18 years on: Stephen McGuinness reflects on Dundalk’s 2002 FAI Cup win

18 years on: Stephen McGuinness reflects on Dundalk’s 2002 FAI Cup win

A couple of years ago I did a piece with current PFAI general secretary Stephen McGuinness looking back on his career.

A large part of that conversation centred around his time at Dundalk.

Below is his memories of April 7th 2002 when a relegated Dundalk shocked Bohemians to win the FAI Cup with a 2-1 victory at Tolka Park.

Garry Haylock’s double on the day either side of half time cancelled out Tony O’Connor’s 40th minute opener as Dundalk clinched what was their ninth Cup success at the time.

While few gave Dundalk a chance beforehand against a Bohs side containing the league’s top goalscorer Glen Crowe and other star names such as Colin Hawkins, Simon Webb, Mark Rutherford, Trevor Molloy and Kevin Hunt, McGuinness felt the Gypsies’ arrogance proved their downfall.

“I remember playing Bohs towards the end of the season and we drew 1-1 but I remember Liam O’Brien made a few derogatory comments from the line. I spoke to him after and he said he didn’t mean the way it sounded but I wasn’t happy at the time with the comments made.

“There was an arrogance about Bohs then and there was an arrogance about them when we got through to the final.”

Preparations for the big day went far from according to plan but according to McGuinness, the haphazard nature of the preparations actually helped Dundalk pull off one of the biggest FAI Cup shocks for some time.

“What I remember about the FAI Cup final and the day itself is that we had met at the Regency Hotel in the car park. I was good mates at the time and still am with James Keddy. James would go on to win our player of the year and was a very important player for us. He got a couple of great goals that year, including two against Bray and one cracker against Finn Harps in the quarter-finals. He was a top class player but I just remember pulling the car in to the car park and Garry Haylock was there. He had stayed in the hotel and he said ‘I’ve bad news, James is out’. He had failed a fitness test that morning.

“I was trying to ring him because he was one of the main reasons I had come to Dundalk and I was devastated for him. He didn’t want to answer his phone though. I spoke to him afterwards and he said I just wanted to stay out of the way because I wouldn’t have been any good to anybody. It was devastating for him.

“Then the coach came. I thought we were having food there at the Regency but we ended up heading out to, I think it was the White Sands Hotel in Portmarnock.

“One of the directors of the club owned something out that neck of the woods but at the time the Port Tunnel was getting built and the traffic was absolutely horrendous. When we drove out there, we had our team talk and everything else. I always remember David Hoey finding €100 on the ground as well. The team was named and John Ryan wasn’t in the team and I remember him walking off. We were standing there at that stage waiting on the bus but what had happened was that Des Denning and the rest of the board had a meal in town prior to the game. They hadn’t accounted for the traffic though on the way back and we were dead late. I remember thinking we were in serious trouble.

“By the time it came and got us to the ground, Bohs were out warming up. We had seen the Cat and Cage packed with Dundalk fans, which was great for us, but we weren’t even stripped at this stage. Looking back at it though it was the best thing that could have happened because there was no time to think about anything. We had no nerves or nothing. Everything was that quick, it was just in, out, have a look at the pitch, back in and get your kit on. There was no time to worry about anything.

“The thing that stuck in my head when we arrived was that a few of the Bohs lads had dyed their hair blonde. They were obviously bored the night before in the hotel because they had stayed over or they thought it would be a stroll in the park, that they just had to turn up. It was used by Martin Murray then in his team talk.

“The place was packed with Dundalk fans too, it was at least two to one if not more. The other thing is when I went out on the pitch the referee came between me and Donal Broughan and said don’t forget this is my day today as well. It then dawned on me that he wasn’t going to screw anybody over, it’s his day too and he wanted to have the best final he could have because he may never get another one. Then I said to myself I may enjoy it too because I may never get another one and subsequently it ended up that it was the only final I ever got to.

“All those things just took a lot of the weight off my shoulders. The rest is history then. We played really well and won the cup.”