Belfast Telegraph

Shamrock Rovers hero Alan Mannus glad to avoid more Cup misery

Winning feeling: Alan Mannus celebrates FAI Cup final joy, nine years after being on the losing side
Winning feeling: Alan Mannus celebrates FAI Cup final joy, nine years after being on the losing side

By Steven Beacom

Alan Mannus is one of the most modest footballers around. Call him a hero and he'll shrug his shoulders and pay tribute to his team-mates.

It's been that way since he starred for Linfield as a young goalkeeper winning trophies galore and at St Johnstone when he was inspirational in their historic Scottish Cup success.

On Sunday, in his second spell with Shamrock Rovers, Canada-born Mannus delivered once again as the Dublin outfit triumphed in the FAI Cup final on penalties against league champions Dundalk, who were chasing a treble.

Crucially, the 37-year-old stopped Daniel Cleary's spot-kick. Prior to that, in the dying moments of extra-time, he pulled off a stunning save from Georgie Kelly to send the game to a shoot-out, won 4-2 by Rovers for their first victory in the competition for 32 years.

It looked as though the wait would end with the Dubliners 1-0 up thanks to Aaron McEneff's 90th-minute penalty, only for Michael Duffy to equalise in injury-time. Then Mannus took over.

"I'm glad I saved one in the shoot-out and made a contribution," said the former Northern Ireland star, who won nine caps.

"I played in the last Cup final we were in back in 2010 when we lost on penalties to Sligo. It would have been difficult to take losing it again, especially having been so close to winning it in normal time.

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"I don't remember much about the 2010 final bar the changing room disappointment and how I felt for days, weeks and months after it.

"When they scored with the last kick the main thing was we didn't collapse. The equaliser could have shifted the momentum but we continued to play well."

On his vital extra-time save, Mannus said: "Had that gone in it would have been game over, so I was delighted I got my fingertips to it. On another day it would have gone in.

"With the penalties I felt pretty confident. I knew the Dundalk goalkeeper, Gary Rogers, would fancy it too. He has been around as long as I have and I thought he might stop one or two.

"I had a good idea where their penalties would go because we did a lot of research. In saying that, I went the wrong way for the first one and when it went in I thought, 'Oh no', but I went the right way for the others.

"I saved one, another hit the crossbar and the other I got my hand to before it spun over the line.

"Our penalties were unbelievable, as good as I've ever seen. The boys deserve so much credit for that.

"When we won I was so happy for our supporters and everyone at the club as I know it meant a lot to them."

Shamrock Rovers also means much to Mannus. He stated: "It's a proper football club with great facilities, a strong Academy structure and the pitch at Tallaght Stadium is as good as I have played on.

"The chairman and everyone at the club do things the right way and I've been really impressed with our young manager Stephen Bradley and his staff, plus we have quality players.

"Dundalk deservedly won the title so it was important for us to win the Cup. Hopefully we can kick on now."

Mannus has another year left on his Rovers contract and is feeling fit enough to play until he is 40.

For now, though, he has a month off and is keen to spend time with wife Leanne and their children Mason (3) and Cameron (10 months), who enjoyed running around the Aviva Stadium.

He said: "I just want to forget about football for a while and am looking forward to spending time with my wife, my kids and my family and trying to be a good family man, a good dad and a good husband."

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