When John Gill led Dundalk FC to the First Division title on that memorable night in Station Road in Kildare back in 2008, he didn’t celebrate.
The then manager knew his time at the club was up and rather than going back to Oriel Park to join in on a weekend of celebrations marking Dundalk’s return to the Premier Division after seven long years, he instead met up with Dermot Keely for a pint, whose Shelbourne side the Lilywhites pipped to promotion in dramatic circumstances thanks to Colin Scanlon’s late striker at Tolka Park.
Almost 11 years on and with his first senior winners’ medal proudly hanging around his neck, Gill is determined to celebrate this one. But not just yet.
There are two more prizes that the 55-year-old has his sights set on and he’s hopeful to be partying with them in the coming weeks.
Asked about the win, Gill said: “I went up with my grandson for the medal and that was a nice moment because to be honest with you when I go back to 2008 I didn’t go back to the club that night because I knew I was a dead man walking.
“I didn’t celebrate it the last time because I wasn’t given a chance to and I felt very cheated from that end of it but that’s gone. Tonight to me rectifies a lot of wrongs and believe you me, not in the immediate future, but certainly in the next couple of weeks I will be celebrating.
“I’ve six First Division winners’ medals but I’d swap them all for a senior trophy like that and hopefully we can get more to match that.
“I’d love to get one to the left and right to go with it. I said to the lads in there, let’s make sure this trophy is not left on its own.”
While the EA Sports Cup might not be the biggest prize in Irish football, Gill said it would be a special night for the fans to remember.
“I’m thrilled for everyone in the club, the likes of yourself and everyone connected with the club. It’s brilliant.
“It’s probably a trophy down the list on a lot of people’s priorities but you still have to go and win it and we’ve done it the hard way. You’ve seen the draws we’ve had. We played Pat’s away, UCD and Bohs and then you come up here.
“Performance wise we probably could have done a lot better tonight. I’m not making excuses but the schedule we’ve been on has been crazy and cup finals are all about winning. People won’t remember the performance. It’ll just be that the 2019 League Cup winners are Dundalk and that’s all that matters. I’m thrilled for the players and it’s great for the fans too.
“Look at the numbers who travelled tonight. They’ve had to put up a lot of money this year to travel long journeys away from home, Europe included, so it’s about giving a little bit back to them. I saw the happiness in their faces there and this is why Dundalk is the club that it is. It’s a community club and everybody knows everybody and we’re all in it together.”
Gill also expressed his delight for the fellow members of the club’s management team, in particular Vinny Perth and Ruaidhrí Higgins.
“I’m thrilled for all the staff but particularly Vinny and Ruaidhri. They’re two unbelievably knowledgeable people and two great people to work with.
“I’ve only done a small bit and tried to help them. Hopefully my experience has helped, particularly in the bad times, because the two boys are very self critical of themselves. They take things to heart but both of them lads can look themselves in the mirror and know that they’ve given it absolutely everything.
“I’m thrilled for those two lads because they got their just rewards tonight and for Stephen O’Donnell too because he has had played a huge part in what we’ve done. He’s only gone two weeks but he has had a massive part to play in what we’ve achieved this year.”
Gill described the current group as “unbelievable” and said a treble would be just rewards for their efforts if they managed it.
“The expectation of the club is to win trophies. We don’t tolerate second best. It hasn’t been accepted since the time Stephen Kenny walked through the doors seven years ago. Vinny has carried that mantle on and he demands the same. We all demand the same as a staff and the players in fairness.
“I think we’re on the cusp of maybe hopefully doing something remarkable. It might not happen because there is no God given right to win and as you saw in the game tonight you need a certain amount of luck but it won’t be for the lack of effort or preparation.
“If ever a group of players deserve to make history it’s this group. They’re just unbelievable. A lot of them have been here seven years and they have a chance to write themselves in folklore,” he said.