The EA Sports Cup was the first trophy of the Stephen Kenny era and the man who captained Dundalk to that famous win over Shamrock Rovers five years ago has backed his old side to beat Derry City in Saturday’s final at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium (kick-off 8pm, live on eirSport) for it to kick-off a similar golden period for Vinny Perth.
Mark Rossiter was the man to lift the trophy when the Lilywhites won 3-2 at Oriel Park on September 20th 2014. It laid the foundations for a first league title triumph in 19 just over a month later with the club going on to win eight further major trophies in the following years before Kenny’s departure to take up the Republic of Ireland U-21 manager’s job last November.
While Perth would rightly argue he played a part in all of those successes, a victory over holders Derry – who are aiming for their 12th victory in the competition in the last 30 years – would equate to his first piece of silverware as a head coach.
It would also be the first part of a treble bid which only the Candystripes have achieved previously, 30 years ago back in 1989.
While there are bigger prizes than the EA Sports Cup in Irish football, Rossiter described the 2014 success as a stepping stone to bigger things.
“Obviously back then our priority was the league but to win any cup is always great and that particular win was huge as it was a first step in terms of getting the ball rolling.
“You have to start somewhere and that win over Shamrock Rovers ultimately helped in terms of getting over the line in the league and it started a period of dominance for the group then after that.
“Winning things never gets boring and it was a great honour to captain the side that day and an amazing feeling to lift a trophy as captain.
“Come Saturday if Dundalk get the win it will be huge for Vinny. There were questions asked of him this year but to get the first piece of silverware after the Stephen Kenny era would be a great way of answering those critics,” said Rossiter.
The now retired 36-year-old says he is not surprised to see his old side challenging for honours on three fronts this season.
“I definitely expected them to challenge for everything at the start of the season and that is how it has transpired.
“Maybe Europe could have gone better had they got a bit more luck with the draws but Vinny has kept that familiar style that has made them so successful and the winning mentality is still there.”
Eight of the players to feature in that 2014 final are still at Oriel Park – including assistant first-team coach Ruaidhrí Higgins and goalscorer Dane Massey and Patrick Hoban – and Rossiter feels that continuity has been critical to the success Dundalk have enjoyed over the years.
“That’s one of the reasons why they’ve been so successful as a club. The drive and determination of those players brings others on.
“People don’t realise it but it isn’t easy for players to self motivate themselves year after year but that group do it so well and I have to tip my hate to the lads for that.”
While Rossiter, who won every major honour in Irish football between his time at Dundalk and Bohemians, expects Declan Devine’s Derry side to give the Lilywhites a tough test on Saturday, he is backing his old side to clinch the win.
“I’ve not seen Derry live this season but they look a well oiled machine and they’ve shown against Dundalk already this year a number of times that they are no pushovers.
“Derry have a great record in the EA Sports Cup and it could be anyone’s game on the day but I’d expect Dundalk to come out on top. They’ve got stronger as the league has gone on and I hope they win on Saturday,” he said.