dundalk they just kept on being consistent and kept on getting results but this is a chance for us now to get a massive piece of silverware.
“I think people across the country would respect us in terms of how we play but I think we have to win something to be recognised as a really good side. We do get plaudits for some of our play and how we keep the ball but that counts for nothing if you don’t have anything to show for it at the end of the season. You want a medal and this is an opportunity to showcase our performance and then have a medal at the end of it.
“Like I say, it’s not going to be an easy task because Dundalk are a very good side of course but it’s a chance for us to put our name out there and then build on it. Success breeds success and confidence. You want to win more and kick on so Sunday is a big opportunity for us to show where we want to be and then hopefully it can lead to a lot more but there’s a big task in front of us.
“We can’t just be a nearly team. You’ve got to get the job done. You’ve got to find a way. When we’ve played Dundalk this season they’ve either found a way to win or found a way for us not to win, whatever may be the case. That comes through that bit of experience maybe but I think we’ve come on so much from last season in terms of the games we’ve won and the football we’re trying to play but like I say you have to have something to show for it.
“We need medals. There’s no point in being a technical passing team if you’ve no medal at the end of it and ultimately that’s what we want. That’s what the manager wants, that’s what the fans want and that’s what the players want. You want to be able to look back at the end of your career and show your kids your medals. That’s the goal for us. We’re making progress but now we need to go to the next level,” said Finn.