Aviva Stadium Set For Gripping FAI Cup Final Clash

Aviva Stadium Set For Gripping FAI Cup Final Clash
By Eoin Harrington Updated
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The FAI Cup final is finally upon us, as the curtain is drawn on the Irish domestic season with a massive tie between Derry City and Shelbourne.

Plenty of stories have surrounded both teams throughout the season - from Damien Duff taking the helm at Shels for their first season back in the top flight, to Derry pushing Shamrock Rovers close for the Premier Division title.

This final game of the season presents an opportunity for both sides to finish the year with some silverware - which is long overdue in both camps.

Sunday's FAI Cup final is all set up to be a mouthwatering clash.

Tickets for the FAI Cup Final between Shelbourne and Derry City are available from Ticketmaster at the link here.

FAI Cup Final: Last chance for silverware for Shelbourne and Derry

These two sides had starkly contrasting seasons in the League of Ireland Premier Division this year.

For Derry City, the season brought with it a title challenge - albeit, one which faltered in the closing weeks of the season. They led the table until week 14 and were, at one stage in the run-in, a mere three points behind Shamrock Rovers. It seemed as though they could possibly take the Premier Division crown back to the Brandywell for the first time in 25 years.

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30 October 2022; Andy Lyons of Shamrock Rovers in action against Cameron Dummigan of Derry City during the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division match between Shamrock Rovers and Derry City at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ultimately, the experience of Rovers in a title fight proved crucial, and Derry faded in the closing weeks of the season to finish 13 points adrift of the Hoops. They have not won a league game since October 7 - the intervening period including a 1-1 draw with Sunday's FAI Cup final opponents Shelbourne. Despite the poor close to the season, and the lingering disappointment from not making more of their title charge, manager Ruaidhri Higgins is happy with how the season has gone:

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Of course I have regrets. It's my first full year as a manager and I'm going to make mistakes. I've made mistakes and I'll learn from them. That's what it's all about.

Last season I think went somewhat under the radar but the players were absolutely sensational. We finished in Europe from being bottom of the league and we've finished in second this year. So second place and a cup final is a major leap forward.

Derry finished off their FAI Cup final preparations with a disappointing 1-0 loss to Dundalk in their final Airtricity League game. Nonetheless, they enter Sunday's big game as odds on favourites to take their first silverware since 2012 (when they won this very cup).

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21 October 2022; Will Patching of Derry City in action against Jonathan Lunney of Shelbourne during the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division match between Derry City and Shelbourne at The Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium in Derry. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
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So what of their underdog opponents, and their much-discussed manager?

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Damien Duff was the big name acquisition for Shelbourne ahead of the 2022 season, and their return to the League of Ireland Premier Division. The former Chelsea, Newcastle and Ireland man took charge of his first job in full management with a simple task: keep Shels in the Premier Division.

That goal was achieved, but it was nervy at times - they would ultimately finish a safe 7th place, 15 points ahead of the relegation play-offs. Duff has shown fight in the role, but it has earned him enemies in equal measure to friends.

Duff has, however, done an impressive job in keeping his side in the top flight, and his proudest achievement will be bringing his players to an FAI Cup final. The highlight of the season is surely the quarter-final win against bitter local rivals Bohemians, who were vanquished 3-0 in Tolka Park.

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18 September 2022; Shelbourne supporters celebrate after the Extra.ie FAI Cup Quarter-Final match between Shelbourne and Bohemians at Tolka Park in Dublin. Photo by Tyler Miller/Sportsfile

Shelbourne's run to the FAI Cup final is the surprise of the season, and they have a huge task on their hands to prevent Sunday's game being routine for the Candystripes. They have had a similarly lengthy wait for silverware as their opponents, without a league or cup title since 2006's Premier Division win.

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Ladbrokes currently have Derry City as strong favourites at 4/9, with Shelbourne priced at 11/2. The nature of this season, however, means we can expect a close game.

The sides drew 1-1 just over two weeks ago in their final league meeting of the season, while Derry's slow finish to the season and Shelbourne's tendency to punch above their weight in the cup this season, mean this could be a closer game than it seems on paper.

Simply put, you won't want to miss the FAI Cup final this Sunday. The action kicks off at 3pm in the Aviva Stadium.

Tickets for the FAI Cup Final between Shelbourne and Derry City are available from Ticketmaster at the link here.

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