Stephen Bradley has challenged his Shamrock Rovers side to make history by becoming the first team in 95 years to win an unbeaten league and cup double.
The Hoops confirmed a repeat of last year’s final with Dundalk at the Aviva Stadium thanks to a comfortable 2-0 win over Sligo Rovers in Tallaght on Sunday.
Aaron McEneff’s goals early and late in the first half proved enough for Rovers against a Sligo side fatigued from going all the way to penalties against Derry City on Wednesday.
“The last time an unbeaten double was done was in 1925 and we’ve got a chance to do that next week, which would be an unbelievable achievement from the group,” Bradley told the Dublin Gazette.
“They know all about it – we’ve spoken about it – and we’ve got to embrace and enjoy that. There’s no point in worrying about it, that won’t achieve anything. We’ll go and play our game.
“The chance to do a double doesn’t come around too often, and the chance to do an unbeaten double is very rare, and we have a chance to go and do that.”
McEneff, who received his first call up for the senior Ireland squad last week, continued the goalscoring scoring that saw him score twice in the comeback win over Finn Harps in the quarters.
There were barely three minutes on the clock when the midfielder put the home side in front on the turn from eight yards, after Liam Scales’ header had been blocked.
Rovers had already threatened through another recent international call-up Graham Burke, to win the corner, while a third in Jack Byrne supplied the corner.
If the first goal was scrappy, the second was individual brilliance from McEneff, who picked the ball up deep in the Sligo half and trundled forward before planting a left-footed shot in the corner.
“Only yesterday in training, he had 20 minutes after training just on his left foot finishing, so it’s really pleasing to see that goal with his left foot from outside the box,” added Bradley.
“We weren’t at our best. We were sloppy at times but I thought we managed it really well.
“We had a couple chances for the taking in the second half, but I thought 2-0 was probably a fair scoreline.”
The manager watched from the stands, and assistant Glenn Cronin will again deputise for the final as he serves the last of his three games suspended following his red card against Shelbourne.
As a twist of fate, the referee who dismissed him that day, Dublin’s Rob Harvey, will take charge of the final – and Bradley revealed there was a clause in the referee’s report barring an appeal.
“Whatever the ref had in his report, we weren’t allowed appeal. It’s absolutely incredible. We got [the report] and it says exactly what I said and we’re not allowed appeal.
“I think that referee is a disgrace, Rob Harvey. It’s not the first time he’s done something and it won’t be the last. It’s not good enough.
“I think it’s personal. He’s arrogant in the way he referees the game and I think it’s disgraceful.”