A national cup final has been a long time coming for Stephen Henderson’s Cobh Ramblers. They’ve never been to one in their 96-year history. On Sunday, that all changes.
“Preparations have been great,” begins Ramblers manager Henderson, who will guide the Division One side into their first ever EA Sports Cup final against Derry City at the Brandywell.
“We would’ve liked to have had matches to continue, you can’t beat that, but we organised internal training games with our U19s for instance. We’ve done a lot of match analysis on Derry.
“We sat down with the players and the coaches and we went through certain things. The training itself has been really really good and we are sharp as you would expect with a cup final on the horizon. All told it’s been very good and very positive and everybody is really looking forward to it.”
Ramblers will undoubtedly go into Sunday’s final as the heavy underdogs. Henderson’s side is well capable of springing a shock but with the quality that Derry possess, it’ll be a difficult game for the Cork outfit.
Henderson, however, feels that the tag of underdogs suits his side, who brilliantly saw off Dundalk in the semi-final.
“We’re underdogs for a reason because Derry are a Premier Division team,” says Henderson.
“Obviously they have a huge amount of resources compared to Premier Division teams let alone another amateur side like ourselves. We’re very young, half our squad consists of players that came through our academy system, our two centre-halves are teenagers, so we’re going out with a very young, inexperienced squad but we’ve worked hard with them in terms of our training and our organisation.
“I think the likes of the Dundalk match in the semi-final and even to a large extent the Dundalk match in the FAI Cup the following week shows that when we’re at it and we’re fully concentrated we’re a very good young team.
“It’s clear they’re favourites and rightly so but we want to go out and give a really good account of ourselves. The fact that it’s on national television is great like we’ve never won a national cup in our 96-year history so for us to do that is going to be really difficult.”
The semi-final is a game that sticks out for Henderson and Cobh as a whole. They were written off ahead of it, many expecting the Premier Division leaders to blitz Ramblers whose league form Henderson admits “hasn’t been great.”
But in front of their biggest crowd of the season, Cobh produced a performance that will go down in the town’s folklore, a game that Henderson beams “meant so much to everyone at the club.”
“It was only at the final whistle where you really got the sense of what it meant to everybody it was our biggest crowd of the season, the semi-final.
“Cobh itself is a football town but she loves a cup run, our 83′ team provoked that love of all cup competitions and when the final whistle went you seen people who have been following the club for the last 20 or 30 or 40 years, most of them looked in shock, there was genuine tears of happiness there and that’s was it’s all about.
“That’s when you really got a sense of what beating Dundalk meant, not just to the players and the coaches and myself but what it meant to the people of the town and the reaction to the team since then has been absolutely fantastic.”
Their opponents Derry have won this competition on a record ten occasions and will be looking for their 11th triumph at home in the Brandywell. Henderson said that he was disappointed not to have had the game at St Colman’s Park in Cobh but he joked that even if the game was “on Mars” they’d still travel and “have a laugh.”
“We were disappointed that it wasn’t in Ramblers,” concedes Henderson.
“For selfish reasons as we were saying there we started to get people back in the gate who hadn’t been there for a long time so it would’ve been great from a selfish point of view to have the game in Ramblers to get all these people back in and maybe they would’ve come back supporting us next season but going up to the Brandywell there’s no issue.
“Firstly the Brandywell is a fantastic stadium, second of all I don’t think you’ll get many more crowds who will create an atmosphere the way the Derry City supporters do. We’re playing against a very good side in a beautiful stadium in front of a packed house you can only look forward to and enjoy that.
“We’d play on Mars for a cup final, for a club like ours to play in a cup final is phenomenal. If it was on Mars we’d all be on the rocket ship going up and having a laugh.”
Cobh Ramblers take on Derry City in the EA Sports Cup final at the Brandywell on Sunday, with kick-off at 4 pm.