O'Donnell backs good friend Higgins to enjoy cup final occasion

Dundalk manager Stephen O'Donnell has said he doesn't need to give his good friend and Derry City manager Ruaidhri Higgins any advice ahead of the Candystripes' FAI Cup final showdown with Shelbourne on Sunday
Seamus Crudden

Dundalk manager Stephen O'Donnell feels he doesn't need to give advice to his good friend Ruaidhrí Higgins ahead of Sunday's FAI Cup Final, against Shelbourne.

The Limavady man will be leading his team out at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, something which O'Donnell did with St Patrick's Athletic in the 2021 final.

The Saints won that final, seeing off Bohemians after a penalty shoot-out, and while Higgins would love to win Sunday's showdown with a lot less stress, he too would be happy to win his first piece of silverware as a manager, after a shoot-out.

Just like O'Donnell, it's Higgins's first full year in charge and he has already steered the Candystripes to second spot in the league, Derry's highest finish in 16 years.

However, Dundalk boss O'Donnell believes that his Foyleside counterpart's proudest moment will be in Dublin this weekend.

"I have no advice for him, because he's experienced enough in regards to playing in FAI Cup finals," insisted O'Donnell.

"Look it's all about enjoying the occasion and to be honest it was the proudest moment I've ever had so far , leading the team out in the Aviva when you're overseeing things.

"It's just a great day and I suppose the worst one is a semi-final tie, because getting to the final it's all about enjoying it.

"The final is all about, obviously, just playing the game and everything that goes on around it will be decided on those 90 minutes on the pitch."

In their previous four games this season, Derry have won two games, Damien Duff's Shels secured the points at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium in April and in their last meeting only a few weeks ago, a late Joe Thomson goal earned City a point and cancelled out Jack Moylan's opener.

The Brandywell men and the Dubliners go into the final in poor form. Higgins's side's last win was over Treaty United in the FAI Cup semi-final and they have only scored three times in their last five matches, while Shels have won twice in their previous five outings.

However, the former Saints gaffer believes that Sunday's showdown at the Aviva, which is expected to be played in front of close to 30,000 supporters, will be another tight affair and that form will go out the window.

"I don't think form comes into it, it will be about who performs on the day and what individuals perform on the day," he insisted.

"The game is all about players and it will be about those moments, when someone with a bit of quality or someone switching off or whatever it may be, that will decide the game on Sunday."