The 2-0 win over Cork City was particularly sweet as the Eircom Premier League winners were hot favorites to take the cup. Drogheda set out to remove the sting from Cork’s skilful attacking trio of George O’Callaghan, Joe Gamble and Liam Kearney, and if they succeeded with what were at times dubiously physical means, they set the record straight in the second half with goals from Gavin Whelan and captain Declan O’Brien.
The club chairman, Vincent Hoey, who has been through thick and thin with Drogheda during those 40 or so years, revealed what he said to the Cork players after visiting the losing dressing room. “I told them that I knew how they felt because I had grown used to losing over the years. I understood exactly what they were going through. Maybe it’s all the losing we did during that time that makes the winning feel so good now,” Hoey said.
With the Lansdowne Road playing surface in poor condition after three international games of rugby, Cork manager Damien Richardson called for the final to be moved back in the calendar. “We play summer soccer now, but the ball was bouncing awkwardly. It was a terrific occasion but I would like to see the final played earlier in the year when it would be much more conducive to the quality that’s in the league at the moment.”
Because of the conditions, the game wasn’t a thing of beauty and the lack of a premium on skill certainly wasn’t to Cork’s benefit and after a promising start, they faded. John O’Flynn’s shot which came back off the bottom of the upright in the opening stages turned out to be the losers’ best chance of the contest.
Some poor defending early in the second half led to Whelan, a nephew of former Ireland and Liverpool star Ronnie, smashing the ball home from close range. Drogheda celebrated, but soon Cork felt they should have had a penalty when Simon Webb pulled on sub Denis Behan’s jersey, however, referee Ian Stokes waved their claims away.
It wasn’t destined to be Cork’s day, and when the ball fell to O’Brien following a long kick out with seven minutes remaining, he chipped goalkeeper Michael Devine for the insurance goal.