Ross Gaynor trudged off the field disappointed at the end of Dundalk’s first ever Setanta Cup final in 2011 and, three years on, he is now looking to condemn the Lilywhites to another defeat in Tallaght.
The Ardee man was part of Ian Foster’s Dundalk side that lost that final 2-0 to Shamrock Rovers but he retains happy memories of the club he grew up supporting and indeed even hopes to return to Oriel Park in the future.
Speaking to The Dundalk Democrat, Gaynor recalled: “That was my first major final and the thing I remember was that it was really tough and a bit unfair to be playing against Rovers in their own stadium.
“But looking back, that was one of the best starting XIs around. We had Jason Byrne and Mark Quigley in attack and just all over, we were very good. If our squad had been a bit stronger then who knows what we could have achieved because we were even top of the table at one stage.
“Jason getting injured in that final hurt us because we had nobody really to replace him and then defensively with a few absences we started to struggle,” continued the ex-Millwall man.
“I really want to see Dundalk do well because they are a strong side and good to watch. Along with Sligo, they would be my team in the league and I certainly wouldn’t begrudge them picking up some silverware at all.
“My first games as a young lad were going to watch Dundalk and it would be the team I support. It’s where I would go and hang out and shop when I am home, it is a big club and there was only one option for me when I got the chance to sign from Drogheda.
“Hopefully one day, I can go back and finish my career there.”
Gaynor revealed that the only reason he left the Lilywhites was for a chance to win some silverware and you can’t argue with his logic. Since relocating to the west, he has picked up a league title, in 2012 and an FAI Cup winners medal last season.
“Towards the end at Dundalk, you could see that the club was entering a bit of a transitional phase and there was a bit of uncertainty,” he explained.
“For me, I was 25 and I only left to go and win some trophies in my career. Since moving, I’ve managed to get a couple of medals but the one that I’ve yet to win is the Setanta Cup.”
That last statement was delivered with intent. It is a tournament Gaynor is hungry to tick the box for, not just for himself, but also for his club who have never before appeared in a final in this competition.
While his side do have the experience of their own cup finals and title run-ins to draw upon for the game, he knows very well that when the sides cross that line, it is very much up for grabs.
“Cup finals are all about on the day,” he said. “We were quite poor against Drogheda in the FAI Cup final last year and it took a bit of magic at the end. Nerves can get to players and other things and it is all about what happens on that day.”
As for a result, Gaynor is predicting a tight affair. Dundalk won the last meeting between the sides in March when Gaynor was sent-off early in a 1-0 win for the Lilywhites.
“I just hope to last more than 10 minutes in this game!” he laughed. “I think it will be a great game between two good footballing teams. I don’t want to say we will win it or lose it.
“Finals are funny games when emotions can really take over. We are really looking forward to it and hopefully we can win it.”