Vinny Perth believes that winning is ingrained in his DNA after guiding Dundalk to the first part of a potential domestic treble with a penalty shootout victory over Derry City in the EA Sports Cup final on Saturday.
An absorbing night at the Brandywell, which saw the teams locked at two goals apiece after 120 minutes, was settled when Chris Shields slotted home the winning spot-kick in sudden death after Derry centre-back Ali Gilchrist saw his effort come back off the woodwork.
There were scenes of joy at the end as Perth celebrated his first piece of silverware since taking over from Stephen Kenny last November. It is the ninth time that Dundalk have lifted a major trophy during his time at the club and he said that winning is a habit he never wants to lose.
“I’ve been here for seven-and-a-half years now and we’ve won a lot of trophies,” said the 43-year-old. “Winning is in my DNA and I just can’t change it.
“Yes, this one probably falls on my shoulders and it’s really special for my family and the people close to me, but, for me personally, it’s about the group.
“To do what they’ve done after such a hectic schedule shows the level of dedication and the level of determination that they have. I think they’ve been outstanding for the last two months and I’m proud to represent them.”
Dundalk had to come from behind on two occasions with Michael Duffy’s stunning 38th-minute strike cancelling out David Parkhouse’s third-minute opener for the Candystripes.
Declan Devine’s men went back in front when Aaron McCarey was beaten by a deflected effort from Junior just minutes into the second-half but Dundalk capitalised on the dismissal of Derry midfielder Grant Gillespie when Sean Gannon popped up with an equaliser.
Extra-time saw both sides create chances to win the game but, in the end, it was the lottery of a shootout that decided an epic encounter which Perth felt was a great advertisement for the League of Ireland.
“You’ve seen two teams go at each other, live on television,” he said. “They had a man sent off and then we ended up winning on a penalty shootout so I’d like to think that the people watching at home on a Saturday night enjoyed the occasion. It shows that this league could be special if people get behind it.
“I’m probably a bit disappointed in that we weren’t clinical enough,” he added. “We still have a lot of injuries creeping in and our forward play isn’t what it should be. We had four defenders and two attacking players on the bench tonight and that curtailed our attacking options but it worked out well in the end.”
With one trophy in the bag, talk of a treble will intensify over the coming weeks. Dundalk can add the league title to their haul if they can beat Waterford and Shamrock Rovers in their next two matches and Perth said that is the next challenge for his players.
“We have discussed the treble,” he said. “How do you drive this group on to the next level? You set goals. If the worst thing we do is ‘just’ win the league then, Jesus, we’ve done okay.
“I want the players to dream big. We want high standards at this club and, hopefully, we can add at least one more trophy now but, as you can see from the shootout tonight, sometimes it rests is in the lap of the Gods.
“We’ll let history sort itself out,” he added. “I don’t like debating eras but this group has certainly put themselves up there for that argument in terms of who is the best. Time will tell.”
For Perth’s opposite number, it was a disappointing but proud night. After playing with 10-men for 63 minutes, Devine’s young side showed great resolve and spirit to take the game to penalties and the Candystripes boss said his players deserved huge credit.
“We’re absolutely gutted but we’re extremely proud that we went toe-to-toe with the best team in the country for the third time this season,” said the Derry boss.
“We gave everything we possibly could. There are no hard feelings about the sending off or missing a penalty in the shootout. We were a width of a crossbar away from winning the cup.
“We have to realise that this football club is very special and we need to drive it on and make sure we have full houses like this is in the future. We want people to be proud of this club and we did that tonight. The players epitomised the people of Derry tonight.”
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