Dundalk captain Stephen O'Donnell. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)
Stephen O’Donnell has grown accustomed to raising silverware above his head as Dundalk captain.
Since joining the club for a second spell ahead of the 2013 season, O’Donnell has claimed three league titles and the FAI Cup on behalf of his colleagues, having been injured for the 2014 EA Sports Cup final.
And, while the third league title and the dramatic 2015 FAI Cup victory tasted sweet, the midfielder points to that success three seasons ago as being the catalyst behind the club's trophy-laden spell.
It was Dundalk’s first title in 12 years and the one that garnered a self-belief in the team, O’Donnell admits.
“The 2014 cup win was an important one for us because it was the first competition we won as a squad,” O’Donnell told The Dundalk Democrat.
“It gave us that impetus to go on and win the league afterwards and then to do the things we have since.
“That victory was important to that team and you could say that this is a new team and a new squad at the moment, so who knows what a win might do for our future as a team.
“Hopefully it has the same effect as it had a couple of years ago, but I don’t think it’s going to be the making or breaking of us or the season.
“Of course, in any season or with any team, a final is always very important and next Saturday is going to be no different. It’s a final and you start out in every competition to get to finals and win cups so we’re there now and it’s about getting over the line. Finals are about winning,” he added.
The final venue, Tallaght Stadium, is also the home of Saturday’s opponents, Shamrock Rovers. However, considering the success Dundalk have enjoyed at the venue, particularly the European triumphs, O’Donnell is relishing a visit to the south-Dublin venue. He insists there nothing to be feared.
“Tallaght holds no fears for us. We enjoy playing there with the memories of the European games last year so you won’t get anyone complaining about the venue from our end,” the Lilywhites ‘skipper said.
“It’s a great place to play and the pitch looks in good shape as ever. I don’t think the venue is going to have much of an impact.
“They have beaten us the last twice (including May’s encounter in Tallaght) so we’ll be wanting to get our own back certainly, but no matter who we play in any final, it’s a huge game and that’s the way you have to look at it.”
O’Donnell’s own fitness has been an issue in recent weeks, however, ‘touch wood’ he will be fit enough to play some part in the final having made his return last Friday night.
Otherwise, he says “everyone is fit and raring to go.” The type of quote which makes you feel Dundalk are going to come out on the right side of the result this weekend.