The blue riband event of the domestic football season takes place at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday with a potential record-breaking crowd set to settle down for this year’s FAI Cup final between Bohemians and St.Patrick’s Athletic.
Over 40,000 tickets have already been sold for this repeat of the 2021 decider which was won by Pat’s on penalties. However, these are two entirely different-looking teams under different management. While Bohemians are currently priced as favourites to win on Sunday, the general League of Ireland public appears to side with the Saints and I do too.
Jon Daly has proven to be a revelation since he replaced Tim Clancy as Pat’s boss early on in the season. The ex-Glasgow Rangers player has not only led the Saints to another FAI Cup final but he secured a top-three finish in the league and with it European football again for next season.
Pat’s haven’t been at their brilliant best in the latter part of the season in terms of performances but Daly appears to have brought a steely mentality to the camp with St.Pat’s often digging out the required results. Their run to the final is a good indication of that with Pat’s stumbling past First Division strugglers Finn Harps and nine-man Longford Town before dumping out the cup holders Derry on penalties. A difficult trip to Turners Cross in the semi-finals was navigated without much fuss but what is impressive is the fact Pat’s played all their cup ties away from home on this run to the Aviva Stadium.
As for Bohemians, they were handed an extremely tough first-round tie with Damien Duff’s Shelbourne coming out of the hat, although home advantage was obviously a big help for Bohs, who then dispatched non-league Rockmount 6-0 before a potentially tricky trip to Drogheda where the Gypsies ran out deserved 1-3 winners in a scrappy affair where the hosts weren’t at their best. A visit to high-flying Galway United awaited Declan Devine’s men in the last four but Galway struggled to really get at Bohs who did enough in a scrappy 0-1 victory.
So, as you can see, both finalists had to roll their sleeves up at times during their respective cup runs and get down and dirty which would suggest both squads possess a strong mentality. However, for me, Bohs build-up to Sunday has been far from ideal.
Having made a wonderful start to the season, Bohemians eventually ended up finishing sixth and missing out on European qualification via the league, albeit they’ll still reach Europe if they win on Sunday. However, in 2021, Bohs carried a similar pressure into the final against Pat’s and they ultimately came up short while in that very same cup final their manager at the time Keith Long was banned from the touchline. While Declan Devine will be in the dugout on Sunday, he is without the playing services of his captain Keith Buckley after he picked up a season-ending injury a few weeks back.
Also, pressure on the players and the manager from sections of the fanbase appears to be growing with a very public dressing down occurring after the recent 2-0 defeat in Dundalk which effectively ended Bohs hopes of a top-four finish.
If all of that wasn’t enough, Bohemians haven’t got their hands on this trophy since 2008 and that was a far better squad than what Declan Devine is currently working with. We all remember St.Pat’s 53-year long wait to end their cup drought and the pressure that brought going into every cup final, I feel while Bohs wait to lift the FAI Cup again hasn’t been as long, it certainly does bring added pressure to the players and management.
In terms of league meetings this season, St.Pat’s hold the H2H advantage with two wins to Bohs one with the other ending in a draw. The most recent clash saw the Saints win 0-2 in Dalymount and quite comfortably as well.
With these cup finals often being tight and cagey affairs, St.Pat’s to lift the cup (11/10) is probably the safer bet but when I saw the betting for this final and St.Pat’s priced up as 2/1 outsiders, I couldn’t resist a punt on the Super Saints!
VERDICT: St.Pat’s (2/1)